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Azolla as Livestock Feed (More content to follow...)
Azolla has an enormous potential as a livestock feed. It is able to proliferate without inorganic nitrogen fertilization. Its high rate of growth in water is amazing without the need to displace existing crops or natural ecological systems.
It has been used for many years throughout Asia and parts of Africa to feed pigs, ducks, chickens, cattle, fish, sheep and goats and rabbits. Azolla is very rich in protein, essential amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B12, Beta Carotene), growth promoter intermediaries and minerals including calcium, phosphorous, potassium, ferrous, copper, magnesium. On a dry weight basis, Azolla has 25-35% protein content, 10-15% mineral content, and 7-10% comprising a combination of amino acids, bio-active substances and biopolymers (Kamalasanana et al., 2002). Azolla’s carbohydrate and oil content is very low. Azolla is also rich in iron (1000–8600 ppm dry weight), copper (3–210 ppm dry weight) manganese (120–2700 ppm dry weight), vitamin A (300–600 ppm dry weight.), vitamin A (300–600 ppm dry weigh), chlorophyll and carotenes. It contains 4.8–6.7% dry weight crude fat, with 6.1–7.7% and 12.8– 26.4% total fat for the polyunsaturated acids omega 3 and omega 6 (Paoletti et al., 1987).
Azolla meal contains 25.78% crude protein, 15.71% crude fiber, 3.47% ether extract, 15.76% ash and 30.08% nitrogen free extract on the air-dry basis (Basak et al., 2002). In addition, aquatic plant species including Azolla do not accumulate secondary plant compounds and therefore has a greater potential than tree leaves as protein source for monogastric animals.
Becerra et al. (1995), Lumpkin & Plucknett (1982) and Van Hove & López (1983) all concluded that Azolla is the most promising aquatic plant for livestock feed due to its ease of cultivation, productivity and nutritive value. Azolla’s use as a feed for fish, swine and poultry was also tested and recommended by Alcantara & Querubin (1985) and Tran & Dao (1979) reported that one hectare of Azolla can produce 540-720 kg of protein per month. Azolla’s composition therefore makes it one of the most economic and efficient feed substitutes for livestock, particularly as can be easily digested by livestock due to its high protein and low lignin content.