By Jolly Kabirizi
Water hyacinth is rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium as well as other plant nutrients.
An alternate option is to utilize water hyacinth as silage for feeding animals. Improved silage could be made from water hyacinth by the use of additives such as molasses and rice or maize bran.
Researchers have reported the use of cassava flour instead of molasses. Little bag silage in polythene bags is a viable option for smallholders as traditional silos such as bunker, trench or tower silos are not feasible for them.
Stages of ensiling water hyacinth
- Cut fresh hyacinth from a clean water body.
- Remove the roots. They may be dried to be used as an ingredient in potting soil
- Chop the shoots of the plant (leaves, petioles, and rhizome) into pieces and air dry. Drying a large pile requires about 2 days until the leaves and stalks are just beginning to wilt.
- Mix thoroughly the plant pieces with 10% maize bran; making sure the bran coats the pieces evenly. This will not be possible if the water hyacinth is too dry. In such a case, sprinkle some water over the water hyacinth and re-mix the materials together.
- Silage may be prepared by substituting molasses for maize brain but the resulting feed is lower in dry matter and crude protein. The silage resulting without addition of either maize bran or molasses has poor nutritional value and storage characteristics
- Tightly pack the mixture into a large, air-tight plastic bag and close the bag with string. Squeeze out any remaining air when tying the plastic bag.
- Stack 3 to 4 bags in an upside-down position. This minimizes the entry of air from any tears in the plastic bags.
- Place the bags away from the sun or cover them with a non-transparent sheet. It is normal for the bags to feel warm to the touch after three days or so. The contents will turn from green to olive to brown during the first week.
- The silage is ready for use after 14 to 20 days and can be stored for several months without loss of quality.
- The finished product is golden brown in colour, sweet-smelling, readily acceptable to cattle and may be stored for long periods without loss of quality.
Uses of water hyacinth silage:
- This silage is used as a feed supplement.
- Cattle, pigs, goats and rabbits are well suited for it, but poultry does not do too well.
- The silage has about 20% dry matter, calcium and phosphorus.