PERFORMANCE OF TROPICAL FORAGES UNDER THE CLOSED CANOPY OF THE OIL PALM. I. GRASSES

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CHEN CHIN PENG and BONG JULITA IBRAHIM

SUMMARY

Fifteen tropical grasses were evaluated for dry matter yield, plant chemical composition and persistence under the closed canopy of oil palm with three cutting intervals of 8, 12 and 16 weeks. Most grasses reached plateau production six months after initiation except B. decumbens under highcutting frequency and, A. compressus under low cutting frequency. The best dry matter yielde was B. decumbens (1727 kg/ha/year) followed closely by B. brizantha (1235 kg/ha/year), P. conjugatum (1145 kg/ha/year), common guinea (1029 kg/ha/year), D. setivala (1007 kg/ha/year), A. compressus (929 kg/ha/year) while D. aristatum, Tanganyika guinea, B. ruziziensis gave average production (480 - 863 kg/ha/year). The rest of the grasses namely Trichoglume guinea, Kazungula setaria, Transvala digit, Rodd's Bay Paspalum, C. plectostachyus and Bryan paspalum, produce negligible yield. Though A.compressus and P.conjugatum only produced respectively 54% and 60% DM yield of B. decumbens, they were the most shade tolerant and achieved similar nitrogen production as B. decumbens. None of the improved grasses were persistent under the palm canopy. All mineral concentrations in plant declined with time except the levels of phosphorus and magnesium. Tlte Brachiaria spp. had the lowest level of all minerals while the guinea grass and the two natives were having the highest.

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