Water hyacinth is one of the most noxious weeds in tropical and subtropical regions, and many attempts have been made to eliminate or control it
Harnessing its considerable productivity is considered as a sustainable and possibly less expensive method of control.
Water hyacinth can be used as a vegetable, fodder, green manure, compost and mulch for soil improvement
Water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes) are aquatic plants that can live and reproduce floating freely on the surface of fresh water, or anchored in mud.
They are causing environmental, economic, and social problems and an increasing amount of damage.
Processing water hyacinth for livestock feeding
Water hyacinth can be used fresh, ensiled, dried, whole, chopped or ground. Roots are usually discarded.
- Fresh forage Water hyacinth is usually chopped and fed directly to animals. However, it is not very palatable due to the presence of oxalate crystals in the leaves that cause mouth irritation in livestock.
- Dried and meal form
The physical structure of the plant makes it unsuitable for the normal methods of making hay and silage. The plants dry rather quickly in the sun, but the neck between the petiole and the lamina is very brittle. The lamina shrinks and breaks off with handling, leaving only the petiole which remains round and full of air. The hay is therefore very bulky. Water hyacinth foliage is often sun-dried, typically for between 2 and 5 days but up to 10 days depending on environmental conditions. The process may involve numerous manipulations. The nutritive value per unit of dry matter is too low to warrant the cost of artificial drying. Dried water hyacinth can be ground in a hammer mill and turned into a meal for pigs
Ensiling is a good method of preservation for water hyacinth and enhances its palatability. Because of the high moisture content of water hyacinth, it should be wilted in the shade for 48 hours and lacerated or screw-pressed before ensiling. The silage can be mixed with carbohydrate sources such as molasses (up to 20%), maize grain. Salt increases the nutritive value and quality of the silage. For instance, water hyacinth wilted and ensiled with 15% bran (25% final DM) is well preserved. Prior wilting is preferable but even pre-wilted silage may be unsuitable. Adding acids gave satisfactory quality silage.
A method for ensiling water hyacinth with by-products (rice straw, chopped sugarcane and molasses), enzymes and lactic acid bacteria has been patented Water hyacinth foliage can be used as a supplementary feeding for pigs.
A maximum inclusion rate of 6–7% (on DM) is considered economically viable because of presence of antinutritional factors in it
Compiled By Dr Jolly Kabirizi