The condition survey of the natural grasslands should be conducted to assess the botanical composition and the overall percentage of grasses present in them. Depending upon the physical statistics, decisions regarding the protection against uncontrolled grazing or complete renovation through reseeding can be taken if it is felt that the desired grasses are not present in good proportion, then, offering protection to such areas would result in an abundance of growth and coverage of the area within 2-3 years through auto-reseeding. For giving protection, fencing the areas is a prerequisite. Though angle-iron poles with barbed wire or woven-wire fencing is costly to begin with, yet it proves economical in the long run. In addition, other types of fencing material, such as cement or stone posts with wire fencing or the live hedge or thorny fencing can be used successfully. The best live-hedge materials are mehndi (Lawsonia alba), jangal jalebi (Inga dulcis), Zizyphus nummularia, Parkinsonia, etc. In the rocky terrain, stones may be stacked to an optimal height to serve as stone-wall fencing. The protected grasslands yield rich dividends in terms of animal gain
Bush clearance. The natural grasslands in our country are heavily infested with undesirable bushes, shrubs, etc. These bushes and shrubs compete with grasses for space, light, nutrients, besides being poisonous to the grazing animals and harbouring some carnivorous animals which prove detrimental to economic livestock production and thus considerably reduce the biological yields. Common bushes, namely jharberi (Zizyphus nummularia), Flame of Forest or dhak (Butea monosperma), Carissa spp., Lantana spp. and Mimosa, should be cut manually at ground level and the stumps should be treated with 0.4% solution of 2, 4, 5-T to kill them.
In inaccessible areas or on steep slopes where the complete bush clearance would lead to serious soil erosion and it would be difficult to establish the grass-legume components, very little soil-working is necessary and bush clearance is achieved by the application of Gramoxone. It has been proved beyond doubt that even the protection of grasslands without bush clearance increased the dry grass yields to 5.5 q per ha as compared with 0.8 q per ha from the unprotected area. It has also been demonstrated that the yield of dry grass can be increased to 40-42 q per ha with complete protection and bush clearance whereas the grass yields were of the order of 12.5 q per ha and 5.59 q per ha with, 2,175 and 3,575 bushes per ha respectively.
Adoption of soil and water conservation measures. The undulating topography in certain areas and ravine areas poses serious problems in their improvement. In such difficult areas, adequate soil and water-conservation measures, viz. pitting, contour-bunding and contour-furrowing, should be adopted. The spacing may vary according to the steepness of the slope. For 3-4% slopes, contour-furrows, 8-10 metres apart should be opened.
The harvesting of rain-water by plugging gullies, streams or nullas, especially in the areas with undulating topography or to put the check bunds at several points on a stream, is done so as to harness water for utilization during the periods of moisture stress (November onwards) for rejuvenating the grasses. Similarly, the low-lying areas vulnerable to frequent floods are drained of excess water and utilized during the periods of moisture stress for increasing fodder yields.
Reseeding with better species. Under the completely denuded and worst condition of the grassland, reseeding with better-yielding, adaptable, persistent and aggressive species would become essential. The technique of reseeding is quite simple and can be followed successfully. It involves the following steps :
(a) The land is cleared of undesirable bushes. One or two disc harrowings, followed by one planking will give good tilth and land preparation. At the time of the final land preparation, 25-30 cartloads of farmyard manure should be thoroughly mixed with the soil.
(b) Grass seeds, being very small, light and with appendages are likely to be washed or blown away by the currents of water or wind. Thus for efficient and easy reseeding, the seed is processed into small pellets which are easy to handle and are less vulnerable to water and wind currents. The seed is worked into a homogenous thick paste, made by mixing three parts of sand, one part of clay, cowdunf and fertilizer, and pellets of convenient size are prepared in such a way that each pellet contains 2 or 3 seeds.
(c) Pellets prepared in this way are either placed in shallow furrows opened either with a bullock- or tractor-drawn cultivator at a recommended distance for each species or variety or are broadcast with the onset of the monsoon.
Enhancing herbage quality through legumes. The tropical and subtropical grasses at the time of their optimal utilization contain, on an average, 6% crude protein. The nutritive value and palatability of these grasses are increased at least twofold by overseeding them with leguminous forage species. With the introduction of siratro (Macroptilum atropurpureum) and banulthi (Atylosia scarabaeoides), the protein level in dry hay was increased substantially. Thus the inter- and intra-row spaces of the grasses should be utilized by adopting suitable seed-rates of the compatible species of the legumes. Like grasses, the legume seeds are also turned into pellets by the tumbling action of lime so as to protect the rhizobia on them against the acidic action of soil, fertilizers and the injury due to ants, birds and rodents.
Use of adequate fertilizers to boost yields. The tropical and subtropical grasses show a good response to the application of nitrogen, but in view of the shortage of chemical fertilizers, farmyard manure and sheep or goat foldings should be used. Their use will not only improve the fertility of this but also its structure, thereby also increasing its water-holding capacity. For instance, an application of 60 kg of N per ha increased the production of hay in the case of spear grass (Heteropogon contortus), sain (Sehima nervosum) and anjan (Cenchrus ciliaris). The hay yields were 64, 50.1 and 47.9 q per ha respectively as compared with 27-30 q per ha given by the controls. Thus the fertilizer should be applied at least once in 2-3 years, to keep up the grass species in optimum botanical composition and at high production level.
Feeding the tree tops during lean periods. All the tropical and subtropical grasses, owing to their faster rate of growth during the monsoon provide grazing for the livestock, mainly in the monsoon and post-monsoon periods. With the advent of winter, and owing to the lack of sufficient moisture in the soil in a ready available form, they enter dormancy. Thus during the lean periods of spring and summer, tree-tops come to the rescue of the livestock-owners. The young leafy, succulent material, highly nutritive and rich in crude protein and minerals, serves as a concentrate, even if fed in small quantities along with other dried grasses and crop residues. The loppings of the trees obtained in spring and summer also contain some substances which bring the animals quickly into the reproduction phase. Some of the important trees giving loppings and producing gum are koo-babul (Leucaena leucocephala) and Sesbania aegyptiaca and Saculeata. The gum content in the seeds of the two species of Sesbania is of superior quality and has a property to reduce the cholesterol content in the blood. These trees, therefore, need immediate attention and may be planted on the boundaries of the fields, in the cattle-yards, etc. to serve as shade-cum-fodder-cum-gum-producing plants. The spacing between the trees should be 6-8 metres or even more in cattle-yards and 5-6 metres on the bunds of the fields.
Besides the use of trees on the farm for various purposes the trees are planted in the pastures as companion species with grasses. This practice of growing fodder-cum-fuel-trees in association with the grasses is popularly known as the silvipastural system. Under this system, compatible fodder-trees are planted 5-7 metres apart both ways during the monsoon. The fodder from the trees is available after 4-5 years. Under this system, an extra yield of the order of 40-41 q per ha of dry grass (hay) is obtained without affecting the yield and growth of the fodder-trees. For the terrains and difficult areas, some of the fodder-trees that have shown promise and compatibility with the grass species are :
|1. Israeli babool (Acacia tortilis)||Anjan (Cenchrus ciliaris, C. setigerus)|
|2. Babool (Acacia arabica)||Dhaulu (Chrysopogon fulvus)|
|3. Siris (Albizia lebbeck)||Sain (Sehima nervosum)|
|4. Unjal (A. amara)||Dinanath (Pennisetum pedicellatum)|
A list of the fodder trees is given below :
Acacia tortilis, A. catechu, A. nilotica (Syn. A. arabica), Albizia amara, A. lebbeck, Anogeissus pendula, Azadirachta indica, Capparis spinosa, Dalbergia sissoo, Grewia oppositifolia, Ficus carica, Leucaena leucocephala, Prosopis cineraria, P. juliflora, Quercus incana, Q. semecarpifolia*, Salix tetrasperma*, Robinia psedacacia*, Salvadora oleoides, Dendrocalamus strictus.
Acacia nilotica, Acacia tortilis, Albizia amara, A. lebbeck, Adina cordifolia, Anogeissus latifolia, A. pendula, Azadirachta indica, Artocarpus integrifolia, A. chaplasha, Basia latifolia, Bridelia retusa, Bauhinia spp., Cassia fistula, Cordia dichotoma, Castania sativa*, Dalbergia sissoo, Ehretia laevis, Syzygium cumini (Syn. Eugenia jambolana), Fagus sylvatica*, Ficcus spp., Gmelina arborea, Grewia oppositifolia, Helicteres isora, Kydia calycina, Leucaena leucocephala, Mallotus philippinensis, Millettia auriculata, Moringa pterigosperma, Morus spp., Ougeinia dalbergioides, Musa sapientum, Pithecellobium dulce, Delonix regia, Quercus spp., Schleichera trijuga, Sesbania grandiflora, Terminalia spp., Tamarindus indica, Ulmus wallichiana, Zizyphus jujuba , Dendrocalamus strictus.
Adina cordifolia, Abizia lebbeck, Anogeissus spp., Azadirachta indica, Artocarpus integrifolia, Basia latifolia, Bridelia ratusa, Bauhinia spp., Cordia dichotoma, Dalbergia latifolia, Syzygium cumini, Ficcus spp., Gmelina arborea, Gliricida maculata, Hardwickia binata, Kydia calycina, Leucaena leucocephala, Moringa pterigosperma, Morus spp., Ougeinia dalbergioides, Pithecolobium saman, Delonix regia, Pterocarpus marsupium, Terminalia spp., Zizyphus jujuba .
Acacia tortilis, Cassia siamea, Tamarix articulata, Albizia amara, Syzygium cumini, Ficcus retusa, Erythrina indica, Ailanthus malabarica.
Albizia spp., Bamboos, Artocarpus integrifolia, A. chaplasha, Bauhinia spp., Castania sativa*, Desmodium spp., Fagus sylvatica*, Syzygium cumini, Ficus benghalensis, F. religiosa, Gliricida maculata, Gmelina arborea, Moringa pterigosperma, Morus alba, Ougeinia dalbergioides, Delonix elata, Schleichera oleoides, Terminalia tomentosa, Tinospora cordifolia.
* Species for high altitudes.