Forage Crops & Grasses [Part 3]

July 3, 2012
By Krishiworld


The system of fodder production vary from region to region, place to place and farmer to farmer, depending upon the availability of inputs, namely fertilizers, irrigation, insecticides, pesticides, etc. and the topography. An ideal fodder system is that which gives the maximum outturn of digestible nutrients per hectare, or maximum livestock products from a unit area. It should also ensure the availability of succulent, palatable and nutritive fodder throughout the year. Some of the important intensive fodder-crops rotations and the expected yields are given in Table 3 for different regions.

Fodder production for intensive dairy farming

The requisites for intensive dairy-farming are that (i) fodder is required in uniform quantity throughout the year, (ii) the fodder crops in the rotation should be high-yielding, (iii) the area for production of fodder should be fully irrigated, and (iv) other inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, should be available in optimum quantity. The different systems of fodder production fall into two categories, viz. the overlapping cropping and the relay-cropping. In the overlapping system, a fodder crop is introduced in thefield before the other crop completes its life-cycle. In relay-cropping, the foddercrops are grown in successions, i.e. one after another, the gap between the two crops being very small.

Overlapping system. The overlapping cropping system evolved by taking advantage of the growth periods of different species ensures a uniform supply of green fodder throughout the year. One such system continues for three years. The best rotation in this system is berseem + Japan sarson – Hybrid Napier + cowpea – Hybrid Napier; (October-April) – (April-June) – (June-October).

HOW TO ADOPT THE SYSTEM. (i) In this cropping system, berseem + Japan sarson seed mixed in the ratio of 25 : 2, are sown in the first week of October, using a basal fertilizer dose of 20 kg of N and 80 kg of P2O5 per ha. The sowing is done by broadcasting the mixed seed in the seedbeds, flooded with water. Care should be taken to inoculate the berseem seed with Rhizobium culture before sowing, especially when the crop is being sown for the first time. However, if the culture is not available, soil from the top 5 to 7 cm layer is collected from the field in which berseem was grown in the previous year and broadcast along with the seed. Irrigation may be given at intervals of 7-8 days, depending upon the soil and climatic conditions.

(ii) The first cut from the mixture is taken in 50-55 days after sowing. Japan sarson being quicker in growth boosts the yields in the first cut, whereas in the subsequent cuts berseem takes over.

(iii) Hybrid Napier is introduced in the standing crop of berseem after taking the third or fourth cut from berseem. Rooted slips are planted in February (central India) and in March (northern and north-western parts) in lines by keeping a distance of one metre between the rows and 30-40 cm between the plants.

The planting of a hectare would need about 33,000 rooted sets of Hybrid Napier. Hybrid Napier starts growing actively after March and should be cut 8-10 weeks after transplanting and the subsequent cuts are taken at intervals of 40-45 days. After the berseemcrop is over, a basal dose of 100 kg of P2O5 and 50 kg of N per ha is applied.

(ivBerseem, being an annual crop, completes its lifecycle in April and then the inter-row spaces of Hybrid Napier are prepared with a desi plough and cowpea is sown in lines, 25 cm apart. In this way, in each set of two rows of Hybrid Napier, there will be two rows of cowpeas. Cowpea is cut 60 days after sowing and thereafter Hybrid Napier does not allow any other legume to grow along with it.

(v) Hybrid Napier continues to supply green fodder during the monsoon season. At the time of the last cutting in October, the inter-row spaces are again ploughed up and the land is prepared for sowing berseem and Japan sarson to start the second cycle of the rotation.

(v) This system of intensive fodder production is economically viable only for 3 years. After three years. Hybrid Napier is uprooted and fresh planting is taken up. The stumps of Hybrid Napier become old and the tillering capacity diminishes considerably.


(1) This system ensures green fodder throughout the year.
(2) It takes care of the dormancy period of Hybrid Napier during winter.
(3) The inter-row spaces of Hybrid Napier are efficiently utilized for raising berseem in winter and cowpea in summer.
(4) The growing of legumes enriches the soil.
(5) Hybrid Napier gets established without much care and cost.
(6) Green fodder in the first cut is increased up to 50 per cent by Japan sarson.

Intensive fodder production under relay cropping. There is ample scope for increasing fodder production from the high-input areas, either by growing high-yielding fodder crops singly or in mixture. The growing of three or four successive fodder crops, helps to boost fodder production per unit area. Some of the important intensive fodder-crops crop- rotations and the expected yields from each are summarized in Table 3.

Fodder production in arable farming. There is ample scope for fitting in the short-duration foddercrops, either single or in mixture, with the other crops during the gap period between two main cashcrops. Two distinct fallow periods are available for raising short-duration fodder crops, provided adequate resources are available. In the case of the wheat-jowar rotation, gap periods between April and June and between October and November are available for each crop as fodders. Thus in the first rotation. M.P. chari + cowpea, maize + cowpea, bajra + cowpea is successfully grown and an additional green-fodder yield to the tune of 300-350 q per ha is obtained. Similarly, in the second gap period (October-November), which is rather short, the growing of fodder turnips and short-duration mustard varieties helps to get 250-300 q per ha of fodder without disturbing the normal cropping systems.

Table 3

1. Maize + cowpea – maize + cowpea + teosinte - berseem + mustard
(300 q/ha) – (450 q/ha) – (1,000 q/ha)
2. Sweet sudan + cowpea - berseem + oats
(1,000 q/ha) – (1,000 q/ha)
3. Hybrid Napier + lucerne
(1,250 q/ha) – (850 q/ha)
4. Maize + cowpea - jowar + cowpea - berseem + mustard
(300 q/ha) – (400 q/ha) – (1,000q/ha)
3. Teosinte + bajra + cowpea - berseem + oats
(1,000 q/ha) – (1,000 q/ha)
2. Sweet sudan + cowpea – mustard – oats + peas
(1,000 q/ha) – (250 q/ha) – (500 q/ha)
3. Jowar – turnips – oats – 1800 q/ha
Other high-yielding fodder crops for different regions are given in table 4.

Fodder production under dryland farming. A large proportion of the area of our country is located in the dryland regions. In these areas, the farmers usually grow at least one crop in the rabiseason after conserving the soil moisture. Thus there is a great scope for raising two crops under such situations. First, the growing of a fodder crop which gets ready in 45-50 days after sowing (cowpea, jowarguarsanwamoth, etc.), yield 150-250 q per ha of green fodder. After harvesting the fodder cropscrops such as gram, linseed, barley, wheat and safflower are raised on the conserved moisture. The package of practice for maximizing fodder yields from the cultivated and pasture species are given in table 5 (a,b).


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