Farmers told to shift to more water-efficient fodder.
ABU DHABI --The Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre (ADFSC) has been encouraging farmers to cultivate buffel grass, a more water-efficient alternative to Rhodes grass. The grass will help save up to 40 per cent water according to experts.
The Farmers' Services Centre has determined that buffel grass, a kind of pasture grass, is a more sensible alternative to Rhodes grass and the centre has begun educating farmers on its proper cultivation methods.
Rhodes grass has traditionally been the Abu Dhabi farmers' fodder crop of choice and although further studies may reveal an even better alternative, buffel grass has so far proven to be the most productive, water-efficient and cost effective.
Chris Hirst, CEO of ADFSC, said that saving water is a huge incentive to switch to buffel grass, but perhaps more compelling for farmers is that it ends up being an economically sound decision. "Especially when you consider that it's more productive and more nutritious for livestock." Farmers are now discouraged from growing Rhodes grass, and the government stopped marketing it in the Western Region in September last year and in Abu Dhabi in September this year, he said.
In Al Ain, farmers still have the option of marketing Rhodes grass to the government (unless a farm happens to have water quality of less than 4,000 parts per million salt content).
Hirst said the ADFSC has been studying more water-efficient and productive crops in partnership with the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), and buffel grass has emerged as the best alternative.
Through a series of seminars that ADFSC is hosting in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Agricultural Engineering Company (AGRENCO), farmers will be educated on the proper cultivation methods and best growing practices.
The cultivation of buffel grass is very similar to that of Rhodes grass. This makes switching to its cultivation a relatively easy transition, said Hirst.
As far as seedbed preparation, sowing and fertilising are concerned, the cultivation of buffel grass is virtually the same as Rhodes grass. Farm workers will not have to learn new methods.
Advantages of buffel
When it comes to production, however, buffel grass should yield seven or more cuttings per year under optimal conditions. Rhodes grass, by comparison, will yield only five or, at most, six cuttings per year, Hirst said.
In addition, buffel grass seeds can also be cultivated for four years, one year more than is typical for Rhodes grass. Buffel grass is also more nutrient-rich than Rhodes grass and easier for animals to digest, making it an all-around more efficient forage crop.
For farm owners growing their own livestock feed, it makes sense to plant the crop that takes up the least amount of land and uses the least amount of water and other resources. Save that land for more profitable crops, said Hirst. Buffel grass seeds can be obtained at any of the ADFSC agricultural input shops.
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