Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum) commonly referred to as elephant grass is popular fodder crop for small scale dairy farmers in the high and medium potential dairy production areas of Kenya under the cut & carry system of production.
It is a fast growing, deeply rooted, perennial grass growing up to 4 metres tall that can spread by underground stems to form thick ground cover. Napier is easy to establish and persistent; drought tolerant; suitable for cutting and very good for silage making. Napier grass is a high yielding fodder crop with good palatability, highly nutritious especially when young, dark green leaves and less than 1 metre tall.
It is also used as a soil stabilizer in soil conservation methods and can be intercropped with various forage legumes.
Napier is not suitable for direct grazing since stumping results in poor regeneration. It is vulnerable to disease and pest attacks. It takes up a lot of nutrients from the soils and is highly demanding on nutrient recycling/fertilizer application.
It can be grown at altitudes ranging from sea level to 2,000m above sea level. When grown at altitudes above 2000 m, growth and regeneration after cutting is slow and it may die due to frost. It does best in high rainfall areas, over 1500 mm per year.
Napier grass can grow in almost any soils; but does best in deep, fertile, well draining soils.
- Need to institute and operationalize the National Feed Policy
- Expedite research on Napier Stunt disease.
- Develop fodder crops that can effectively compete Napier grass as alternative fodder crops for small scale dairy farmers.
Key Stakeholders in Napier grass production include:
- Kenya Agricultural Research Institute – KARI.
- Kenya Forest Research Institute - KEFRI
- World Agro forestry Center (ICRAF)
- Small Scale Dairy Farmers
- Ministry of Livestock Development
- Ministry of Agriculture
- International Center of Insects Physiology and Ecology –(ICIPE)