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Homecoming of Brachiaria: Improved hybrids prove useful for African animal agriculture

Maass B.L., Midega C.A.O., Mutimura M., Rahetlah V.B., Salgado P., Kabirizi J.M., Khan Z.R., Ghimire S.R., Rao I.M.. 2015. East African Agricultural and Forestry Journal, 81 (1) : p. 71-78.

Species of the genus Brachiaria originate primarily from Africa, where they are constituents of natural grasslands. Due to their adaptation to acidic, low-fertility soils, millions of hectares of Brachiaria species have been sown as improved pastures in South and Central America, especially B. brizantha cv. Marandu and B. decumbens cv. Basilisk. Due to B. decumbens' susceptibility to spittlebug insect pests in the Americas, CIAT in Colombia and EMBRAPA in Brazil initiated breeding programmes in the 1980s. First cultivars released from CIAT's breeding programme ¿ cvs. Mulato and Mulato-II ¿ have also been investigated in African countries. They have been examined for integration in conservation agriculture systems (Madagascar), for drought and acidic soil tolerance (Rwanda) and for intercropping forages in dairy systems (Uganda, Madagascar), among others. Seed sales to African countries suggest that an area of at least 1,000 ha has been sown so far. The largest adoption of cv. Mulato-II is currently happening in eastern Africa, where it is used by over 20,000 farmers as a trap plant in the push-pull system for control of maize stem borers and parasitic Striga weed. Cv. Mulato-II's particular advantage is its relatively high crude protein content due to greater leafiness and thinner stems than those of traditional Napier grass, resulting in higher nutritive quality. Yet new pest challenges have emerged, requiring further research attention. Diverse hybrids are in the pipeline for release, among them those that are suitable for cut-and-carry systems which are prevalent in eastern Africa. This paper reviews research, development and incipient adoption of new Brachiaria hybrids in African countries. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : afrique orientale

Thématique : Systèmes et modes de culture; Alimentation animale

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