Azolla is a branched free floating aquatic fern that grows at a very fast pace on the Water surface. It is also known as “Mosquito fern” which is mostly utilizes as biofertilizer in wet land paddy & as cattle feed.
Species of Azolla
Azolla belongs to the family Azollaceae. There are Six species of azolla. They are
- Azolla carolina
- Azolla nilotica
- Azolla filiculoids
- Azolla mexicana
- Azolla microphylla
- Azolla pinnata
A.pinnata is a species of fern which has several common names like mosquito fern, feathered mosquito fern and water velvet. It is native to much of Africa, Asia & parts of Australia. Azolla is a invasive weed initially.
It is found floating upon the surface of the water that grows in quite and slow moving water bodies. At maximum growth rate, it can double its bio-mass in 1.9 days under optimal conditions. The plant reproduces vegetatively when the branches break off the main axis, or sexually when sporocarps on the leaves release spores.
Azolla as Bio-Fertilizer
Azolla has a mutually beneficial Symbiotic relationship with a Cyanobacterium(Blue Green Algae) called Anabaena. Anabaena with association with blue-green algae can fix Atmospheric nitrogen into Ammonia. So it act as Bio-fertilizer.
A.pinnata can be utilized by rice plants when it is incorporated into the soil. It contains 2-5% of Nitrogen(N), 0.3-6.0% of Potassium(Dry-weight).
Azolla as Cattle Feed
The rapid multiplication rate of Azolla makes an ideal organic feed substitute for livestock, Livestock can easily digest azolla easily because of high protein & low lignin content. Fresh azolla can mixed up with commercial feed in the ratio of 1:1 or directly given to livestock.
The milk production in cattle increased by 10-12% when they fed with Azolla. And also azolla feeding improves the Quality of Milk. And used as sustainable feed for Sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits & fishes too.
In poultry farming feeding Azolla to poultry birds improves the weight of the broiler chicken and increases the egg production in Layers.
Steps in Azolla cultivation
- Create an Artificial pond for Azolla cultivation.
- Select partially shaded area because over sunlight will destroy the pond.
- Dig out the pond of 20cm depth & spread the plastic sheet around the ground to prevent water loss.
- Add some soil & 4-5 days old cow dung because it increases availability of nutrients in the pond.
- Fill the pond with 10cm of water and leave the pond undisturbed for 2-3 days.
- After that add Azolla culture in the pond by gently rubbing into the hands.
- Azolla harvesting will start after 2 weeks of adding azolla culture.
Azolla is an Non-conventional feed source. Small and marginal farmer can easily adopt the Azolla cultivation because of very cost effective nature. Because of its nutritive value it helps in crop production as Biofertilizer and as cattle feed that adds up value in the form of output to the farmers.