Guinea grass cultivation
Today, we discuss the topic of Guinea Grass Cultivation and Production Practices.
Guinea grass is a tall perennial grass that structure dense tussocks. Guinea grass leaves are broad, flat, and long; they taper to a fine point. These leaf blades and sheaths have soft hairs. Flowering stalks of taller varieties could reach up to 3 to 4 meters in height. Seeds are very small, numbering 2.4 million/kg. What is the botanical name of Guinea grass? The botanical name of Guinea grass is Megathyrsus Maximus.
Guinea grass is a well known perennial grass adapted to tropical regions and is high yielding. The grass is a very tall, densely tufted perennial with numerous shoots arising from short, rhizomes. A full-grown plant attains a height of 1.8 to 2.7 m under favorable conditions. The yield is about 120 to 150 tonnes of green forage in 4 to 5 cuttings.
Guinea grass can be developed along water channels where the grass besides giving additional fodder. It generally contains 8-12% crude protein and 31% crude fiber.
Plant: Leafy erect Guinea grass with a deep root system; capable of growing to over 2m tall.
Stems: Increase to over 0.5cm diameter, and can root down at nodes that come in contact with moist soil.
Leaves: Mostly Guinea grass somewhat hairy, up to 3cm wide and 100cm long.
Seed head: Much branched open panicle, generally 30 to 45 cm long.
Guinea grass is generally grown in the wet and seasonally dry tropics of Australia, preferably with rainfall over 1,500 mm, but will extend into about 1000 mm rainfall areas in the subtropics. Both listed cultivars have excellent drought tolerance.
Climate and soils
Guinea grass is generally native of tropical and sub-tropical Africa. It is suited to areas with an annual rainfall of over 1100 mm but develops better with higher rainfall.
There is naturalized “Darwin” Guinea grass in the wetter areas about Darwin, along creeks and in low-lying areas. This type of Guinea grass was introduced to Darwin before 1900. It is very similar to Common Guinea grass. Guinea grass adapts to a wide range of soils but grows greatest on deep, well-drained soils of medium to high fertility.
It has a deep root system, which allocates it to tolerate some drought. Though, it does not survive long dry spells. Guinea grass will persist on deep, well-drained soils, which stay wet longer into the dry season, such as the fertile levee soils.
It is developed in a variety of soils ranging from moist, damp and fertile soils. It gives the best effect when grown under deep soil having well drainage system. Avoid cultivation in important clayey and waterlogged soils. Light irrigation is very good for crop growth.
Land preparation for Guinea grass cultivation.
For Guinea grass plantation, it needs well-prepared soil. To bring soil to a good level, plowing is completed by moldboard, then two harrowing’s and cross planking is done. Full seedbed preparation is a must for planting guinea grass.
Propagation and planting
A well-prepared, weed-free seed-bed is essential for good establishment. For best results, the seed must be sown by a combine or a drum seeder, by dropping seed onto the soil surface and rolling. A seeding rate of 2-6 kg/ha is very common. Use the higher rate if weed competition is probable to be strong. Apply the lower rate if it is in mixtures with other grasses or legumes.
Sowing, generally at 2-3 kg/ha of seed into a well-prepared seed-bed, is the best way to establish large areas of Guinea grass. A good soil surface and rolling encourage germination and establishment. Vegetative planting of 2 to 3 rooted tillers per clump in a triangular planting pattern at 40 cm spacing can expedite establishment, and is appropriate for small-scale pasture development, especially when the seed is not available. Fertilization instantly before or after planting or sowing can be important because of the slow growth of seedlings in the first month, when they can be simply overwhelmed by aggressive weeds, and it is essential in soils which are poor.
Seed rate and sowing method
A seed rate of 3-4 kg/ha is satisfactory for the good crop stand. 40,000 rooted slips in a sole stand and 20,000 rooted slips in intercropping have been recommended. It can be propagated by nursery sowing. A seedling of 20 to 25 days old nursery or rooted slips at the spacing of 50 cm x 50 cm is optimum for the sole stand. In intercropping, it can be planted of 150 cm row to row and 50 cm plant to plant.
Irrigation requirement for Guinea grass cultivation
The Guinea grass should be planted in well moist soil condition. The crop needs regular irrigation at an interval of 15 to 18 days in March to May, at 10 to 12 days interval I summer months. During the monsoon season, the irrigation is rarely wanted in the event of long monsoon failure.
Ability to spread
As Guinea grass is very palatable, the spread is slow under grazed conditions. It is a very effective colonizer in ungrazed areas, mainly on more fertile soils where some form of soil disturbance has occurred.
Apply NPK fertilizers as per soil test values along with recommended farmyard manure compost. In the absence of soil test results, 20-25 t FYM must be well mixed in soil at the time of land preparation. At sowing time a basal dose of 60kg N, 50 kg P2O5 and 40kg K2O/ha must be applied in bands prior to planting. Subsequently, 20kg and 10kg N should respectively be top dressed just after 20 days after the cut. Alternatively, the crop can be fertilized with 40 kg N just after the cut.
Nursery management and transplanting
Soil requirement in Guinea grass well prepared before sowing the seeds. Sow seeds on raised beds of suitable length and width. Seeds must be sown at a depth of 1 to 2 cm. After sowing covered the seedbed with a thin cloth to keep the moisture.
Seedlings are ready for transplantation in 35 to 45 days after sowing with 3-4 leaves. Transplanting is done when immediate irrigation is there or before the onset of monsoon. Water seedling beds, 24 hours before transplanting so that seedlings could be easily uprooted and be turgid at transplanting time.
Guinea grass cultivation Practices
Although plants seed readily, heads ripen unevenly and shatter readily. Hence seed should be hand-collected. Viability of fresh seed is relatively low. It is increased by storing seeds dry for six months or longer. Seed capability under natural conditions is short-lived. The crop must be allowed to reseed itself at periodic intervals to ensure stand maintenance. When plants are allowed to seed themselves, this grass is the first to show on newly cleared land or scrubland. The land is generally prepared by repeated plowing and disking. The seed is broadcast at 4–12 kg/ha or more, and 4 to 9 kg/ha or more when planted in rows. Crops may be established by propagating by sprigs, or by dividing the stools. However, it is more economical and practical to begin the crop by seeding. Small areas are frequently hand-planted by using these divided crowns. It tillers profusely; create tufts or clumps up to 30 cm or more wide. Preemergence weed control measures are generally beneficial in stand establishment. Liming decreased the N, P, and K, but increased the Ca and Mg contents of Guinea harvested grass.
Types and amounts of fertilizers in Guinea grass required will depend on the soil type, rainfall, pasture mix and intended use of the pasture.
Generally, the seed must be sown with 100 – 200 kg/ha of superphosphate. Maintenance applications must be 50 – 100 kg/ha, yearly. Potassium can be required on some soils and for more intensive production, such as haymaking. As Guinea grass responds strongly to nitrogen, the fertilizer must be applied to pure grass swards in split applications during the wet season.
Soil phosphorus levels must be maintained with annual dressings of 50 – 100 kg/ha superphosphate. Potassium may be required on some soils, particularly with more intensive use e.g. haymaking. Split applications, each of 50 to 100 kg/ha N, are used in pure stands as required when economically feasible.
Grazing or cutting process in Guinea grass
Guinea grass must not be grazed in the first year until the plants are well established, and preferably not until the initial seed drop. If the grass dominates associated legumes through this period, grass bulk can be reduced by a short period of intensive grazing. Continuous heavy grazing of young regrowth can kill the plants.
For long-term maintenance of the stand, it must not be cut or grazed below 20 – 30 cm and should be cut or grazed at about four weekly intervals to obtain the best balance between quality and quantity.
Disease and insect-pest management
Generally, Guinea grass is not much affected by any insect pest and disease, but leaf spot (Bipolaris hawaiiensis) is often found on Guinea leaves during the wet season.
Uses of Guinea grass
What are the uses of Guinea grass? Guinea grass is a palatable and excellent quality tropical grass used as forage for ruminants in grazed pastures or in cut-and-carry systems. Guinea grass forage is dried and ground for use in mixtures with legumes as leaf meal, mainly for non-ruminants such as chickens and pigs. It can be conserved as hay or as ensiled. It is used as medicine for heartburn by the Malays under the name “Berita”.