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Sporobolus (Sporobolus helvolus)


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Common names 

Sporobolus [English/French]; okrich [Mauritania]; manda-manda [Hausa]; aggagar, dabro, domar [Somali]; amanakuri, amuriat, anyudae [Turkana]


Vilfa helvola Trin.

Related feed(s) 

Sporobolus helvolus (Trin.) Dur. & Schinz. is a perennial grass of the dry tropics that spreads by means of long stolons, and forms small tufts. It is one of the best grasses on black clay soils of flats and depressions in semi-arid areas (Bogdan, 1977).

Morphological description

Sporobolus helvolus is a perennial grass that forms small tufts. It has long slender stolons that first arise as ordinary shoots and then elongate and root from the nodes at some distance from the mother plant. This is possibly an adaptation that reduces competition with the main tuft (Bogdan, 1977). The culms are thin (about 1 mm in diameter at the base), wiry and grow to a height of 15-60 cm. The leaf blades are flat, 2-10 (-15) cm long, 2-4 mm wide, glaucous, tapering to a filiform tip. The inflorescence is a small panicle, linear to narrowly lanceolate in shape, 4-12 cm long x 5-20 mm wide. The spikelets are 1.4-2 mm long, greenish brown in colour. The seeds are ellipsoid, 0.5 mm long (eFloras, 2016; Bogdan, 1977).


Sporobolus helvolus is a palatable forage grass that can be grazed (it is particularly relished by camels) or cut for hay. It can be used to control soil erosion and for thatching (Clayton et al., 2006; Bogdan, 1977).


Sporobolus helvolus is naturally found in Central, Western and North-Eastern Africa and in North-Western India (Quattrocchi, 2006). It is an important grass in the arid zone of Rajasthan. It grows in arid and semi-arid areas, on open deciduous bushlands, open sandy plains, low shrublands, open scrub on alluvial plains and on waterlogged soils (bottom lands, moist patches, alluvial silts, black clays and lacustrine deposits). It has outstanding drought tolerance and can also withstand saline soils (up to 20 dS/m) (FAO, 2016). Sporobolus helvolus is the dominating species on saline patches (Grassi et al., 1992). It is the dominant component of the sward developed on the sandy clays of the temporary ponds of M'Zerif, 30 km east of Timbédra, Mauritania, and is well eaten, both at the beginning and the end of the dry season (Boudet et al., 1961 cited by FAO, 2016). It is tolerant of flooded conditions. It can also grow on volcanic ash and gypsum (FAO, 2016; Quattrocchi, 2006). It can be regarded as a field weed in some situations (Quattrocchi, 2006).

Forage management 

In Africa and India, Sporobolus helvolus is found in natural grasslands. It was reported to yield 1.4 t DM/ha in Rajasthan and 1 t DM/ha in arid areas of Pakistan (Suleman et al., 1995; Mohnot et al., 1987). Its use on saline soil resulted in higher yields when soils were above 16 dS/m (Dutta, 1979). Natural stands encompassing Sporobolus helvolus, S. cordofanus, Leptocarydion vulpiastrum, Urochloa pullulans and other species were reported to be insufficient to sustain African buffaloes at any time of the year (Prins, 1996).

Environmental impact 

Soil reclamation and erosion control

Sporobolus helvolus was suggested as a potential grass for the reclamation of saline soils and erosion control (Gupta, 2012). It may be used on saline and waterlogged soils in silvopastoral systems. It can be cultivated under irrigation with saline water (Dagar et al., 2016).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Sporobolus helvolus has generally a low protein content but can be nutritious (protein > 15% DM) when young.


Sporobolus helvolus is a valuable grazing grass that is relished by most ruminants including camels. It was found to provide good quality forage that declines with maturity (Gupta et al., 1971). It was grazed by lambs at 2-4 months intervals on saline soils of Rajasthan (Ahuja et al., 1976 cited by Skerman et al., 1990).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 52.9 14.7 35.0 69.4 4  
Crude protein % DM 9.4 5.5 3.7 16.8 7  
Crude fibre % DM 33.5 3.8 28.0 39.9 7  
NDF % DM 68.8         *
ADF % DM 39.2         *
Lignin % DM 5.2         *
Ether extract % DM 2.6 2.5 0.8 7.1 6  
Ash % DM 10.9 1.9 9.2 14.7 7  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.9         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 3.4 1.3 1.7 4.7 5  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.3 0.5 0.6 1.8 5  
Potassium g/kg DM 16.2 4.3 11.4 19.6 3  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.7   0.2 1.2 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.5 0.3 2.2 2.8 3  
Manganese mg/kg DM 54       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 20       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 5       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 63.6         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 60.8         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.9         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.8         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


CIRAD, 1991; Dougall et al., 1960; Malik et al., 1967

Last updated on 23/09/2016 16:43:27

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Thiollet H., Tran G., 2017. Sporobolus (Sporobolus helvolus). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/370 Last updated on February 28, 2017, 18:34

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant)
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