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. Azolla is a type of aquatic fern and is rich in organic nutrients. Azolla is naturally found in Namibia on most of our dams. Azolla can be used as a feed to cattle, horses, chicken, rabbit, fish, duck, pig and other farm animals. If fed to hen on a daily basis, Azolla helps in producing good quality of eggs.
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.
It is very less expensive to cultivate Azolla and can be cultivated in your home or farming place. Azolla is already a trending organic fertilizer and feed in countries such as China, Vietnam and Philippines.
Adaption of Azolla cultivation is rapidly growing in India too. This brings India some extra yields in crops, milk production and good revenue in exporting Azolla to other countries.
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 in a shallow (15cm deep) pond lined with thick plastic.
Equipment’s and Materials required:
- Necessary Gardening/Farming tools
- Plastic Sheet (6 meter wide, 10 meter long) but any other sizes work well also
- 60 kg of horse dung or cow dung (2 days older). This is the fertilizer
- Some compost/fertile soil
- Water as required.
- Azolla culture/pour mother azolla plants.
- Shadenet house so that wild animals don’t eat the Azolla
Steps to make Azolla Farm bed and Cultivation:
- Choose a area with sufficient sun shade (in your shade house) and level an area with 6 meter width and 10 meter length. Use the waterpas to ensure the place is level.
- In the leveled place, make a pit of 10 meter in length and 6m wide
- On the 4 sides, using brick or soil, make a small wall of 20 cm.
- Put a layer of clean sand inside so that your plastic will not punch through if there are stones on the bottom.
- Cover the pit floor and sides using a tarpaulin/thick plastic of 10 meter length and 6 meter width as shown in picture. The sides will go over the bricks or small sand wall.
- Cover the plastic on the walls with some soil and stones so that the sun does not break down the plastic.
- Spread sieved fertile soil evenly up to 1cm height of pit
- Mix the fertilizer (cow or horse dung) with water and spread in the pit
- Fill the pit with water 10 cm deep. Your wall will still be 10cm higher than the water. This is important when heavy rain comes so that the pond does not overflow causing your Azolla to flow away with the rain.
- Spread 5 kg of pure mother Azolla culture evenly. (We get this out of Wimpie’s dam) Fresh water should be sprinkled over the Azolla immediately after this to make plants upright.
- Cover the top of Azolla farm using shade cloth 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.
Maintenance of the Water Body or Azolla farm:
- Spread the right amount of cow dung into the azolla farm bed 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.
Harvesting Azolla and Feeding Methods
How to feed Azolla for cows, hens and other animals and to use in Gardening
- Collect Azolla from the pond twice a day, daily morning and evening using hand or big strainer or tray with holes at bottom.
- You can remove 1/3 of the Azolla every day, don’t let it get too thick and don’t take too much.
- Wash the collected Azolla with fresh water in a bucket.
- You can either directly feed the washed Azolla for the animals or can mix it with other feed with the ratio of 1:1. Up to 3kg’s of Azolla can be fed to a cow every day. 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.
- Always wash the Azolla before using as fertilizer/feed.
- One pond of 10m x 6m is enough to feed 100 chicken.
- 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.
Important tips to grow Azolla
- To avoid overcrowding .Azolla should be harvested regularly.
- Azolla tank changes the water and soil completely, at least once in six months and then add Fresh Azolla.
- The pH of the medium should be between 5.5 to 7.
- Adding cow dung or horse dung once in 5 days for good growth.
- Temperature 35 degrees Celsius is an important factor for good growth.
- If your Azolla is not growing well use more shade net. Maybe it’s getting too much sun