Kenya is known for its rich agricultural heritage and is home to a variety of crops that thrive in its diverse climatic conditions. One of the crops that has gained popularity in recent years is Boma Rhodes grass. This grass is widely grown for livestock feed, particularly for dairy cows, and is known for its high yield and nutritional value.
While growing Boma Rhodes grass in Kenya is relatively easy, there are a few key factors that farmers need to consider to ensure a successful harvest. These include choosing the right variety of grass, preparing the soil properly, and implementing a good irrigation system. With the right approach, farmers can reap the benefits of this crop and improve their livelihoods.
Climate and Soil Requirements
Boma Rhodes is a type of grass that thrives in warm and humid climates. It requires a minimum temperature of 18°C and a maximum of 30°C. The ideal temperature range for growing Boma Rhodes is between 22°C and 28°C. It can grow in areas with an annual rainfall of between 500mm and 1500mm, but it performs best in areas with rainfall between 800mm and 1200mm.
It is important to note that Boma Rhodes is sensitive to frost, and it cannot withstand prolonged dry spells. Therefore, it is essential to plant it in areas with adequate water supply or irrigate it during dry spells.
In terms of soil requirements, Boma Rhodes grows well in well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.5. It is important to conduct a soil test before planting to determine the soil fertility status and the necessary soil amendments required to improve soil fertility.
For best results, Boma Rhodes should be planted in soils that have been prepared by plowing and harrowing to create a fine seedbed. The seeds should be sown at a depth of 1-2cm and spaced at 25-30cm apart. After planting, the soil should be firmed to ensure good seed-to-soil contact and to prevent the seeds from drying out.
Before planting Boma Rhodes in Kenya, it is important to prepare the land properly. The following are the steps to take when preparing the land for planting:
- Clear the land of all vegetation, rocks, and debris.
- Plow the land to a depth of 15-20 cm to break up the soil and create a fine seedbed.
- Level the land to ensure even distribution of water during irrigation.
- Apply organic manure to the soil to enrich it with nutrients.
- Apply fertilizer to the soil to provide the necessary nutrients for the growth of Boma Rhodes.
It is important to note that the soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.5 for optimal growth of Boma Rhodes. If the soil pH is too low or too high, it can affect the growth and yield of the grass.
Additionally, it is recommended to conduct a soil test before planting to determine the soil’s nutrient content and pH level. This will help determine the appropriate amount of fertilizer and lime to apply to the soil.
Seed Selection and Planting
One of the most important factors in growing successful boma rhodes is selecting the right seeds and planting them properly. Here are some tips to help you get started:
When selecting boma rhodes seeds, it’s important to choose high-quality seeds from a reputable supplier. Look for seeds that are certified disease-free and have a high germination rate. You should also consider the following:
- Choose seeds that are adapted to your local climate and soil conditions.
- Consider the intended use of your boma rhodes. Different varieties are better suited for grazing, hay production, or silage.
- Choose seeds that are well-suited to your soil type and fertility level.
Once you have selected your seeds, it’s time to plant them. Here are some tips to help you get the best results:
- Prepare your soil properly before planting. Boma rhodes prefers well-drained soils with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.
- Plant your seeds at the right time. In Kenya, the best time to plant boma rhodes is during the rainy season, from March to May and from October to December.
- Plant your seeds at the right depth. Boma rhodes seeds should be planted at a depth of 1-2 cm.
- Use the right planting density. For grazing, plant 5-8 kg of seeds per acre. For hay or silage production, plant 10-12 kg of seeds per acre.
- Water your seeds regularly after planting. Boma rhodes requires consistent moisture to germinate and establish.
By following these tips for seed selection and planting, you can give your boma rhodes the best possible start and increase your chances of a successful harvest.
Proper fertilization is crucial for the growth and development of Boma Rhodes grass. It is recommended to apply fertilizers at the beginning of the rainy season and during the peak growth period. The type and amount of fertilizer to be used depend on the soil type, nutrient content, and growth stage of the grass.
Before applying fertilizers, it is essential to conduct a soil test to determine the nutrient content and pH level of the soil. This will help in selecting the appropriate fertilizer and application rate. The recommended fertilizer for Boma Rhodes grass is a compound fertilizer with a ratio of 10:26:26 NPK.
The following table shows the recommended fertilizer application rates for Boma Rhodes grass:
|Stage of Growth||Fertilizer Application Rate (kg/ha)|
It is important to apply fertilizers evenly and avoid over-application, which can lead to nutrient leaching and environmental pollution. The fertilizer should be applied in bands or rows along the grass rows and incorporated into the soil using a disc harrow or a cultivator.
In addition to chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers such as farmyard manure and compost can also be used to improve soil fertility and provide nutrients to the grass. However, it is important to ensure that the organic fertilizers are well decomposed and free from weed seeds and pathogens before application.
Weed control is an important aspect of growing Boma Rhodes in Kenya. Weeds compete with the grass for nutrients and water, and can reduce the yield and quality of the forage. Here are some effective weed control methods:
- Hand Weeding: This is the most common method of weed control. It involves physically removing weeds by hand. It is labor-intensive, but effective for small-scale farming.
- Mulching: Mulching involves covering the soil around the grass with organic materials such as straw, leaves, or grass clippings. This helps to suppress weed growth by blocking out sunlight and reducing soil temperature and moisture.
- Herbicides: Herbicides are chemicals that are used to kill weeds. They can be applied selectively or non-selectively, depending on the type of weed and the desired level of control. However, herbicides can be harmful to the environment and should be used with caution.
It is important to note that weed control should be done early in the growing season to prevent weeds from becoming established. Regular monitoring of the grass field is also important to identify and control weeds before they become a problem.
Overall, effective weed control is essential for successful Boma Rhodes farming in Kenya. By implementing these methods, farmers can ensure a healthy and productive grass field.
Pest and Disease Management
Like any other crops, Boma Rhodes is susceptible to various pests and diseases that can significantly impact the yield and quality of your harvest. Therefore, it is essential to take preventive measures and manage any infestation or infection promptly. Here are some of the common pests and diseases that affect Boma Rhodes and how to manage them.
Armyworms: These are the most common pests that attack Boma Rhodes, especially during the rainy season. They cause significant damage to the leaves, reducing the yield and quality of the grass. To control armyworms, spray insecticides such as cypermethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, or chlorpyrifos at the first sign of infestation.
Cutworms: Cutworms are another common pest that attacks Boma Rhodes. They eat the stem of the grass, causing it to wither and die. To control cutworms, apply insecticides such as carbaryl or chlorpyrifos to the base of the stem.
Termites: Termites can cause significant damage to the roots of Boma Rhodes, leading to stunted growth and poor yield. To control termites, apply insecticides such as chlorpyrifos or fipronil to the soil around the plants.
Leaf spot: Leaf spot is a fungal disease that causes small, circular spots on the leaves of Boma Rhodes. To manage leaf spot, remove and destroy infected leaves, and apply fungicides such as copper oxychloride or mancozeb.
Rust: Rust is another fungal disease that causes orange-brown pustules on the leaves of Boma Rhodes. To manage rust, remove and destroy infected leaves, and apply fungicides such as copper oxychloride or mancozeb.
Root rot: Root rot is a bacterial disease that causes the roots of Boma Rhodes to rot, leading to stunted growth and poor yield. To manage root rot, avoid overwatering and ensure proper drainage of the soil. You can also apply fungicides such as copper oxychloride or mancozeb to the soil around the plants.
Harvesting and Utilization
Once the Boma Rhodes grass has grown to maturity, it is ready for harvesting. The best time to harvest is when the grass has reached a height of 60-90 cm. This ensures that the grass has enough nutrients and is at its peak nutritional value. Harvesting can be done manually or with the use of machinery.
When harvesting, it is important to cut the grass close to the ground to ensure that it regenerates quickly. The cut grass can be left on the field to dry in the sun or can be collected and dried elsewhere. Drying the grass reduces the moisture content and helps to prevent mold formation.
After drying, the grass can be baled and stored for later use. Baling helps to reduce the volume of the grass and makes it easier to transport and store. Bales of Boma Rhodes grass can be stored for up to 6 months without losing their nutritional value.
Boma Rhodes grass has a variety of uses. It can be used as animal feed, either fresh or dried. It is also used for soil conservation, erosion control, and as a source of biomass for energy production. The grass can also be used as a thatching material for roofs.
When using Boma Rhodes grass as animal feed, it is important to ensure that it is of good quality and free from contaminants. It should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area to prevent mold formation. It is also important to ensure that animals have access to clean water when feeding on Boma Rhodes grass.
Also Read: How To Grow Napier Grass In Kenya
Sourceshttp://Kevelenge, J. E. E., A. B. Orodho, and R. Keigatti. “Comparative studies on nutritive quality of early-and late-heading varieties of Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) and Setaria (Setaria sphacelata) in Kenya.” 2. African Feed Resources Network (AFRNET) Workshop, Harare (Zimbabwe), 6-10 Dec 1993. AFRNET, 1996. Link: https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=QM1997000078
Mwendia, Solomon W., An Maria Omer Notenbaert, and Birthe K. Paul. “Forage seed systems in Kenya.” (2016). Link:https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/72588/FORAGE_SEED_SYSTEMS_IN_KENYA-CIAT_WORKING_PAPERv.pdf