Finger Millet (Eleusine coracana) Fodder Yield Potential and Nutritive Value under Different Levels of Phosphorus in Rainfed Conditions
Wafula, Wekha N.
Gweyi-Onyango, Joseph P.
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Scarcity of fodder is the major limiting factor for increasing livestock production in Kenya. With rising energy costs and declining water levels in the semi-arid tropics and sub-tropics, crops that use less water like finger millet could become an alternate fodder crop. The fodder potential of three finger millet varieties (U-15, P-224 and a local check) were evaluated under four P fertilizer levels (0, 12.5, 25 and 37.5 kg ha-1 P2O5) at three sites in Kenya for two cropping seasons. The trials were laid in randomized complete block design in factorial arrangement and replicated three times. A maximum of 28,189 kg ha-1 fresh stover yield was realized in the 25 kg ha-1 P2O5 treatment and consequently 11,616 kg ha-1 dry stover yield. The 25 kg ha-1 rate elicited the highest fresh stover yield at Kakamega and Alupe for both seasons while at Kiboko a linear increase was observed on the stover yield with increasing rates where the highest rate had more than 15% yield compared to the control. The varieties also showed significant differences in all the sites with the local variety, Ikhulule, showing the highest fresh and dry stover yield at Kakamega and Alupe peaking at 28,852 and 12,826 kg ha-1 fresh and dry stover yields respectively. Interactions between variety and phosphorus rates were revealed on the crude protein content of the finger millet stover. At Kiboko, the highest crude protein (11.0%) on varieties P-224 and U-15 was exhibited at the highest rate while on the local variety, Ekalakala, the highest protein (10.9%) was realized at the 25 kg ha-1 P2O5. At Kakamega and Alupe, the highest protein was observed on the local variety, Ikhulule at 12.5 kg ha-1 P2O5 rate with variety P-224 and U-15 showing the highest at the 25 and 37.5 kg ha-1 P2O5 respectively. Therefore, finger millet can provide a unique opportunity to improve the availability of fodder to smallholder livestock farmers.