Livestock Research for Rural Development 27 (6) 2015 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Evaluation of biomass yield and growth performance of alfalfa and oat cultivars in the High Land of Arsi, Ethiopia

C Befekadu and A Yunus

Arsi University, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, PO Box 193, Asella, Ethiopia
befekaduc@yahoo.com

Abstract

The major objective of this study was to investigate the effect of intercropping alfalfa with oat on growth rate, total forage dry matter yield and nitrogen yield. Alfalfa cultivars with or without oat was grown on finely prepared seed beds. The experimental seed was planted on 12 m2 plot (4 m long and 3 m wide), consisted of 10 rows with intra-row spacing of 0.3m. The plots were laid out in Randomized complete block design (RCBD) with five replications per treatment. Data on biomass yield and other yield related traits was subjected to the analysis of variance (ANOVA) procedure for RCBD experiments using the General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of SAS computer software packages.

The result of this experiment has shown that the total forage dry matter yield harvested from plots containing a mixture of alfalfa and oat was higher (P<0.05) than other plots containing pure stands of alfalfa and oat. The analysis also indicated that the dry matter yield per area of land was much greater for oat grown with alfalfa than oat grown without alfalfa. In this trial, the leaf to stem ratio of alfalfa and oat plant grown alone was statistically similar (P>0.05) to those grown in a mixture. The average plant height of .alfalfa and oat plant grown in separate plot was not differed (P>0.05) from those grown in a mixture on same plot under this experiment. The chemical analysis result has implied that the dry matter content of each plant (alfalfa and oat) grown in a mixture was higher than those plant grown separately. Likewise, the crude protein content of oat grown with alfalfa on the same plots was improved as compared to those oats plants grown alone in separate plots which could be achieved from the symbiotic relationship between the two plants grown in mixture. In general, the higher quality forage obtained from oat plants grown with alfalfa on the same plots, may be an important consideration for livestock producers.

Keywords: crude protein, forage yield, growth rate, intercropping


Introduction

Feed scarcity in both quantitative and qualitative dimensions is one of the major constraints for the promotion of the livestock sub-sector in Ethiopia (Alemu 1997). In many areas of the country, animals are kept on poor quality natural pasture that commonly occur on permanent grasslands, roadsides, pathways and spaces between cropped plots (Tewodros and Meseret 2013). In the central highlands of Ethiopia (2500–3000 meters above sea level [masl]), grasses and barley straw are major sources of animal feed. However, these feed resources are characterized by high fiber (>55%), low digestibility, low crude protein (< 7%) contents, and poor mineral composition (Seyoum and Zinash 1989, Dereje et al 2010). Moreover, the available grazing lands particularly in the highlands are decreasing in size and quality due to high population pressure and encroachment of cropping on to communal grasslands (Nandi and Haque 1988). These two factors limited the performance of animals fed on poor pastures and cereal straws; since the amount consumed is restricted and the nutritive value per unit of ingested feed is relatively low (Reed et al 1990; Tsige 2000).

One way to optimize utilization of available feed resources is strategic supplementation of crop residues with plant protein sources such as leguminous forage crops which have the potential for alleviating some of the feed shortages and nutritional deficiencies experienced in the dry season on smallholder farms (Hove et al 2001).

Leguminous forage crops have been investigated as potential supplements for ruminants because of their beneficial effect of increasing metabolizable energy intake, N intake and feed efficiency (Teferedegne 2000). As a result, animals with access to leguminous forage crops perform better than those kept on natural pasture in milk yield, weight gain, reproductive performances and survival rates (Norton 1994b; Elbasha et al 1999).

In the existing forage legume germ-plasm selection programs in Ethiopia, more attention has been given to assessment of the environmental adaptation, herbage DM yield potential and seed bearing ability of candidate accession. This suggests the need for research works focusing on characterization of elite forage cultivars grown under varying production systems and agro-ecological conditions to effectively exploit their potential in livestock feeding. Legume cover crops are commonly used for nitrogen contribution because of their inherent capacity to fix atmospheric N (inert gas) into usable form to be used by succeeding crops. A wrong combination of cover crops may exert negative attributes, so a thorough understanding of cover crops selection and management is needed to minimize negative outcomes.

There is very little research that has been carried out on the effectiveness of N2 fixation of indigenous (local) varieties of legumes and the effect of intercropping these legumes with local cereal crops variety in Ethiopia. The major objective of this study were therefore; to investigate the effect of intercropping on growth rate, biomass yield and nitrogen fixation/yield in Arsi highlands of Ethiopia, generating such information has a pivotal role before the candidate genotypes are officially registered as a variety. This study was primarily designed to evaluate the seeding rate (growth performance and biomass yield of Alfalfa as companion crop with Oat cultivars at Arsi University, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Asella, Ethiopia.

The specific objectives of this study (Experiment) were, therefore, to evaluate; Effect of alfalfa and oat combination on Biomass yield.The Effect of a Companion Crop (Oat) on growth rate of alfalfa. Nitrogen yield: Pure stands vs. mixtures


Materials and methods

Description of the study sites

he experiment was conducted in Arsi University, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences; Asella, Ethiopia. The study area is located in Arsi Zone of Oromia Regional State, at about 175 km south-east from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, situated at 70 57’N and 3907’E According to (Birhan 2011); the area has an altitude of 2430 meter above sea level, annual rainfall distribution ranging from 1050-1650mm, and average minimum and maximum temperatures of 100 and 22 0C, respectively. The rainfall pattern of the area is bimodal with short dry season occurring between December and March, and the long rainy season between April and mid October. The dominant soil type in the area is reddish brown clay with about 11.10% of dark soil, and a pH of about 4.2. In the study areas agriculture is the basis of the economy and typically a mixed type; crop- livestock production is practiced.

Treatment and experimental design

Alfalfa cultivars with or without Oat was grown at College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences forage and pasture research site on finely prepared seed beds. The experimental seed was planted on 12 m2 plot (4 m long and 5.3 m wide). Each plot (12 m2) was consisted of 10 rows arranged length-wise in an east-west direction, with intra row spacing of 0.3m. Seeds were dressed with a fungicide before sowing. Then, seeds was hand-drilled at a rate of 4kg/ha and di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) fertilizer was applied at the rate of 100 kg/ha at planting. The plots were laid out in randomized complete block design with five replications per treatment. At early stages of seedling development, weeds were controlled through manual weeding followed by hoeing.

Table 1 . Experimental design

Treatments

Blocks

ALF

ALF-OAT

OAT

B1

Alfalfa

Alfalfa X Oat

Oat

B2

Alfalfa

Alfalfa X Oat

Oat

B3

Alfalfa

Alfalfa X Oat

Oat

B4

Alfalfa

Alfalfa X Oat

Oat

B5

Alfalfa

Alfalfa X Oat

Oat

Determination of herbage yield, plant height and leaf to stem ratio

At full bloom stage, described as a stage when open flowers emerge on average of two or more nodes and no seed pods present (Ball 1998). Accordingly, for fresh weight determination, four adjacent middle rows with a net area of 3.2 m2 was randomly selected and harvested manually by cutting the plants at about 5 cm above the ground using sickle. The first harvest was taken at the time that an early flowering variety was at the10 percent flowering stage. Subsequent harvests were done at 4 weeks intervals.

Data was collected on the following parameters:

I. Fresh weight and dry weight per plot at each harvest.

II. Leaf-stern-ratio.

III. Percentage flowering.

The fresh weight of the cut biomass was recorded just after mowing using field balance. Then, the harvested biomass was manually chopped into small pieces and a subsample of 200g was taken and dried in air draft oven at 60C for 48 hours to determine herbage dry matter yield (DMY). For plant height determination, mean height of five randomly selected plants were recorded for each plot. Leaf to stem ratio was determined by separately harvesting a central section of two adjacent middle rows with a sampling area of 0.2 m2 (0.5 m length x 0.4 m width), and by partitioning the harvested biomass in to leaf and stem fractions. The fraction was dried using similar procedures described above for herbage DM yield determination. Percentage flowering and ability of plants to set seed naturally were determined by leaving border plants of each plot to overgrow after the third harvest. These border plants were observed for flowering and seed setting. Insects were also observed for their ability to trip flowers to effect pollination. The rate of re-growth was determined by tagging four plants per plot after the second harvest, and measuring their height at weekly intervals until the next harvest was done. Observations were also made on competitiveness with weeds, nodulation and incidence of pests and diseases.

Statistical analysis

Dry matter content of the plants was measured after oven-drying at 60C, for 24 hours. Yield was expressed as kg of dry matter per plot. Five plants were randomly selected from each plot to collect mean quantitative data. Finally, data on yield and other yield related traits was subjected to the analysis of variance (ANOVA) procedure for randomized complete block design (RCBD) experiments using the General Linear Model (GLM) procedure of SAS computer software packages (SAS 2001).Duncan’s multiple range tests with a 5% probability was used to test the significant differences between treatment means. The ‘contrast’ statement in SAS was used to compare between means for all variables (plots) analyzed.

The model used for data analysis was:

Yij=μ + Ti+ Bj+ εij

Where; Yij is the response variable,

μ = is overall mean,

Ti = is treatment effect

Bj = is block effect and

εij = is random error


Results

Total dry matter yield

The result of this experiment has shown that, the total forage dry matter yield harvested from plots containing a mixture of alfalfa and oat was higher (P<0.05) than other plots containing pure stands of alfalfa and oat. This indicated that the overall yield is not affected by the competition effects of oat as the companion crop, if the oat plant was harvested early at the soft dough stage (Table 2). The analysis of this trial has suggested that the total dry matter yield of alfalfa grown without companion was greater (P<0.05) than those grown with companion plant. However, this difference did not associate with the effect of companion plant on performance of alfalfa; rather it could largely be attributed to the proportion of land used for growing this plant. The land area used for growing alfalfa with companion plant was about half of the land used for growing alfalfa without companion , indicating that the dry matter yield per area of land was greater for alfalfa grown with companion than alfalfa grown without companion.

Table 2. Mean values for DM yield (DMY) of alfalfa grown with and without companion oats

 

ALF

ALF-OAT

OAT

SEM

p

Total DMY, kg/ha

4117c

9434a

7937b

60.6

<0.001

Alfalfa DMY, kg/ha

4117

2870

29.8

<0.001

Oat-DMY, kg/ha

6564

7937

114

0.004

abc Means within rows without common superscript are different (P<0.05)

The analysis also indicated that the total dry matter yield of oat grown alone was maximum (P<0.05) as compared to those grown with alfalfa. Yet, the dry matter yield per area of land was much greater for oat grown with alfalfa than oat grown without alfalfa. The fact that the dry matter content (percent) of each plant (alfalfa and oat) grown in a mixture was higher than those plant grown alone (alfalfa or oat), which could be achieved from the symbiotic relationship between the two plants grown in mixture on a single plot. Meyer (1978) reported that, higher forage yield in the seeding year when alfalfa was established with companion crops than clear seedlings. Optimum seedling rate of oat as a companion crop proves for maximum seasonal yield of alfalfa (Lanini et al 1992). However, (Dixon et al 2005) concluded that cereal grain grown with alfalfa competes with alfalfa seedlings for light, water and nutrients. He also stated that such type of competition reduces yield by 25-30 percent. An oat companion crop was found to be an effective alternative to chemical weed control in seedling alfalfa. This is in line with ( Lanini et al 1992). Hence, it could be possible to infer that using an oat as companion crop to alfalfa would appear to be an excellent method for better total forage dry matter yield and also alfalfa seed establishment.

Leaf to stem ratio

In this trial the leaf to stem ratio of alfalfa and oat plant grown alone was statistically similar (P>0.05) to those alfalfa and oat plant grown in a mixture. This reveals that there was no competition for space, if oat was seeded at 30cm interval in a row with alfalfa. The analysis (Table 3) generally suggested that establishing or developing oat as a companion crop at 30cm interval in a row with alfalfa had no effect on seeding and subsequent alfalfa forage yields. This result is in agreement with Diriba et al (2014), who reported that the effect of cultivar was not substantial (P> 0.05) for leaf to stem ratio. Leaf to stem ratio is an important trait in the selection of appropriate forage cultivar as it is strongly related to forage quality (Juan et al 1993; Kratchunov and Naydenov 1995; Julier et al 2000; Sheaffer et al 2000).

Table 3 . Leaf to stem ratio (on DM basis) of Alfalfa and Oat plant grown alone and in a mixture under this experiment

Treatments

ALF

ALF-OAT

OAT

SEM

p

Alfalfa DM-L:S

0.367

0.353

0.010

0.535

Oat-DM-L:S

0.428

0.430

0.007

0.924

a - f Means within rows with different superscript are significantly different (P<0.05)

Plant height

The average plant height of alfalfa and oat plant grown in a separate plot was not differed (P>0.05) from those grown in a mixture on the same plot under this experiment (Table 4). This indicates that alfalfa grown with oat on the same plot did not affected by the height and root of oat used as companion crop to obtain sun light and nutrient respectively , if oat was seeded at 30cm interval in a row with alfalfa. Diriba et al (2014) has repored that, cultivar has no significant effect on the stand height and he also suggested that, cooler climates encourages more dormant alfalfa grwoth. However, Meyer and Nudell (2008) indicated that companion crops compete with under seeded alfalfa, which can affect the stand that can be established.

Table 4. Average Plant height of Alfalfa and Oat plant grown alone and in a mixture under this experiment

Treatments

ALF

ALF-OAT

OAT

SEM

p

Alfalfa -Ht (m)

0.556

0.600

0.022

0.378

Oat-Ht (m)

1.45

1.34

0.033

0.171

a - f Means within rows with different superscript are different (P<0.05)

Nutrient composition

The chemical analysis result has implied that the dry matter content of alfalfa grown with companion crop was slightly higher than those grown alone in a separate plot. Conversely, alfalfa grown alone in separate plots had a higher Crude Protein content than those grown in mixture with oat on the same plots. This has indicated that alfalfa grown without companion crop produce higher quality forage as compared to those grown with companion crop. On other hand the crude protein content of oat grown with alfalfa on the same plots was improved as compared to those oat plants grown alone in separate plots. This in turn has indicated that growing oat with alfalfa could enhance the nutritional value of forage obtained from this companion crop. The increase in crude protein content of the companion crop could be attributed to the transfer of nutrients from alfalfa to oat grown on the same plots. This is in line with (Meyer 1978) who reported that clear seedling of alfalfa has better quality forage than companion forages. Anderson and Nichols (1983) and Dixon et al (2005) also indicated that pure stands of alfalfa usually produce the highest crude protein yield than companion crops.

Table 5. Percentage nutrient composition of Alfalfa and Companion Crop (Oat) as DM Basis, except for DM content

Sample type

DM

DM Basis

(% of DM)

(%)

OM

CP

NDF

ADF

ADL

ALF
Whole part

28.4

95.8

23.7

36.7

20.3

1.9

Leaf

23.9

95.1

36.2

25.8

14.7

2.0

Stem

28.9

95.5

15.4

46.7

26.9

2.6

ALF-OAT

Whole part ALF

29.8

94.0

21.4

37.3

20.8

2.1

Leaf ALF

24.4

94.9

34.5

26.2

15.7

2.3

Stem ALF

30.3

95.4

14.6

49.3

29.4

2.8

Whole part OAT

23.8

95.1

14.7

50.0

28.4

8.6

Leaf OAT

22.4

95.0

21.3

40.1

23.5

4.3

Stem OAT

32.7

94.4

8.2

56.9

38.5

9.6

OAT
Whole part

24.3

94.6

16.9

46.5

25.8

8.2

Leaf

22.0

93.8

22.7

38.0

21.9

4.2

Stem

33.1

94.3

9.0

54.6

36.9

8.7

DM, dry matter; OM, organic matter; CP, crude protein NDF, neutral detergent fiber; ADF, Acid detergent fiber; ADL, Acid detergent lignin


Conclusion


Acknowledgement

The authors would like to acknowledge Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) of South Korea for financial support of this experiment


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Received 15 April 2015; Accepted 15 May 2015; Published 3 June 2015

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