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Potential of native desert grasses for forage production

A lfalfa ( Medicago sativa ) and Rhodes grass ( Chloris gayana ) are the main fodder crops grown in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Both these species are exotic and require large quantities of water (up to 48,000 m3 ha-1 yr-1 ), often drawn from nonrenewable groundwater sources. Large-scale cultivation of these species has resulted in drastic reduction in groundwater levels and an increase in salinity due to intrusion of seawater, especially in the coastal areas. Indigenous rangeland grasses such as Cenchrus ciliaris , Pennisetum divisum , Panicum turgidum , Stipagrostis plumosa and Coelachyrum piercei have long been important sources of feed for grazing camel and sheep. These grasses survive with very little water and have excellent adaption to the harsh desert environment, which make them ideal choices for sustainable forage production, thus reducing the use of scarce fresh water resources. Recent studies show that buffel grass ( C. ciliaris ) has significantly lower water requirement compared to Rhodes grass (Osman et al ., 2008). The nutritional quality of C. ciliaris was found to be equal to Rhodes grass, but inferior in C. piercei (Peacock et al ., 2003). In terms of salinity tolerance, C. ciliaris and C. piercei were found to be less tolerant than Rhodes grass (Nadaf et al ., 2008). However, there are only limited systematic studies to evaluate the forage potential, water use efficiency, salinity tolerance and nutritional quality of other desert grasses.

N. K. Rao, Mohammad Shahid
Publication type: 
Scientific Paper
Publication Source: 
Biosalinity News
Page Number: 

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