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Sporobolus (Sporobolus marginatus)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Poolongi [Rajasthan]; Dhrabad; khevai ga [Gujarat]; N'geeleet [Kenya]


Sporobolus marginatus Hochst. ex A. Rich. is a tufted, stoloniferous perennial (rarely annual) grass that forms slow-spreading colonies in arid and semi-arid areas of the globe, particularly in East Africa and in India. A halophyte species, it well adapted to alkaline and saline soils where it produces dense leafy mats (Sinha et al., 1988; Vesey-Fitzgerald, 1969; Dougall et al., 1965; Skerman et al., 1990). It may be used in association with trees in agroforestry systems to enhance carbon storage in soil and to improve the fertility of highly sodic soils (Kaur et al., 2002).


Sporobolus marginatus is a caespitose species that grows to a height of 15-90 cm.  Its roots are covered with a soft felt (Bor, 1960). The stems are erect, bearing flat erect leaves, 2-30 cm long x 2-5 mm wide. The leaf blade is shiny and has stiff hairs on margins. The inflorescence is a pyramidal panicle, 3-20 cm long. The panicle branches are reddish. The grain is ellipsoid, 0.6-1 mm long (Bogdan, 1977).


Sporobolus marginatus is grazed by wild ruminants such as impalas and wildebeest (Vesey-Fitzgerald, 1969; Andere, 1981) and livestock such sheep (Acharya, 1982) and cattle (Sheppard et al., 2009).


Sporobolus marginatus occurs throughout tropical Africa and India. It grows naturally on dry grassland, often on alkaline soils, from sea level to 1750-2000 m altitude (FAO, 2015). It has a high tolerance of (very) dry conditions and is able to grow in areas where annual rainfall is in the range of 125- 375 mm (FAO, 2015). It can survive droughts and is able to withstand seasonal waterlogging in flats and depressions (FAO, 2015). It grows on a wide range of soils, from loose sandy loams to loams and alluvial silts. It has outstanding tolerance of salinity: it inhabits saline soils (user lands) in India and the Kafue flood plain in Zambia. It is seen on pure salt crust (FAO, 2015; Bogdan, 1977). Sporobolus marginatus is generally dominant over other native species in semiarid, alkaline and salic soils (Kaur et al., 2002).

Forage management 

It has been considered both as highly productive (Korwar et al., 2014) and poorly productive (Dougall, 1965).

Environmental impact 

Pioneer species and agroforestry systems on saline soils

Sporobolus marginatus covers saline soil well and helps minimize upward capillary movement of salts (FAO, 2015). When Sporobolus marginatus was used in agroforestry systems in combination with Prosopis juliflora, that tree yielded valuable amounts of bole and branches (7.9 t/ha and 11.55 t/ha respectively) (Dagar et al., 2016).

Soil stabilization

Sporobolus marginatus has been used to stabilize soils in saline depressions and sea beaches (Gupta et al., 1971)

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Sporobolus marginatus has a highly variable nutritive value, from very low to very high. In Uttar Pradesh, protein content ranged from 2% to 12% (Singh, 1983 cited by Sharma, 2002). Sporobolus marginatus collected from the extreme saline-sodic Kachchh plains, Bhuj, Gujarat had protein values in the 15-17% range (Kumar et al., 2018), and a very protein content of 23% DM was reported in Kenya for a plant collected at the early flowering stage (Dougall et al., 1965). As can be expected from an halophyte species, the sodium content can go as high as 1% DM (Abrol, 1986).


Information about the use of Sporobolus marginatus for ruminant feeding is scarce. It provides grazing of excellent quality and contributes much as fodder grass on saline habitats (Dougall et al., 1965; Gupta et al., 1971). It is generally considered as palatable (Korwar et al., 2014; Patel et al., 2012), particularly when young (Gupta et al., 1971), but this is disputed (Skerman et al., 1990).

In East Africa, Sporobolus marginatus has been recognized a grass species of good nutritive value grazed by wild ruminants such as impalas (Aepyceros melampus) in Tanzania, and wildebeests (Connochaetes taurinus) in Kenya (Dougall et al., 1965; Vesey-Fitzgerald, 1969; Andere, 1981). In the latter case, the herbage intake was about 920 kg DM/ha and the grazing efficiency (herbage intake x  100 / herbage production) was 96% (Andere, 1981). The cattle of Masol pastoralists in Kenya reportedly graze it as it is ubiquitous and available in all seasons (Sheppard et al., 2009). A similar observation has been reported in the region of the Lake Manyara in Kenya, where Sporobolus marginatus is grazed for most of the year by wild animals. Growing in association with other grasses, it forms cushions that are grazed down to ground level early in the dry season. However, the perennial cushions remain viable: when the short rains come in November-December, the sward flushes and are grazed by animals. After a lull in January, the sward flushes again after the rains from March to May. The plants mature and flower, but growth from the cushions is continuous so fresh pasture is always available, even when other plants dry at the end of the rain season, and animals continue to use this pasture from June to October. After that period, Sporobolus marginatus still provides a standing hay of good quality (Vesey-Fitzgerald, 1969).

Sporobolus marginatus is one of the dominant species of the Banni grasslands, a belt of arid grasslands on the southern edge of marshy salt flats of in Kutch District, Gujarat. These grasslands are traditionally used to fatten sheep, goats and bullocks (Ghotge, 2004).


No information could be found in the literature about the use of Sporobolus marginatus in rabbit feeding. However, since green or hay of Sporobolus marginatus are well consumed by a great variety of domestic or wild herbivorous animals and because other Sporobolus spp. are well consumed by wild rabbits (Gordon, 2010), it is very likely that this forage can also be used in domestic rabbit feeding. If direct grazing is difficult to consider, cut-and-carry of green forage or hay utilisation seem possible. In such case, Sporobolus marginatu) must be considered mainly as a source a fibre associated with a variable proportion of proteins.

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 40.8       1  
Crude protein % DM 12.6 6.6 5.2 23.3 6  
Crude fibre % DM 26.5   25.7 27.3 2  
Ether extract % DM 2   0.7 3.1 3  
Ash % DM 9.8   9.3 10.4 2  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 75.5   70.3 80.7 2  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 35.1   32.3 37.9 2  
Lignin % DM 5.1   1.6 8.7 2  
Total sugars % DM 3.6       1  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.9         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.7 2.4 0.2 5.7 6  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1   0.2 2.5 3  
Magnesium g/kg DM 0.1   0.1 0.2 2  
Potassium g/kg DM 4.5   0.4 12.3 4  
Sodium g/kg DM 3.57   0.04 10.3 4  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.2         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 9.1         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 62.6         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 65.5         *

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


Abrol, 1986; Balgees et al., 2011; Dougall et al., 1965; Kumar et al., 2017; Kumar et al., 2018

Last updated on 05/08/2019 23:10:41

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Delagarde R., Lebas F., 2019. Sporobolus (Sporobolus marginatus). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/372 Last updated on September 2, 2019, 10:51