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Marvel grass (Dichanthium annulatum)


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Common names 
Marvel grass, bluestem, diaz bluestem, hindi grass, sheda grass, ringed dichanthium, vuda blue grass, kleberg blue stem, jargu grass, Delhi grass, two-flowered golden-beard, Santa Barbara grass [English]; karad [English/India]; pitilla, climacuna, yerba de vias [Spanish]; vleivingergras [Afrikaans]; 双花草 [Chinese]

Andropogon annulatus Forssk., Andropogon papillosus Hochst. ex A. Rich., Dichanthium nodosum Willemet, Dichanthium papillosum (Hochst. ex A. Rich.) Stapf

Related feed(s) 

Marvel grass (Dichanthium annulatum (Forssk.) Stapf) is a tropical grass originally from North Africa and India that is used for pasture in tropical and subtropical zones. It is particularly used in India.


Dichanthium annulatum is a tufted perennial, 60-100 cm high (Ecocrop, 2010; Clayton et al., 2006). It has an important root system, down to 1 m deep (FAO, 2010). Culms are erect and decumbent, 25-100 cm long. Leaf-blades are linear, 3-30 cm long, 2-7 mm wide, pubescent at the margins (Clayton et al., 2006; Cook et al., 2005). The inflorescences are composed of 2-15 racemes, each 3-7 cm long (Clayton et al., 2006). The seed is a 2 mm long, oblong-obovate caryopsis (US Forest Service, 2010).


Marvel grass is an excellent and widely used fodder grass much appreciated by all classes of ruminants. In mixed pastures, marvel grass is preferred to all other grasses (Cook et al., 2005; Manidool, 1992). Marvel grass can be used in pastures, in cut-and-carry systems or for hay and silage making if it is cut before flowering (FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005; Manidool, 1992). In India, it withstood very heavy grazing and supported 7 sheep per ha. It gives a good standing hay (Manidool, 1992). It is a highly preferred grass in India (Gupta et al., 1995).


Marvel grass originates from North Africa and India. It was introduced to Southern Africa, tropical America, the Caribbean, South-East Asia, China, the Pacific Islands and Australia (Ecoport, 2010; Manidool, 1992). Marvel grass is mainly found within 8-28° in the Northern hemisphere, at elevations between sea level and 600 m (up to 1375 m in India), in dry to moist subtropical and tropical areas. It grows in pasture land, roadsides, fallow fields, weedy lawns, sandy dunes and open wastelands (FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005).

Optimal growth conditions are annual rainfall ranging from 500 to 1400 mm (FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005), with warm season temperatures (Cook et al., 2005), on heavy black clays with the pH ranging from neutral to alkaline. Marvel grass is more or less tolerant to water stresses (drought or short-term waterlogging or flooding) and withstands annual rainfall as low as 300 mm and as high as 2600 mm (Ecocrop, 2010; FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005). It is remarkably tolerant of alkaline and saline soils (FAO, 2010) and bears seasonal burning (Cook et al., 2005).

Forage management 

Marvel grass yields between 1.5 and 6 t DM/ha (Ecocrop, 2010; Cook et al., 2005) but up to 17 t DM/ha have been recorded from irrigated grass in dry environments (Cook et al., 2005). Marvel grass does not normally require added fertilizer, but it responds positively to low and moderate levels of N. It could be valuable for re-seeding degraded grasslands (Cook et al., 2005). It is not recommended to use it in mixed pastures as it outcompetes other grasses (FAO, 2010). However, some grasses such as Bothriochloa insculpta, Dichanthium aristatum, Dichanthium caricosum and legumes such as Desmanthus spp., Medicago sativa, Stylosanthes hamata and Stylosanthes seabrana may compete successfully with marvel grass (Cook et al., 2005).

Environmental impact 

Soil erosion control

Marvel grass is one of the best grasses for soil erosion control and ground cover: it helps binding the soil even on 20° slopes (FAO, 2010).

Nutritional aspects

Marvel grass is a very palatable and popular pasture grass (Göhl, 1982) despite its low nutritive value (Pacheco et al., 1983). Protein content is about 5% DM (± 2%) (Feedipedia, 2011).

Beef cattle

The following results were obtained from steers fed marvel grass hay in Texas (3 locations and 1 regrowth): DM intake of 16 to 80 g/W0.75 (1.7 to 2.1% W) and DM digestibility of 36-47%, giving a digestible DM intake of 6.2 to 38.0 g/LW0.75 (Pacheco et al., 1983). In Cuba, male cattle grazing a mixture of marvel grass, Paspalum notatum and various legume forages did not require nitrogen supplementation (Castillo et al., 2003).

Sheep and goats

In India, marvel grass is commonly grazed by sheep and goats (Maharaj Singh et al., 2002). It can constitute the main forage component of the diet but must be supplemented with energy and protein from conventional or non conventional sources (Saiyed et al., 2003; Trivedi et al., 2005). In sheep, combinations of marvel grass hay and dry leaves (75:25) of various fodder tree species resulted in DM intakes ranging from 2.6 to 3.3% W (60.6-74 g/kg W0.75) and OM digestibilities between 41 and 56% (Singh et al., 2010). Sheep maintained live weight for 36 days on marvel grass alone and for 50 days on a marvel grass/Stylosanthes hamata mixture (Rai et al., 1995). In growing goats, marvel grass was found to be of a lesser quality than pangola (Digitaria eriantha) and resulted in lower weight gain and feed efficiency (Hsieh WeinChang et al., 2000).


No information found (2011).

Nutritional tables

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 32.9 7.9 19.5 53.3 19
Crude protein % DM 5.5 1.4 2.6 8.5 22
Crude fibre % DM 41.3 3.1 34.9 45.5 22
NDF % DM 76.1 *
ADF % DM 47.8 *
Lignin % DM 7.1 *
Ether extract % DM 1.2 0.2 0.9 1.6 21
Ash % DM 9.6 1.3 7.0 11.9 22
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.9 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 3.4 0.9 1.9 5.5 17
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.6 0.5 0.3 2.4 17
Potassium g/kg DM 11.2 4.2 6.9 15.4 3
Sodium g/kg DM 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.2 3
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.1 1
Manganese mg/kg DM 46 1
Zinc mg/kg DM 49 1
Copper mg/kg DM 5 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 55.1 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 52.7 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.4 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.6 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 47.4 1

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


CIRAD, 1991; Dougall et al., 1960; Gill, 1970; Nooruddin et al., 1975; Patel, 1966; Sen, 1938

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:33

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Crude protein % DM 3.8 1.0 2.7 4.6 3
Crude fibre % DM 39.3 0.5 38.9 39.9 3
NDF % DM 74.2 *
ADF % DM 45.6 *
Lignin % DM 6.6 *
Ether extract % DM 1.0 0.2 0.9 1.2 3
Ash % DM 10.5 1.0 9.5 11.5 3
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.5 *
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 53.3 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 49.9 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.8 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.1 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 28.0 1

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


Jayal, 1961; Sen, 1938

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:44:33

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Archimède H., 2015. Marvel grass (Dichanthium annulatum). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/463 Last updated on May 11, 2015, 14:30

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