Title : Exploring the yield and cultivation practices of super napier/pakchong 1 grass in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka: Implications for smallholder dairy farmers
Super Napier grass is a newly introduced cultivar of Napier grass that has shown promise in increasing the productivity and sustainability of dairy farming in Sri Lanka. In this study, we collected yield data from May 2021 to December 2022 from a dairy farmer in Karachchi Veterinary Division, Kilinochchi District, Northern Province, Sri Lanka, who successfully cultivated Super Napier grass as the primary source of feed for his intensive dairy farm. The dairy farmer reported a slightly lower yield during the rainy season (December), but overall, the grass has shown good resilience to the weather conditions in the region.
The cultivation practices of Super Napier grass in the farm were analysed, and it was found that chemical fertilizers are not used, with the farmer relying mainly on cattle manure (both dried and slurry). The grass was planted at a spacing of 1m x 1m, with one cutting per hill, and organic fertilizers such as compost and cattle manure were applied after each harvesting. Weeding was also done after each harvesting, and the irrigation method used was furrow irrigation, and water sources were groundwater and rainfed. The average yield per acre per year based on the given data was calculated, with the yield ranging from 56,000 to 72,000kg/acre. It was also observed that the weight of grass can be reduced when the harvest is delayed. In addition, the study noted that the cultivation of Super Napier grass is a coping strategy for dairy farmers, especially during the dry season, when it is difficult to obtain fodder from other sources. In conclusion, Super Napier grass is a profitable forage crop for dairy farmers in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, and its cultivation can be improved by using organic fertilizers, timely harvesting, and proper irrigation and weeding practices. The results of this study can be useful for policy-makers and farmers to enhance the productivity of dairy farming in the region and cope with the current economic crisis. The study also highlights the importance of introducing new and improved forage crops to the region to sustainably support smallholder dairy farming.