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Congo grass (Brachiaria ruziziensis)


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Common names 

Congo grass, Congo signal, Congo signal grass, Kennedy ruzi, Kennedy ruzigrass, prostrate signal grass, ruzi, ruzigrass, ruzi grass [English]; Congo, Congo señal, gambutera, Kenia, pasto Congo, pasto ruzi, ruzi [Spanish]; ruzisiensis, capim congo [Portuguese]; herbe à bengali, ruzi [French]; rumput ruzi [Indonesian]; ya ruzi [Thai] (Miles et al., 1996; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992)


Urochloa ruziziensis (R. Germ. & C.M. Evrard) Crins; Urochloa ruziziensis (R. Germ. & Evrard) Morrone & Zuloaga; Brachiaria decumbens var. ruziziensis (R. Germ. & Evrard) Ndab. (USDA, 2015; Quattrocchi, 2006)

Taxonomic information 

Many Brachiaria species, including Bracharia ruziziensis, have been placed by some authors in the Urochloa genus, so the taxon Urochloa ruziziensis (R. Germ. & C.M. Evrard) Crins is often considered as the correct one. However, these changes remain disputed and many recent papers still refer to Bracharia ruziziensis (Torres González et al., 2005).


Congo grass (Brachiaria ruziziensis Germ. & Evrard or Urochloa ruziziensis (R. Germ. & C.M. Evrard) Crins) is an important tropical forage grass.

Morphological description

Congo grass is a short-lived perennial grass (Husson et al., 2008). It is tufted, creeping (semi-prostrate) and rhizomatous. It roots from the nodes and forms a dense leafy cover (Cook et al., 2005; Urio et al., 1988). Congo grass has a dense system of bunched, quickly growing roots that can go as deep as 1.8 m (Husson et al., 2008). Culms grow from the nodes of the rhizomes and may reach 1.5 m high when flowering (Cook et al., 2005). The leaves are soft but hairy on both sides, lanceolate in shape and up to 25 cm long x 1-1.5 cm broad, light-green in colour. Inflorescence consists of 3-9 relatively long racemes (4-10 cm), bearing spikelets in 1 or 2 rows on one side of a broad, flattened and winged rachis (Cook et al., 2005). The spikelets are hairy, 5 mm long. The weight of 1000 grains is about 4 g (Husson et al., 2008). Congo grass is very similar to signal grass (Brachiaria decumbens) and is often mistaken for it (Cook et al., 2005). Genetic material from Congo grass has been used to hybridize with Brachiaria brizantha and yielded a series of cultivars known as Mulato (Argel et al., 2007; Argel et al., 2005).


Congo grass is a valuable forage for livestock. It is palatable and has a good nutritive value (Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992). It is mainly used for direct grazing in permanent pastures in open or under coconut plantations. Congo grass can be cut to be made into hay or fed fresh to stalled ruminants (Cook et al., 2005; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992). There is an increasing interest in growing Congo grass both for fodder and for mulch in soybean-maize associations or in sunflower crops in Brazil (Giancotti et al., 2015Ceccon et al., 2014).


Congo grass is native to the Ruzizi valley in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi (Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992). In East Africa, Congo grass is one of most important representant, with bread grass (Brachiaria brizantha) and Para grass (Brachiaria mutica) of the Brachiaria (or Urochloa) genus (Urio et al., 1988). Though not as persistant as Brachiaria brizantha, Congo grass is the main Brachiaria grown in Thailand because seed production is easier (Partridge, 2003). Congo grass is naturalized in most humid tropics: West-Central Africa, Indian Ocean, Southeast Asia, the Pacific region and many countries of South and Western Meso-America including Brazil (Clayton et al., 2006; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992).

In Africa, Congo grass is common as a pioneer species of cleared rain forest (Ecoport, 2014). It is generally found in grasslands from sea level up to an altitude of 2000 m in the humid tropics of Africa, and up to 1200 m altitude in Panama (FAO, 2015). It grows in places where annual rainfall is at least 1200 mm with a dry season of no more than 4-5 months (Cook et al., 2005; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992). Temperatures can range from 19°C to 33°C. Optimal growth is obtained when day/night temperatures are 33°C/28°C. Congo grass has no frost tolerance and moderate shade tolerance. Congo grass does better in well drained fertile soils such as light to loam soils with pH ranging from 5 to 6.8 (Cook et al., 2005). Congo grass has poor tolerance of flooding conditions. In Brazil, some genotypes of Congo grass were found to have some aluminium tolerance (Miguel et al., 2011).

Forage management 


Congo grass is a summer growing species yielding high amounts of biomass under high N supply. DM yield could exceed 20 t/ha in Australia and South America, and up to 25 t DM/ha in Sri Lanka under 366 kg N/ha fertilizer (Husson et al., 2008; Cook et al., 2005). In low fertile soils of Coronel Pacheco (Brazil) with no N fertilizer, Congo grass yielded only 6 t DM/ha. The biomass production could be up to 12 t DM/ha after 150 kg N fertilizer application (Cook et al., 2005). Biomass production is at its highest level during the second year of establishment. Congo grass is markedly less productive than signal grass, which reduces its potential as a forage crop, particularly in low-fertile soils (Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992).

Forage management

Congo grass can be propagated both from root stock and from seeds (Urio et al., 1988). If propagation by seeds is intended, the dormancy of seeds will be stopped after 6 months storage after harvest or by chemical scarification. Seeds can be broadcast on a well-prepared seedbed and should not be buried deeper than 2 cm. Congo grass seedling vigour is high and prevents weed development (Husson et al., 2008). If Congo grass is vegetatively propagated, stem cuttings with rooting nodes are necessary. As Congo grass requires good soil fertility, it is important to provide N, P and K fertilizers prior to planting and during growth (Cook et al., 2005). Once it is established, and provided it receives enough N fertilizer, Congo grass spreads readily. Congo grass flowers later than signal grass (Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992). It should be cut before first flowering and then at six week intervals (ILRI, 2013). When grazed, Congo grass moderately withstands heavy grazing (Cook et al., 2005).

Association with legumes

Congo grass can be grown in association with a wide range of legumes such as stylo (Stylosanthes guianensis), puero (Pueraria phaseoloides), greenleaf desmodium (Desmodium intortum), centro (Centrosema molle) and leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala). In association, Congo grass should be heavily grazed so that the sward becomes open and allows legumes to establish and persist (Cook et al., 2005). When grown in association with stylo, both plants can be harvested together to make good quality silage (FAO, 2015). It is possible to make pure Congo grass silage with formic acid, and best quality was obtained with 2 L formic acid/t (Lowilai et al., 2002).

Environmental impact 

Cover crop, erosion and weed controller, soil conditionner

In Brazil, Congo grass provides both fodder to livestock and good mulch stuff in no-till soybean plantations and no-till soybean-maize crop successions (Ceccon et al., 2014; Lima et al., 2014). It was assessed in no-till sunflower crops where its high sensitivity to glyphosate provided quick dessication, and its high C/N ratio allowed the mulch to remain as a soil cover during an extended period (Giancotti et al., 2015). Congo grass has been used to control erosion in different situations. When used to make contour hedgerows around cassava crops in Asian hills, it was found to decrease cassava yields (Howeler et al., 1998). Congo grass was used as a cover crop that could decrease soil temperature and conserve soil moisture, allowing to preserve coffee yields at temperatures above 30°C (EDE Consulting, 2015).

Soil nutrients recycling and phosphorus availability enhancer

Congo grass has a valuable nutrient recycling activity and enhances soil properties (Calonego et al., 2013; Garcia et al., 2013). Congo grass was reported to decrease soil P fixation through acid phosphatase activity and the promotion of P-metabolizing micro-organisms (Janegitz et al., 2013). It subsequently enhances soil P availability for the next crops (Janegitz et al., 2013).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Congo grass is a useful forage in the humid tropics. Its nutritive value can be good, especially during the rainy season: different authors (Ibrahim et al., 1995; Herrero et al., 2001; Meale et al., 2012) reported crude protein concentration between 8% and 15% and NDF concentration between 61 and 67%. However, drought has an adverse effect on its nutritive value: in Cameroon, protein content decreased from 16 to 5%, and NDF and ADF increased from 71 to 76% and 34 to 48% respectively between rainy and dry season (Tedonkeng Pamo et al., 2007). The nutritive quality of Congo grass hay is lower, with a protein content about 5%.

Potential constraints 


Cases of photosensitization have been recorded with Congo grass, though less frequently than with signal grass. Mortality rates reached 20-60% in light-skinned sheep grazing pastures dominated by Congo grass in 1980 and 1981. The sheep developed generalized necrosis and severe icterus (Pierre, 1984). Other outbreaks of hepatogenous photosensitization of sheep have been recorded in Brazil (Nazario et al., 1985 cited by Riet-Correa et al., 2011; Purchio et al., 1988).


Congo grass is a valuable forage for ruminants.

Green forage

Congo grass is a common pasture grass for ruminants in Central Africa, Thailand and Brazil. Palatability is good, but decreases with age. In vitro DM digestibility ranges between 38% (Meale et al., 2012) and 66% (Herrero et al., 2001), and decreases with the stage of growth. DM digestibility of fresh Congo grass averaged 57%, and protein digestibility 53% in sheep (Khanum et al., 2010). In situ OM, DM and protein degradabilities were reported to be 51% (Ibrahim et al., 1995) and 65% (Lopes et al., 2010), respectively. It has been observed that early lactating Holstein cows eating 15 kg DM/d of a diet composed of 50% Congo grass and 50% concentrate produced 17 kg milk/d (Wanapat et al., 2012).

In Thailand, Congo grass is often grazed in mixture with legumes such as leucaena, lablab (Tudsri et al., 2001) or rice bean (Wanapat et al., 2012) in order to support satisfactory milk yields in dairy cattle. Combinations of Congo grass with centro and round leaf cassia (Chamaecrista rotundifolia) presented higher nutritive values and palatability indices than others grass-legume mixtures of West Africa (Olanite et al., 2004).

Silage and hay

Congo grass can be preserved as silage or hay. OM digestibility of Congo grass hay ranged from 55% in cattle to 47% in sheep, and protein digestibility ranged from 37% in cattle to 24% in sheep (Kawashima et al., 2006; Kawashima et al., 2007). The supplementation of Congo grass hay with soybean meal improved DM intake and nutrient digestibility in cattle and sheep (Kawashima et al., 2007). In goats, voluntary feed intake of Congo grass hay was higher than that of the silage (Insung et al., 2004).


Fresh grass

Congo grass is considered as a palatable fresh forage by rabbits, rich in fibre but poor in protein (Ghosh et al., 2009). Congo grass, used with a concentrate, is a typical fresh forage for rabbits in countries such as Burkina Faso (Lebas et al., 1997) or India (Das et al., 2007; Gupta et al., 2007). For growing or breeding rabbits, fresh Congo grass is fed to rabbits in limited quantity such as 50% of the daily DM intake (Das et al., 2006) or is distributed ad libitum with a limited quantity of concentrate (Gupta et al., 2007; Das et al., 2007). When compared to other fresh forages such as rice bean (Vigna umbellata), soybean forage, and job's tears (Coix lacryma-jobi) (Gupta et al., 2007) or head lettuce residue (Lactuca sativa) and Mimosa pigra (Nakkitset et al., 2008), Congo grass gave the worst growth performance, probably due to its low protein content, but otherwise did not cause health problems.


Ground Congo grass hay could be used as a fibre source in balanced complete feeds, for example up to 22% of the diet (Bianospino et al., 2010). A this level of inclusion, it is possible to estimate a digestible energy content of 7.3 MJ/kg DM and a protein digestibility of 46-47% (Lebas, 2013).

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 25.0 8.1 7.0 51.3 273  
Crude protein % DM 9.1 3.5 2.1 17.1 355  
Crude fibre % DM 33.0 3.9 23.8 42.8 329  
NDF % DM 67.7 4.6 61.5 76.6 16 *
ADF % DM 38.9 3.3 31.9 45.2 21 *
Lignin % DM 5.5 2.3 2.9 11.2 19 *
Ether extract % DM 2.0 0.5 0.7 3.5 321  
Ash % DM 9.5 2.1 4.9 14.2 340  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.0   18.0 19.2 2 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 4.2 1.0 1.6 7.0 327  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.2 1.0 0.1 4.8 325  
Potassium g/kg DM 24.2 8.2 6.2 42.5 270  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.7 0.6 0.3 1.4 3  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.8 0.8 1.1 4.7 267  
Manganese mg/kg DM 50 14 39 70 4  
Zinc mg/kg DM 33 12 20 48 4  
Copper mg/kg DM 6 3 3 9 4  
Iron mg/kg DM 437       1  
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Arginine % protein 5.3       1  
Histidine % protein 1.8       1  
Isoleucine % protein 4.0       1  
Leucine % protein 7.4       1  
Lysine % protein 3.0       1  
Phenylalanine % protein 5.2       1  
Threonine % protein 4.9       1  
Valine % protein 5.2       1  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tannins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 0.2       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 55.7         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 53.2         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.6         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.7         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 58.5 9.2 53.1 69.2 3  
a (N) % 53.4       1  
b (N) % 24.2       1  
c (N) h-1 0.060       1  
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 68         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 65         *

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


Abaunza et al., 1991; CIRAD, 1991; Herrero et al., 2001; Ibrahim et al., 1995; INFIC, 1978; Kambashi et al., 2014; Khanum et al., 2010; Lopes et al., 2010; Maia et al., 2014; Meale et al., 2012; Nakkitset et al., 2008; Nasrullah et al., 2003; Pozy et al., 1996; Scaut, 1959; Tedonkeng et al., 2007; Vicente Chandler et al., 1974; Wanapat et al., 2012

Last updated on 23/08/2016 21:11:10

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 89.5 4.3 81.4 95.4 41  
Crude protein % DM 4.6 1.0 2.5 6.7 42  
Crude fibre % DM 38.4 2.6 33.6 43.9 41  
NDF % DM 70.7   70.7 73.8 2 *
ADF % DM 44.9 1.3 43.0 45.5 3 *
Lignin % DM 6.9         *
Ether extract % DM 1.2 0.2 0.8 1.7 41  
Ash % DM 8.3 1.8 5.0 11.5 44  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.0 0.8 17.5 19.2 4 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 4.4 0.7 2.8 6.1 38  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.6 0.7 0.3 3.2 41  
Potassium g/kg DM 21.6 5.6 10.1 31.3 37  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.1       1  
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.1 0.5 1.4 3.0 37  
Manganese mg/kg DM 153       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 23       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 4       1  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 45.8         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 43.7         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.9         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 6.4         *

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


CIRAD, 1991; Kawashima et al., 2006; Kawashima et al., 2007; Zogang et al., 2013

Last updated on 23/08/2016 21:12:20

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 70.9 12.8 59.6 90.3 5
Crude protein % DM 11.5 0.3 11.1 11.9 5
Crude fibre % DM 16.0 1.7 14.2 18.0 5
NDF % DM 48.2 *
ADF % DM 17.2 *
Ether extract % DM 8.6 0.4 8.1 9.1 5
Ash % DM 4.4 0.4 3.8 4.9 5
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 19.7 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 1.2 0.7 0.4 2.0 5
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.8 0.2 2.4 3.0 5
Potassium g/kg DM 6.2 1.7 4.0 8.0 5
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.7 0.2 1.5 1.9 5
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, ruminants % 62.7 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 61.2 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 12.1 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.9 *
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 65.0 *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 12.8 *

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


CIRAD, 1991

Last updated on 23/08/2016 21:13:19

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Boval M., Maxin G., Lebas F., 2016. Congo grass (Brachiaria ruziziensis). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/484 Last updated on October 26, 2016, 16:14

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