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Koronivia grass (Brachiaria humidicola)

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Description
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Common names 

Koronivia grass, Amazonian kikuyu grass, coronivia grass, creeping signal grass, false creeping paspalum [English]; braquiaria dulce, humidícola, kikuyu de la Amazonia, pasto dulce, pasto humidícola [Spanish]; capim agulha, ponudinho, quicuio da Amazônia [Portuguese]; ya humidicola [Thai] (Miles et al., 1996)

Synonyms 

Brachiaria dictyoneura (Fig. & De Not.) Stapf; Brachiaria dictyoneura subsp. humidicola (Rendle) Catasús; Brachiaria rautanenii (Hack.) Stapf; Panicum dictyoneurum Fig. & De Not.; Panicum golae Chiov.; Panicum humidicola Rendle; Panicum rautanenii Hack.; Panicum vexillare Peter; Urochloa dictyoneura (Fig. & De Not.) Veldkamp; Urochloa humidicola (Rendle) Morrone & Zuloaga (Quattrocchi, 2006).

Description 

Koronivia grass (Brachiaria humidicola (Rendle) Schweick) is a tropical grass from East and South-East Africa and was introduced to Australia, the Pacific Islands and South America. It is an important pasture in the humid tropics (Cook et al., 2005; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992).

Morphology

Koronivia grass is a leafy, procumbent, creeping, stoloniferous perennial grass. Its creeping habit and stolons are different from those of other Brachiaria species, including Brachiaria dictyoneura that is often mistaken for it (Cook et al., 2005; Miles et al., 1996). Koronivia grass forms dense sods. The culms remain prostrate and can form roots from the lower nodes. The leaves are flat, lanceolate blades, bright green, 4-20 cm long x 3-10 mm wide. The inflorescences bear 2 to 4 racemes with hairy, bright green, 3-4 mm long spikelets (FAO, 2010; Clayton et al., 2006; Cook et al., 2005).

Utilisation

Koronivia grass is mostly used for pasture (Cook et al., 2005; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992). Its leaves can be fibrous and hard but are palatable to cattle (Cook et al., 2005).

Distribution 

Koronivia grass originated from East and South-East Africa and was introduced to Australia, the Pacific Islands and humid tropical areas of South America (FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005). It is found in moist areas from sea level to an altitude of 2400 m in its native environment, and from sea level to 1000 m in other regions (Cook et al., 2005).

Optimal growth conditions are annual rainfall ranging from 600 to 2800 mm within its native range and from 1000 to 4000 mm in other environments (Cook et al., 2005), under 32-35°C average day-temperatures. It grows on a wide range of soils, including very acid (pH 3.5) infertile soils with low P levels, and highly Al-saturated soils, heavy cracking clays, and high pH coralline sands (Cook et al., 2005; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992).

Koronivia grass is tolerant of poor drainage and can withstand short term flooding in valley bottoms. It can also withstand drought periods (3-4 months), but will grow slower when drought period lasts more than 6 months with lower DM yield (40% reduction) (Urriola et al., 1988; Tergas, 1981). Brachiaria humidicola and Brachiaria dictyoneura are better adapted to longer dry periods whereas Brachiaria brizanthaBrachiaria decumbens and to a lesser extent Brachiaria mutica are better adapted to short dry periods (Guenni et al., 2002).

Brachiaria humidicola is not frost-tolerant (Cook et al., 2005; Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992). Koronivia grass can bear some shaded conditions: it grows well under coconut trees where it has to be grazed so that it does not tie up soil nitrogen and make young trees chlorotic (Cook et al., 2005). Brachiaria humidicola, like Brachiaria decumbens and Brachiaria brizantha, is considered suitable for light and moderate shading (Smith et al., 1983; Wong, 1990). Comparing the values obtained under shading conditions with those obtained in the open, an increase in crude protein, ADF, lignin, ash and in vitro DM digestibility, and a decrease in NDF were noted (Gutmanis et al., 2001).

Forage management 

Yield

Dry matter yield ranges from 7 to 34 t/ha/year and is strongly influenced by soil fertility. The optimal harvest stage is between 35 and 65 days after the last cut (Béreau, 1990). Koronivia grass is well adapted to infertile soils but responds well to N and P fertilizer. Growth intervals and N and P supplies influenced markedly the DM yield of Brachiaria humidicola and also affected NDF and crude protein contents (Abreu et al., 2004).

Without applications of nitrogen fertilizer, dry matter yields are generally 4-6 t/ha, whereas yields can reach 10-15 t/ha with 100-200 kg/ha N. In Fiji, unfertilized koronivia grass produced an annual DM yield of 11 t/ha, whereas DM increased to 34 t/ha with the application of 452 kg/ha N, with a linear response to nitrogen fertilizer. In humid-tropical Vanuatu, annual yield declined from 28 t/ha DM to 17 t/ha DM as fertility declined. Annual DM yields of 7 t/ha and 5-9 t/ha were reported from Paraguay and Brazil, respectively (Cook et al., 2005). In the island of Martinique, annual DM production was 28-30 t/ha and yields of DM/cut ranged from 1.25 to 2.81 t according to the season (Artus-Poliakoff et al., 1991). In Brazil, Brachiaria humidicola appeared more productive than Brachiaria decumbensBrachiaria ruziziensis and Megathyrsus maximus (Simao Neto et al., 1974).

Pasture management

Koronivia grass is favoured by many smallholders with grazing land because it establishes reliably and spreads rapidly from stem cuttings planted at 1 m x 1 m spacings. Larger areas can be planted by spreading stolons over cultivated soil and lightly incorporating them with disc harrows. Seeds can be used for larger commercial plantings. Seeds may be dormant for 6 months after harvest and should be stored or acid-scarified before planting (Cook et al., 2005).

Heavy grazing of koronivia grass is advisable since light grazing combined with humid conditions has a negative impact on forage quality (FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005). It is a useful ground cover and grazing in tree plantations. It may also be valuable for controlling erosion, weeds and nematodes (Schultze-Kraft et al., 1992).

Association with legumes

Due to the low protein content of koronivia grass, it can be useful to associate it with legumes even though its dense growth can make such associations difficult. Associations with siratro (Macroptilium atropurpureum), centro (Centrosema molle), Desmodium heterophyllum and Trifolium semipilosum have been successful in Fiji and Zimbabwe (FAO, 2010). Associations with Desmodium ovalifolium (in a 2:1 mixture) and Arachis pintoi have been proposed (Béreau, 1990; Munoz et al., 1985; Pereira et al., 2009; Hess et al., 1997). However, the tannin content of the legumes may be detrimental to animal performance in those associations (Pereira et al., 2009).

A koronivia-legume association may have other benefits: association with Desmodium ovalifolium improves N fixation in soil and pasture sustainability (Cantarutti et al., 2002), and association with Sesbania sesban was shown to reduce methanogenesis (Bekele et al., 2009).

Environmental impact 

Cover crop, soil erosion and weed control

Koronivia grass is a good cover crop because of its rhizomatous and creeping habit. It establishes quickly and remains a good cover grass under heavy grazing. It has also some potential in competing with weeds (FAO, 2010; Cook et al., 2005)

Nitrification control

Koronivia grass roots contain brachialactone, a chemical compound which is involved in biological nitrification inhibition. Koronivia grass would thus help reducing N2O emissions from the soil and could have an important role in climate change mitigation (Subbarao et al., 2009).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Brachiaria humidicola does not have a very high nutritional value, with a rather low crude protein content (2-13% DM) and generally high levels of NDF in the 65-85% DM range (Feedipedia, 2011).

As usual, the nutritive value decreases with plant age whereas the fibre content increases. Between 35 and 65 days, a 10 day interval resulted in a percentage reduction of 1.3, 1.2 and 0.4% for in vitro DM, OM digestibility and crude protein respectively, and an increase of 0.6, 0.7 and 0.3% for NDF, ADF and lignin, respectively (Camarao et al., 1983). Similarly, the crude protein of koronivia hay decreased from 9.6 to 4.9% DM and the in vitro DM digestibility decreased from 68% to 61% between 30 and 86 days (Rodriguez-Romero et al., 2004).

Season also affects the nutritive value. In the Colombian savannah, 6-week old foliage had a 5.2-8.5% crude protein content in the rainy season and 3.3-9.3% in the dry season; in vitro DM digestibility was 59-66% and 51-67% respectively (Cook et al., 2005). Some much lower values have been reported from Brazil (Marajo Island), with crude protein of 3.5% and 4.8% DM in the dry and rainy seasons respectively, corresponding in both cases to an in vitro OM digestibility of 34% (Cardoso et al., 1997). The overall decrease in nutritive value is partly explained by the diminution of the leaf:stem ratio, since the in vitro DM digestibilities for the leaves and stems (considered separately) are generally stable throughout the year (Moura et al., 2002). An application of N fertilizer increases the crude protein content (Botrel et al., 1990).

The following table shows the variation of crude protein and NDF according to plant age (Feedipedia, 2011).

Table 1. Influence of stage of growth on the composition of Brachiaria humidicola:

Stage Number of days of regrowth Crude protein % DM NDF % DM Number of samples (CP/NDF)
Vegetative 20-35 9.9 ± 2.6 69.4 ± 4.5 9/5
Bloom 35-85 6.3 ± 2.1 75.7 ± 3.4 13/10
Mature >100 5.1 ± 2.1 80.1 ± 3.9 8/6
Potential constraints 

Animal injuries

Koronivia grass growing on acid-infertile soils develops hard and fibrous leaf blades with sharp tips that can cause facial lacerations to grazing sheep (Cook et al., 2005).

Oxalates

Koronivia grass has a high oxalate content and may cause the "big-head" disease (hyperparathyroidism) in horses (Cook et al., 2005).

Ruminants 

Brachiaria humidicola can be given as green forage, hay or silage (Cook et al., 2005). Like other Brachiaria, its relatively low protein content, usually lower than 10% DM, limits microbial digestion in the rumen and an association with legumes and other protein sources is therefore recommended (see Forage management above). Urea supplementation of 3 and 6% (Rodriguez-Romero et al., 2004) or ammoniation also improved the nutritive value of koronivia grass-based diets (Barrios-Urdaneta et al., 2002; Rodriguez-Prado et al., 2009).

In spite of this limitation, Brachiaria humidicola is a good forage that compares favourably with other tropical grasses (Aregheore et al., 2006 ; Aumont et al., 1995). Brachiaria humidicola is generally considered as of lower quality than other Brachiaria species such as Brachiaria decumbensBrachiaria brizantha and Brachiaria ruziziensis (Cook et al., 2005). Studies agree that its fibre content is slightly higher but are less conclusive for in vitro and in situ digestibility, which while usually lower, are in some cases higher than that of other Brachiaria (Aumont et al., 1995; Brito et al., 2003; Herrero et al., 2001; Lopes et al., 2010).

Ingestibility, palatability and grazing behaviour

Brachiaria humidicola is less palatable than other grasses due to the relative toughness of its leaves, but cattle readily eat it when it is kept short and leafy by frequent cutting (Béreau, 1990; Cook et al., 2005). Koronivia grass is appreciated by sheep (Artus-Poliakoff et al., 1991). Cattle tend to ingest parts of Brachiaria humidicola that are richer in leaf and poorer in stem and dead materials, and therefore of higher nutritive value (Camarao et al., 1994; Pereira et al., 1992). One particularity of koronivia grass is that plants growing on acid-infertile soils develop hard, sharp and fibrous leaf blades that are strongly pigmented with anthocyanin. Those fibrous leaves decrease palatability and may also hurt the animals (see Potential constraints above) (Cook et al., 2005).

Digestibility and energy values

There are no direct in vivo digestibility values reported for Brachiaria humidicola. Using the quadratic equation:

OM digestibility % = 75.2 – 0.59 NDF + 3.07 CP - 0.09 CP2 ; n = 88, R2 = 0.44, RSD = 8.8% (Sauvant, 2011, unpublished)

obtained on all Brachiaria species for in vivo and in vitro digestibility, the OM digestibilities for the 3 stages of growth described in table 1 (vegetative, bloom and mature) can be calculated as 56, 47 and 42% respectively. This corresponds to ME values of 8.0, 6.5 and 5.7 MJ/kg DM (Sauvant, 2011, unpublished). Another estimate obtained by the gas production method gave an OM digestibility of 40% and an ME of 5.9 MJ/kg (Nogueira Filho et al., 2000). These values are rather low, but actual energy values may be higher since cattle seem to choose the leafiest and most digestible parts of the plant (Moura et al., 2002; Camarao et al., 1994). Reported in situ 48 h DM digestibility values were highly variable and comprised between 49 and 71%. They were affected positively by applications of fertilizer (Jimenez et al., 2010). Effective degradability values for DM and crude protein were 38 and 46% respectively (Lopes et al., 2010). Effective DM and crude protein degradability depended on the season but not on the age at cutting (Vergara-Lopez et al., 2006).

Dairy cattle

There is scant literature on the use of Brachiaria humidicola for dairy cattle. One paper noted that native koronivia grass pastures were less efficient than Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus) for sustaining milk production in an intensive rotational grazing system (Goncalves et al., 2003).

Beef cattle

Most of the literature on Brachiaria humidicola refers to its use in beef cattle production. Many studies concern the effects of stocking rates while other concern legume associations.

Effect of stocking rates

The influence of stocking rate depends on the season. Common stocking rates are 3-3.5 head/ha during the rainy season and 1-1.5 head/ha during the dry season (Munoz, 1985; Béreau, 1990).

Table 2. Effect of stocking rates on growth performances:

Region Pasture Animal Stocking rate Performance References
Ecuador, humid tropics Pure stands   2 head/ha 0.56 kg/d, 406 kg/ha/yr Cook et al., 2005
Brazil, Belem Pure stands Young buffalo bulls 750 kg LW/ha 0.47 kg/d, 51 kg/ha/cycle Moura et al., 2002
Brazil Pure stands Zebu steers 2 head/ha
4 head/ha
153 kg/y, 305 kg/ha/yr
120 kg/y, 360 kg/ha/yr
Boddey et al., 2004
Brazil Pure stands Zebu steers 2 head/ha
3 head/ha
4 head/ha
0.43 kg/d, 316 kg/ha/yr
0.37 kg/d, 400 kg/ha/yr
0.31 kg/d, 449 kg/ha/yr
Pereira et al., 2009
Vanuatu With legumes (over 2 years)   2 head/ha
2.5 head/ha
3.5 head/ha
0.74 kg/head/day
0.68 kg/head/day
0.55 kg/head/day
Cook et al., 2005

In several trials, increasing the stocking rates led to lower daily gains but to a higher productivity per hectare (Boddey et al., 2004; Pereira et al., 2009). A statistical treatment of the published data on koronivia grass pasture (19 experiments and 20 treatments) has shown that a mean increase of 1 animal/ha induces a mean decrease in live-weight gain of 0.070 ± 0.014 kg/d and a mean increase of 58.5 ± 23.1 kg/ha/yr (Sauvant, 2011, unpublished). However, higher stocking rates can lead to higher N losses as urine and feces which may concentrate in rest and drinking areas, and contribute to the degradation of the pastures (Boddey et al., 2004).

Effect of legume association

The association of legumes with koronivia grass is generally beneficial to animal performances, but this is not always the case as shown in the following table.

Table 3. Effect of legumes grown with koronivia grass on growth performances (adapted from Cook et al., 2005):

Region Stocking rate Pasture Performance
Peru, humid tropics 4 head/ha With Arachis pintoi 0.43 kg/head/day, 692 kg/ha/yr
Panama 4 head/ha Pure stands
With Pueraria phaseoloides
0.32 kg/head/day, 501 kg/ha/yr
0.38 kg/head/day, 585 kg/ha/yr
Colombia, savanna   Pure stands
With Arachis pintoi
80 kg/head/yr, 240 kg/ha/yr
134 kg/head/year, 402 kg/ha/yr
Vanuatu 2 head/ha
2.5 head/ha
3.5 head/ha
With legumes 0.74 kg/head/day
0.68 kg/head/day
0.55 kg/head/day

In an eight-year trial in Brazil, the association of Brachiaria humidicola and Desmodium ovalifolium at three stocking rates showed that live weight gain was not greater for the mixed pastures. There was a slightly lower forage intake in the mixed grass/legume pastures that increased the protein content of the diet due to the presence of the legume, but further investigation showed that the animals benefited only marginally. This may be due to the high polyphenol and tannin content of the legume which renders much of the N unavailable for microbial degradation (Pereira et al., 2009).

Sheep

Stocking rates of 13-14 head/ha were found to be optimal for the productive performance of tropical 5-7 months old Morada Nova lambs continuously grazing Brachiaria humidicola (Costa et al., 2006).

Poultry 

Due to its low nutrient content it is not advisable to use koronivia grass leaf meal in poultry production. Koronivia grass leaf meal has been tested as a feed supplement for broilers. Metabolizable energy was less than 4.2 MJ/kg DM. Introduction of 15% leaf meal as a substitute for maize depressed growth performance, although not significantly, and increased the yellow pigmentation of legs, peak and grease (Monforte et al., 2002).

Rabbits 

No information found (2015).

Horses and donkeys 

Horses vary greatly in their acceptance of the grass as green feed or hay. Some horses readily accept it as green feed or hay, while others will eat green feed only, hay only, or neither (Cameron, 2003).

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 26.0 3.2 22.1 29.8 4
Crude protein % DM 9.0 3.1 3.4 11.9 15
Crude fibre % DM 34.8 2.8 29.3 40.5 11
NDF % DM 67.7 3.9 67.7 76.8 4 *
ADF % DM 40.8 4.4 32.9 47.6 8 *
Lignin % DM 6.0 1.6 3.5 6.9 5 *
Ether extract % DM 2.4 0.9 1.6 3.4 3
Ash % DM 6.7 1.9 4.2 10.3 14
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.7 *
 
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 2.3 0.8 1.2 3.6 12
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.1 1.6 0.5 6.2 12
Potassium g/kg DM 13.7 7.6 5.3 27.6 11
Sodium g/kg DM 3.5 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.8 1.3 1.3 4.9 11
Manganese mg/kg DM 285 78 205 381 4
Zinc mg/kg DM 21 0 21 22 4
Copper mg/kg DM 8 1 7 9 4
 
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 55.6 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 53.2 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.9 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.0 *

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

References

Abaunza et al., 1991; Aumont et al., 1991; CIRAD, 1991; Nasrullah et al., 2003

Last updated on 27/11/2012 14:28:44

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 93.2 2.2 89.3 96.4 7
Crude protein % DM 5.0 1.4 2.4 6.5 7
Crude fibre % DM 38.1 5.0 28.4 45.3 7
NDF % DM 70.4 *
ADF % DM 44.5 *
Lignin % DM 6.8 *
Ether extract % DM 1.6 1.0 1.0 3.6 6
Ash % DM 10.6 4.7 3.2 15.9 7
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.7 *
 
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 5.6 4.4 0.9 13.7 6
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.5 1.2 0.4 3.6 6
Potassium g/kg DM 27.2 16.7 3.4 40.2 4
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.6 1.2 1.0 3.8 4
Manganese mg/kg DM 101 1
Zinc mg/kg DM 32 1
Copper mg/kg DM 7 1
 
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 46.8 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 44.7 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 7.9 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 6.4 *
 
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
TME poultry MJ/kg DM 4.1 1

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

References

CIRAD, 1991; Monforte et al., 2002

Last updated on 27/11/2012 14:52:32

References
References 
Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Sauvant D., 2015. Koronivia grass (Brachiaria humidicola). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/585 Last updated on July 15, 2015, 11:24

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