Boma Rhodes is the next big or lucrative business. Dr Oscar K. Koech (PhD), University of Nairobi, Department of Land Resource Management and Agricultural Technology (LARMAT) says it is the next super crop because of its low cost, easy to manage than other crops like maize, with ready market for the grass products.
“Also, with increasing climate change impacts, many farmers are increasingly adapting by growing grass, due to low water required. Since its perennial crop also, lowers costs to producers in subsequent crops, hence more profitable, one is in business for 3-4years with one establishment,” he explains, adding he knows of many farmers who are abandoning food crops for pasture farms.
For anyone who wants to invest in Boma Rhodes, Dr. Koech advises that it is good to prepare the land before planting to reduce weeds and also to loosen soil for better germination and water infiltration.
He says, “Good practice is preparing land just before the onset of rains, then planting early enough for first rains to get seeds on soil, especially in Arid and semi-arid areas. Land preparation can be done mechanically with tractor disc then Harrow in large scale system, but can also be done manually in small scale systems.”
During planting, seed placement can be broadcast or furrow lines, but care should be taken, since seeds are small, needs light covering with soil, less than 1cm soil cover, easier to do with pulling light leafy twigs after seed planting.
Once planted, he says it is good to also maintain pasture field after planting from animal use that may cause trampling, also protection from weeds emergence that may compete grass in establishment.
He shares that the most common weeds can be controlled by land preparation before planting. “However major invasive weeds should also be monitored, like the poisonous Datura, lantana camara and Sodom apple.
Dr Koech explains here are no major pest and disease affecting Boma Rhodes. However, some emergent pest like Fall Army Worm (FAW) and locust are a threat to the establishment of boma Rhodes.
He advises that weeds prevention control competition for water, nutrients, and space, increasing productivity.
He explains, pasture performance is increased under good fertile soils. “It is a heavy feeder in continuous use, especially under cut and curry system like hay making, which needs replacement of soil fertility.”
He explains Phosphorus is useful for rooting, applied as DAP, Nitrogen fertilizer is useful at vegetative, and after cutting for good quality forage with good crude protein, useful for animal production.
In Boma Rhodes, Dr Koech explains stage of harvesting is critical, it determines quantity. First crop takes 3-4months to mature, while ratoon (Regrowth), takes shorter period one and half to 2 months depending on soil fertility and soil moisture.
“But, depending on establishment motive, first sward most farmers want to increase density, and therefore keep the grass to level of speeding, and shading of seeds before harvest to increase soil gene bank in following seasons,” he explains.
In utilizing Boma Rhodes, Dr Koech says it depends on user preferences. He explains, “It can be fresh feeding through cut and carry, or direct grazing in field. However, proper timing for grazing is useful to avoid over grazing. Green feed provide quality forage to animals, with elimination of quality losses associated with conservation.”
The grass can also be dried and conserved as hay for later use. However, quality is good when harvest is done at right stage and proper curing and bailing, followed by good storage under dry water proof conditions, to avoid molding.
He explains Boma Rhodes can also be conserved as silage. But there is need to compress as haylage before wrapping to create unaerobic conditions for fermentation.
Molasses can be added during silage making to increase quality from readily available sugars to the fermentation microbes.