Overcoming fodder shortage by growing maize

Post Source: Economic & Business Review August 10 – August 17, 2009

By Mehboob Elahi, M. Sami Ullah and H.Rehman

FODDER

ADEQUATE and regular supply of fodder is essential for development of dairy and livestock. Because of decrease in per acre yield and area under production, fodder supply has become scarce. Urbanisation and shift to cash crops reduces the area under fodder crops by about two per cent every decade.

Under the circumstances, farmers either have to use wheat straw or purchase expensive fodder from the market There are various ways to overcome fodder shortage. One of them is growing maize as forage crop, which is the third important cereal after wheat and rice. It is grown all over the country and covers 4.8 per cent of the total cropped area.

Maize crop has a variety of uses. Basically it is grown for grains and fodder for livestock. Maize is a rich source of starch, protein and edible oil. Biofuel ethanol is also extracted from maize corn. It also has other applications in food and pharmaceutical industry. Maize has highest crude protein 9.9 per cent at early and at full bloom stages which decreases to seven per cent at milk stage and to six per cent at maturity.

Similarly dry matter production is 14 per cent at early and at full bloom stage which increases to 20 per cent at milk formation and 29 per cent at maturity. Forage yield is the highest at 30 tons/acre at early and full bloom, which decreases to 27 tons/acre at milk stage and 24 tons/acre at the stage of maturity. Maize must be harvested at early and full bloom stage to get maximum benefit of the forage. Any delay in harvesting at this stage not only decreases quality and fresh yield but also keeps the land busy making the next crop sowing difficult.

Experiments have shown that maize can be successfully grown four times as forage crop as per the given schedule:

Crop per year Sowing Time Harvesting Time 1 Mid February Mid April 2 3rd week of April 3rd week of June 3 4th week of June 4th week of July 4 1st week of September 1st week of November The growers following the above schedule can get not only the highest possible forage yield but also ensure good quality fodder. This schedule can be practiced by multiple sowings of the crop with an interval of one to two weeks or more depending upon the forage requirement of a particular farm.

Selection of a good variety of seed is also important for getting better yield. For example, F-Goe maize cultivar can be fitted easily in this schedule and four fodder crops can be successfully grown following this schedule. The cultivar is fast growing and can tolerate high temperature and is also insect pest resistant. It is highly adapted to different climatic conditions and gives more forage yield.

The crop gives highest yield when sown on ridges facing the east to get maximum radiation interception. The rows should be in the north-south direction which is the wind direction. The seeds should also be treated against sucking insects and fungi for better yield and fertiliser should be used according to soil analysis report.

Growing legumes like cowpea, sesbania or cluster bean in between the maize rows gives a bonus production increasing the fertility of the soil.

The business of livestock together with crop cultivation, especially fodder, is feasible and economical. There is a growing need to generate interest among farmers towards modern dairy farming throughout the country, at the same time growing enough fodder to make it available round the year for dairy animals.

Forage seed is widely available in local markets but its quality is usually mediocre. Many farmers produce their own seed and may sell what they do not need. There is a need to supply pure and quality seed to ensure forage of high and nutritive value. The agricultural department has to put more emphasis on varietal improvement of fodder crops along with cash crops to obtain for enhancing dairy productivity.

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