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About Azolla

Azolla: A Tiny Water Plant with Amazing Benefits for Farming

  • Azolla is a small water plant that grows in ponds or lakes, and it’s special because it can capture nitrogen from the air and turn it into plant food, acting like a natural fertilizer.
  • There are different types of Azolla, but two common ones are Azolla filiculoides and Azolla pinnata, and they can be found in different parts of the world, including Namibia in the Zambezi region.
  • Apart from being a great feed, Azolla also acts as a natural fertilizer, promoting plant growth and even repelling mosquitoes.
  • Cultivating Azolla is cost-effective and can be done at home or on the farm. It is already widely used as an organic fertilizer and feed in countries like China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and India is quickly adopting it too.
  • This widespread use leads to increased crop yields, improved milk production, and even additional revenue from exporting Azolla to other countries.

Thus, Azolla is a tiny water plant with fantastic benefits for farming. Its ability to act as a natural fertilizer and provide nutritious feed for farm animals makes it a valuable resource for farmers worldwide. With easy cultivation and impressive results, Azolla is becoming increasingly popular in agriculture, benefiting both farmers and their produce.

Azolla Farming Steps:

1. Site Selection and Preparation:

  • Choose an area with sufficient sun and shade (use a shade house).
  • Level an area of 6 meters width and 10 meters length using gardening tools.
  • Make a pit of 10 meters in length and 6 meters wide.
  • Build a small wall of 20 cm using bricks or soil on the four sides.
  • Place a layer of clean sand on the bottom to protect the plastic.

2. Pond Construction:

  • Cover the pit floor and sides with a 10-meter length and 6-meter width plastic sheet, secured over the bricks or small sand wall.
  • Use soil and stones to secure the plastic on the walls to prevent damage from the sun.
  • Spread sieved fertile soil evenly up to 1 cm height inside the pit.
  • Mix 60 kg of horse or cow dung with water and spread it in the pit.
  • Fill the pit with water to a depth of 10 cm, leaving the walls 10 cm higher to prevent overflow during heavy rain.
  • Read the much more detailed instructions we have for the Duckweed Ponds. The idea is exactly the same.

3. Planting Azolla:

  • Spread 5 kg of pure mother Azolla culture evenly over the water surface.
  • Sprinkle fresh water over the Azolla to make the plants upright.
  • Cover the top of the Azolla farm with shade cloth for a couple of days to protect it from heavy wind and rain, preventing it from overflowing or falling to one side.

4. Maintenance:

  • Spread the right amount of cow dung into the Azolla farm bed every 15 days.
  • Replace about 25 kg of bed soil with fresh soil every 30 days to avoid excess nitrogen production and nutrient deficiency.
  • Clean the water body every 6 months, removing soil and grown Azolla for the next cultivation.
  • Maintain the water level on a daily basis.

By following these steps, you can create and maintain an efficient Azolla farm to benefit from its numerous agricultural advantages.

Harvesting Azolla and Feeding Methods

Using Azolla as Animal Feed

Using Azolla as Animal Feed:

  • Azolla is a nutritious food source that can be used to feed various farm animals such as chickens, ducks, fish, pigs, and cows.
  • To use Azolla as feed, you need to grow it in a pond or container on the farm. It’s easy to take care of since it only needs sunlight and not much moving water. Also, it can absorb nitrogen from the air, eliminating the need for extra plant food.
  • Once Azolla has grown enough, you can collect it from the water surface. Remember to wash it before feeding it to the animals to remove any dirt or impurities.
  • Collect Azolla twice a day (morning and evening) from the pond using hand, strainer, or tray with holes at the bottom.
  • You can give the nutritious Azolla directly to the animals or mix it with their regular food. Just adjust the amount according to the animal’s type, age, and size.
  • Animals benefit from the protein, vitamins, and minerals in Azolla, which are essential for their growth and overall health. For example, it can help chickens lay more eggs, aid fish in growing faster, and make other farm animals healthier too.
  • Take 1/3 of the Azolla daily to maintain proper thickness and avoid overgrowth.
  • Wash the collected Azolla with fresh water in a bucket.
  • Feed the washed Azolla directly to animals or mix it with their regular feed at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Up to 3 kg of Azolla can be fed to a cow daily, resulting in a 15-20% increase in milk production.
  • Azolla can be fed directly to poultry, rabbits, fish, ducks, pigs, or mixed with their regular diet.

Using Azolla as Bio-fertilizer for Plants:

  • Azolla can be used as a bio-fertilizer for vegetable gardens.
  • It provides good nitrogen, enhances growth, and improves vegetable production.

Important Tips for Growing Azolla

  • Harvest Azolla regularly to avoid overcrowding.
  • Change the water and soil in the Azolla tank completely every six months and add fresh Azolla.
  • Maintain the pH of the medium between 5.5 to 7.
  • Add cow dung or horse dung once every five days for better growth.
  • Ensure a temperature of around 35 degrees Celsius for optimal growth.
  • Use more shade net if Azolla is not growing well, as it might be getting too much sun.

By following these steps and tips, farmers can effectively use Azolla as nutritious animal feed and organic fertilizer, resulting in improved livestock productivity and healthier plants in the garden.

Azolla ponds (Credits: Akhilesh Kumar) on https://www.feedipedia.org/node/565

Azolla health benefits

Azolla offers several health benefits due to its rich nutritional profile and various bioactive compounds. Some of the key health benefits of Azolla include:

  1. High Nutritional Value: Azolla is a nutrient-dense plant, containing a significant amount of protein (up to 25-35% dry weight), essential amino acids, vitamins (such as vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin C), and minerals (including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus). Its high protein content makes it a valuable supplement for animal and human diets.
  2. Rich in Antioxidants: Azolla is known to contain antioxidants like flavonoids, phenolic compounds, and carotenoids. These antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and the risk of chronic diseases.
  3. Improves Digestive Health: The dietary fiber present in Azolla aids in digestion and promotes a healthy gut. It can help prevent constipation and support overall digestive health.
  4. Enhances Immune System: The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in Azolla contribute to a strengthened immune system, helping the body defend against infections and diseases.
  5. Anti-inflammatory Properties: Certain compounds found in Azolla possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation and associated health issues.
  6. Regulates Blood Sugar: Azolla may have a positive impact on blood sugar levels due to its low glycemic index and fiber content. It can help in managing diabetes and prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar levels.
  7. Promotes Cardiovascular Health: The presence of bioactive compounds, along with its low cholesterol content, may contribute to improved cardiovascular health by lowering the risk of heart diseases.
  8. Supports Liver Function: Some studies suggest that Azolla can have hepatoprotective properties, meaning it may protect the liver from certain toxins and support its proper functioning.
  9. Natural Anti-Mosquito Agent: Azolla releases substances that act as a mosquito repellent, reducing the presence of mosquitoes in water bodies.

It’s essential to note that while Azolla provides various health benefits, it should be used as part of a balanced and diverse diet. If you plan to consume Azolla or use it as a supplement for animals, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional or an agricultural expert to ensure safe and appropriate usage. Additionally, ensure that the Azolla is cultivated in clean and non-contaminated water sources to avoid any potential health risks.

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