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Climate-smart Brachiaria Grasses for Improving Livestock Production in East Africa


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Poster by Appolinaire Djikeng, Idupulapati M Rao, Donald Njarui, Mupenzi Mutimura, John Caradus, Sita R Ghimire, Linda Johnson, Juan A Cardoso, Monday Ahonsi and Segenet Kelemu Presented at the 22nd International Grasslands Congress, Sydney, Australia, 15 - 19 September 2013

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Climate-smart Brachiaria Grasses for Improving Livestock Production in East Africa

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This document is licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License September 2013 Climate-smart Brachiaria Grasses for Improving Livestock Production in East Africa 1Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa (BecA) - International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Hub, Nairobi, Kenya (Email ; 2Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; 3Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Nairobi, Kenya; 4Rwandan Agricultural Board (RAB), Kigali, Rwanda; 5Grasslanz Technology Ltd., Palmerston North, New Zealand; 6Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Nairobi, Kenya and 7AgResearch Ltd., Palmerston North, New Zealand 1Appolinaire Djikeng, 2Idupulapati M Rao, 3Donald Njarui, 4Mupenzi Mutimura, 5John Caradus, 1Sita R Ghimire, 7Linda Johnson, 2Juan A Cardoso, 1Monday Ahonsi and 6Segenet Kelemu INTRODUCTION • Climate change is a global phenomenon with negative impacts severely felt by poor people in developing countries (Morton, 2007). • Across many parts of Africa, the livelihoods of rural poor communities depend on agriculture and livestock that are amongst the most climate- sensitive economic sectors. • Inadequate quantity and quality of feed are major constraints to livestock production, particularly during the dry seasons across Africa. • The overall objective of this program is to increase feed availability in target countries in East Africa (e.g., Kenya, Rwanda) by use of climate- smart Brachiaria forage grasses (Rao et al. 2011) for increased animal productivity and for generation of extra income to smallholder famers. PROGRESS 1. Endophytes in improving adaptation of Brachiaria grasses to climate change (drought) Isolations of fungal endophytes from local landraces, genebank accessions and commercial cultivars have been initiated with emphasis on vertically transmitted endophytes such as Acremonium implicatum (Fig. 1). Fungal endophytes will be characterized for metabolites production, biological activities and plant growth promotion characteristics. This will be followed by development of an efficient inoculation process to test the impact of the endophytes on biological nitrification inhibition (BNI) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emission from Brachiaria grasses under greenhouse conditions and to identify the most promising endophytic cultivars for field testing. 2. Climate-smart Brachiaria grasses to mitigation of climate change Ten Brachiaria cultivars along with Bermuda grass and Napier grass are being evaluated for low fertility and drought tolerance under greenhouse conditions at CIAT, Colombia. Preliminary data from a pot experiment have indicated that Brachiaria grasses perform better under the combined stresses of low fertility and drought. The best performing cultivars will be used to quantify their roles in climate change mitigation under field conditions. FIG. 1 Brachiaria grass (A) and two week old colony of Acremonium implicatum, a seed transmitted endophytic fungus isolated from Brachiaria grasses grown in Kenya (B). 3. Brachiaria grasses in improving milk and meat production Brachiaria grasses are being integrated into smallholder crop-livestock systems in Kenya and Rwanda. Eighty Brachiaria accessions from CIAT are being evaluated at Rwanda and Kenya (Fig. 2). In addition, seven commercial varieties will be evaluated in different agro-ecological regions of both countries. Brachiaria based rations will be fed to dairy cows and beef cattle. The measurements will include milk and meat production as well as improv ement in soil fertility and other environmental benefits using cut-and carry forage systems. FIG. 2 Brachiaria hybrid Mulato II in semi-arid region of Kenya 4. Brachiaria seed production enterprises After evaluation of Brachiaria genotypes with farmer participation, farmer cooperative based Brachiaria seed producers with ultimate market opportunity will be established in Rwanda and Kenya, with particular interest in the involvement of female farmers in these countries. CONCLUSION This program will develop Brachiaria as an important forage crop in East Africa and as a cash crop for small holder farmers in the region through the production and sale of seeds and planting materials. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This program is supported by Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). REFERENCES Miles JW, Valle CB, Rao IM, Euclides VPB (2004) Brachiariagrasses. In ‘Warm-season grasses’. (Eds L Moser, B Burson, LE Sollenberger) pp. 745- 783. (ASA-CSSA-SSSA: Madison) Morton JF (2007) The impact of climate change on smallholder and subsistence agriculture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 104, 19680-19685 Rao I, Miles J, Wenzl P, Louw-Gaume A, Cardoso JA, Ricaurte J, Polania J, Rincon J, Hoyos, V, Frossard E, Wagatsuma T, Horst W (2011) Mechanisms of adaptation of brachiariagrasses to abiotic stress factors in the tropics. In ‘Proceedings of the III International Symposium on Forage Breeding’ pp. 361-383. (Embrapa: Bonito)