Azolla Farming step by step and Health Benefits
If you are into agricultural farming or animal farming, knowledge on Azolla and on its production can do wonders to the farming you are into. Technically Azolla is a type of aquatic fern and is rich in organic nutrients. Azolla includes 25-30 percent of protein, essential amino acids, vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin B12 and Beta- Carotene), calcium and iron minerals .As the same time, Azolla contains phosphorus, potassium, ferrous, copper, magnesium, bio-active substances and it is this property that makes Azolla a perfect organic fertilizer. Azolla can also be used as a cattle feed. Among cattle, research has proved that Azolla helps to increase the milk production. It can be also used as a feed to quail, rabbit, fish, duck, pig etc. If fed to hen on a daily basis, Azolla helps in producing good quality of eggs.
The Anabaena in Azolla helps to absorb nitrogen, and later on the nitrogen absorbed is converted to protein and amino acid which is later stored in the leaves. Since Nitrogen is one main factor that helps in a plant’s growth, Azolla, when used as a fertilizer, helps in the growth of a plant. Azollo also act as a mosquito repellant. Dried Azolla is also useful and is known to be partial substitute to the traditional sources of protein such as Groundnut meal. Hence Azolla produced in excess can be dried and stored in plastic bags.. In poultry diet, Azolla in dried form is limited to 5% along with regular diet. These days, Bio-gas is also produced from Azolla.
It is very less expensive to cultivate Azolla and can be cultivated your home or farming place. Azolla is already a trending organic fertilizer and feed in countries such as China, Vietnam and Philippines.
According to scientific research, Azolla ferns helps to produce nitrogen and reduce atmospheric CO2 to avoid global warming.Studies done along the Arctic ocean confirms that Azolla in a way helped to decrease the level of green house gases (water vapor and methane) and cool the atmosphere by reducing atmospheric CO2 in the in Arctic ocean area reducing the artifacts of global warming. Progressive reduction of this greenhouse gases lowered the temperatures further particularly at the poles which leads icehouse world.
Due to industrialization, enormous amount of atmospheric CO2 is produced. But if we cultivate Azolla which helps to reduce atmospheric CO2, it balances risky climate change globally and benefits animals and humans.
Adaption of Azolla cultivation is rapidly growing in India too. There are many Azolla farms in states such as Andrapradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamilnadu etc. This brings India some extra yields in crops, milk production and good revenue in exporting Azolla to other countries.
Azolla Farming: Recommended Weather Condition
Climate with temperature between 25°C -30°C and with a humidity of 80 % is best suitable for Azolla cultivation. The cultivation can be done in Paddy field or with a set up made using Tarpaulin. The yield rate is better if cultivated on a tarpaulin set up (50 gm per square-feet daily with comparison to paddy field cultivation (400gm per square feet) daily.
Equipment's and Materials required:
- Necessary Gardening/Farming tools
- Tarpaulin Sheet (2.5 meter Height, 1.8 meter width or 8.2 feet Height, 5.9 feet width).
- Fertile Soil as required
- 88 pounds of cow dung (2 days older)
- Water as required.
- Azolla culture/pour mother azolla plants.
- Super Phosphate (25 gram)
- UV treated polyethylene cover
Steps to make Azolla Farm bed and Cultivation:
- Choose a area with sufficient sun shade and level an area with 1.5 meter width and 2.5 meter length.
- In the leveled place, make a pit of 1.5 meter in length.
- On the 4 sides, using brick or soil, make a small wall of 8 cm.
- Cover the pit floor and sides using a tarpaulin of 2.5 meter length and 1.8 meter width as shown in picture.
- Spread sieved fertile soil evenly up to .5 inch height of pit or minimum 60.14 pounds.
- Pour slurry made of 88 pounds of cow dung (2 days old) in 2.64 gallons of water in the pit.
- Fill the pit with water, if necessary.
- Spread 2.20 pounds of pure mother Azolla culture evenly. Fresh water should be sprinkled over the Azolla immediately after this to make plants upright.
- Cover the top of Azolla farm using UV treated polyethylene sheets for couple of days. In the heavy windy days and heavy rain sessions, use this cover to avoid the Azolla from falling it to one side and to avoid water overflow from the bed.It causes azolla plants running out of the bed.
Note: Please follow the steps here and in the given video below .place the brick on the 4 corners of tarpaulin sheet of the farm bed and the sides.This is not given in the picture(Azolla Farm bed Preparation) above.
Maintenance of the Water Body or Azolla farm:
- Spread the right amount of cow dung into the azolla farm bed every 15 days.
- Add sufficient super phosphate and nutrients every 15 days.
- About 25 kg of bed soil should be replaced with fresh soil very 30 days. This helps in avoiding excess production of nitrogen and helps to avoid deficiency in micro-nutrients.
- Clean the water body every 6 months and remove the soil, grown Azolla from the farm and again do the steps for the next cultivation.
- Maintain water level on a daily basis.
- For a long term use, a concrete tank with the size of 2.5m length and 1m width is recommended. In that case, 25 concrete tanks can be made in a 25 square feet land.
- If you have farm or garden ponds, you can grow Azolla.
- Always wash the Azolla before using as fertilizer/feed.
How to feed Azolla for cows, hens and other animals and to use in Gardening
- Collect Azolla from the farm twice a day, daily morning and evening using hand or big strainer or tray with holes at bottom.
- Wash the collected Azolla with fresh water in a vessel or bucket.
- You can either directly feed the washed Azolla for the cows or can mix it with cattle feed with the ratio of 1:1. Up to 3kg’s of Azolla can be fed to a cow.Thus we will get 15-20% increase in milk production in cows. Azolla for hens in poultry, rabbit, fish, duck, pig etc. can be fed directly or can be mixed it with their regular diet and can be served.
- If you have vegetables garden, you can use Azolla as a Bio-fertilizer for plants. It will give good nitrogen, fastening growth and produce good vegetables.
Please watch the given video for the demo of feeding Azolla for animals and it is clearly shown in the above pictures.
Now a days, farmers are widely using Azolla as a cattle feed instead of other artificially made cattle feed that they used before. Also, production expenditure of Azolla is very less. Only expenditure item required to make an Azolla set up is a tarpaulin sheet. Azolla culture (Azolla Seeds) can be easily obtained from other Azolla farms or you can contact nearest agricultural development office or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the same.Happy Azolla farming!.