Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Azolla Cultivation 101

To supplement our growing fodder needs, we have been busy developing alternate (and hopefully cheaper!) sources. Once such alternative on our list was Azolla. Due to competing priorities, Savera Farms Azolla initiative had been on the back-burner but recently we have begun our Azolla trials. 

For those who may not be familiar, Azolla is a great source of protein and we are hoping to reduce a significant portion of concentration mix once our initial attempts are successful. It is quite easy to cultivate and one does not need many resources to get started. Supposedly, it is rich in proteins, essential amino acids, vitamins and several key minerals. On a dry weight basis it contains 25 - 35 percent protein, 10 - 15 percent minerals and 7 - 10 percent of amino acids.

During our trials :
  • 10-15 kg of sieved soil was uniformly spread over the Silpauline pit.
  • Slurry was made of 2 kg cow dung and 30 g of Super Phosphate mixed in about 10 L of water. This was poured onto the sheet and additional water was added to raise the level to 10 cm. 
  • About 0.5-1kg of mother azolla culture seed material was spread uniformly over the water. After a mild stirring of soil and water, the Azolla bed was allowed to settle.
Sieved soil with cow dung slurry 
  • Fresh water was sprinkled over the Azolla immediately after inoculation to make the plants upright.  
  • In about 5 days, sprouted Azolla had started to spreads across the bed. In the coming days, this is expected to develop into a thick mat.

                                                                    Azolla in Silpaulin pit

  •  Per our instructions, a mixture of 20 g of Super Phosphate and about 1 kg of cow dung will be added once in 5 days in order to maintain rapid multiplication and encourage a daily yield of 500 gms.
  • About 5 kg of bed soil will be replaced with fresh soil, once in 30 days to avoid nitrogen buildup. Periodically, fresh water will be replenished as well. 
  • Mature Azolla beds are expected to yield upto  25-40 tonnes of dry matter per hectare. Their rapid, thick development is represented in this staged visual.

There is a lot of research being done on Azolla and it has proved itself to be a legitimate source for fodder supplement and even biomass for renewable fuel production. In India, several organizations like Natural Resources Development Project (NARDEP) have been spearheading the use of Azolla for rural applications. Here are a few tips from them :
  • It is important to keep Azolla at the rapid multiplication growth phase with the minimum doubling time. Therefore biomass (around 200 g per square meter) should be removed every day or on alternate days to avoid overcrowding.
  • The temperature should be kept below 25°C. If the temperature goes up the light intensity should be reduced by providing shade. If possible, it is best to place the production unit where it is shady.
  • The pH should be tested periodically and should be maintained between 5.5 and 7.
  • The Azolla bed should be cleaned, the water and soil replaced and new Azolla inoculated once every six months.
  • Wash the Azolla to get rid of the cow dung smell. Washing also helps in separating the small plants which drain out of the tray. The plants along with water in the bucket can be poured back into the original bed. 
  • For use as a livestock feed, the fresh Azolla should be mixed with commercial feed in 1:1 ratio to feed livestock. After a fortnight of feeding on Azolla mixed with concentrate, livestock may be fed with Azolla without added concentrate.

This was an interesting video we found online touting the overall potential and opportunities with Azolla. Hopefully this will spur a few of you onto an entrepreneurial track!

Credits :


  1. Sir, azolla can be used as plant manure??

  2. What is the size of the Azolla Pond?
    How much Azolla can be produced? How much Goat can it feed?

  3. We are not very certain if it can be used as an effective plant manure, hopefully other readers have more experience with that.

    Our Azolla trial ponds are about 120sq ft each. We have not yet harvested any usable (fodder grade) Azolla so average yield is to be determined.

  4. u can gothrough

    1. Thank you for this link, essemmfarms.