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Giant setaria (Setaria sphacelata var. splendida)


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Common names 

Broadleaf setaria, splendida setaria, giant setaria [English]; sétaire géante [French]


Setaria splendida Stapf (USDA, 2009)


The giant setaria (Setaria sphacelata (Schum.) Stapf & Hubb var. splendida (Stapf)) is a tall tropical grass widespread in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Australia and Asia. It is highly palatable, and used for pasture and cut-and-carry.


The giant setaria is a perennial tussock grass up to 3 m high. Culms are robust and flattened at the base. Leaves are grey-green, reddish under dry conditions, blade-shaped, up to 80 cm long and 2 cm broad. Inflorescence is a spike-like panicle ranging from 10 cm to 50 cm long. Fruits are caryopses but the giant setaria has a low seed production and its main way of propagation is vegetative.


The giant setaria is mainly used as fodder. Its grains are useful famine food in periods of scarcity in Africa (Brink, 2006).


The giant setaria is native to Africa and is now widespread in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Australia and Asia (mostly Indonesia and Malaysia). It thrives in areas where annual rainfall is greater than 1000 mm. However, it can survive long dry seasons and also withstands flooding. It is fairly tolerant of low temperatures and may be cultivated at high altitudes in Kenya and Uganda. It prefers moist soils, even at low fertility levels, and can be intercropped with legumes provided that the soil contains adequate P and K (Hacker, 1992).

Forage management 

Annual yields reported range from 4 t DM/ha to 31 t DM/ha (Cook et al., 2005; Hacker, 1992).

Environmental impact 

Setaria is a strong competitor for minerals (K particularly). Growing it with other grasses or legumes should be avoided if the soil is short of P and K. It is considered as a weed in the USA and Canada where it competes strongly with soya and maize, causing up to 81% losses in soya and 40% in maize (Weill, 2007). In the Philippines, Setaria sphacelata is used in order to prevent soil erosion on hillslopes as a hedgerow species in alley cropping systems (Exconde, 2000).

Nutritional aspects
Potential constraints 


The giant setaria contains high amounts of oxalates (4 to 6.7% DM) after a regrowth period of 3 weeks (FAO, 2009; Jones et al., 1972). Oxalates are deleterious to horses as they cause the "big-head" disease (Osteodystrophia fibrosa).

In dairy cows, oxalic acid conjugates with Ca, thus reducing Ca concentration in the blood and causing milk fever (hypocalcemia). It is also reported to cause hypomagnesemia. Both problems can be treated by combining treatment with calcium borogluconate and magnesium hypophosphite. When Setaria is progressively included in the diet, cattle develops an ad hoc rumen flora that detoxifies oxalates (Cook et al., 2005).


The giant setaria is highly palatable to all classes of livestock and is mainly used as forage. It may be grazed or used in a cut-and-carry system. It can withstand heavy and continuous grazing, up to 6 steers/ha in subtropical Australia, if adequate fertilizer is applied. It can also be used for hay or silage (Cook et al., 2005).

The giant setaria can support around 820 kg body weight gain in steers/ha/year even at high stocking rates (in Queensland, 4-6 steers/ha or 7 steers/ha during spring and summer, then 3-5 steers/ha before winter) (Evans et al., 1992; Jones et al., 1989). A 50:50 leucaena/setaria-based diet was supplemented with 100 g molasses/kg diet and resulted in a higher live-weight gain in young bulls (Huque et al., 1995).

Horses and donkeys 

Giant setaria should not be fed to horses due to its high oxalate content (see Potential constraints).

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 22.2 6.0 13.7 32.4 11
Crude protein % DM 9.1 3.9 3.2 16.9 19
Crude fibre % DM 34.3 5.4 22.6 45.2 16
NDF % DM 69.5 *
ADF % DM 40.0 28.5 45.1 2 *
Lignin % DM 5.4 *
Ether extract % DM 2.4 0.5 1.8 3.5 14
Ash % DM 11.1 2.7 7.4 15.3 15
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.8 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 2.4 1.3 0.4 4.7 11
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.9 1.7 0.2 6.0 11
Potassium g/kg DM 15.8 16.3 0.6 36.0 9
Sodium g/kg DM 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.6 6
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.1 1.4 0.9 5.2 9
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 62.8 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 60.0 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.7 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.6 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 65.2 1
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 36.3 *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 6.5 *

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


Huque et al., 1995; Kaligis et al., 1990; Niang et al., 1998; Pozy et al., 1996; Scaut, 1959; Shem et al., 1999; Van Rensburg, 1956

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:11

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Crude protein % DM 9.9 0.0 9.9 9.9 6
Ash % DM 15.3 0.0 15.3 15.3 6
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 58.6 5.3 52.0 67.3 6
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 55.2 *

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


Minson, 1971

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:11

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., 2015. Giant setaria (Setaria sphacelata var. splendida). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/380 Last updated on July 16, 2015, 10:23

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)
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