Growth and nutritional evaluation of napier grass hybrids as forage for ruminants

Brian Turano, Utsav P. Tiwari, Rajesh Jha


Napier grass is a perennial, tropical C-4 grass that can produce large amounts of forage. However, low temperatures and drought stress limit its productivity and nutritive value as a forage. To overcome these limitations, pearl millet × napier grass hybrids (PMN) were developed. It was hypothesized that PMN hybrids were more drought-tolerant, produced higher yields, and had higher nutritive value than napier grass varieties. The yield and nutritive value of 4 napier grass varieties (Bana grass, Mott, MB4 and N51) and 4 PMN hybrids (PMN2, PMN3, 5344 and 4604) were determined with or without irrigation in a strip plot design in Hawaii. Hybrid PMN3 outperformed napier grass varieties and the other hybrids for yield, while 5344 showed higher nutritional content and digestibility than most other grasses. Dry matter yields during the 110-day study period ranged from 10.3 to 32.1 t/ha without irrigation and 19.6 to 55.8 t/ha with irrigation, indicating that moisture stress was limiting performance in raingrown pastures. Only hybrids PMN3 and PMN2 and variety MB4 showed significant growth responses to irrigation. Further work is needed to evaluate the hybrids in a range of environments over much longer periods to determine if these preliminary results can be reproduced over the long term. Similarly, feeding studies with animals are needed to determine if the in vitro data for digestibility are reflected in superior performance for the promising hybrids.

Keywords: Biomass, cattle, in vitro digestion, nutrient content, Pennisetum, tropical grasses.

DOI: 10.17138/TGFT(4)168-178

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