ARUNDO DONAX FOR ANIMALS – Forage Feedstock of the future


Arundo donax (also known as giant reed) is a noteworthy energy crop for sure, since its versatile nature allows it to be used as a feedstock in numerous ways: bioethanol and biogas production, pellet and briquette production, papermaking, and even as particleboards for the furniture industry. And there is another possible way of using Arundo donax: as forage feedstock for animals. In today’s world, it is crucial to economize our resources wisely, whether it is land or crops suitable for feeding billions of people. So, is cultivating Arundo donax for animals be one possible solution for a complex issue we are facing? Find out from the article below.

Why choose giant reed?

The earliest trial in 1950, carried out in India (and since then, several others) already proved Arundo donax to be a viable forage feedstock, however, apart from nutritional values and digestibility (discussed below), it is worth planting giant reed for several other reasons.

First of all, Arundo donax cultivation is possible on low cost and with low input, which means advantage from a financial point of view for farmers. Moreover, its rapid growth rate (even allows for double harvest) and outstanding biomass yields (50-80 dry tonnes/hectare, measured annually from the second year) make investments into giant reed plantations rewarding.

Furthermore, as Arundo donax is an incredibly adaptable plant and is able to grow in extreme conditions and soil, Giant reed plants can be grown on marginal lands, making use of even the least favoured regions, thus sparing valuable soil for food crop cultivation, for human consumption.

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Bioenergy Crops on Marginal Land

Giant reed for animals: nutritional value

According to Shehata et. al (2006) younger plants (50-100 cm in height) and tips of older shoots are more palatable and have the best nutritional values. Giant reed silage was found as palatable as maize silage, and was better consumed than the giant reed hay or berseem.

Giant reed as forage feedstock is rich in fibre (NDF > 65% DM, lignin 7-8% DM), and analytical forage reports by Weston Technologies to Fibrecell Australia found 16.6%, 14%, and 11.6% total protein on a dry mass basis in Arundo donax stems at 1, 1.5 and 2 m high, respectively.

The upper half of the younger plants contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, while in the upper parts of the older plants calcium and magnesium is contained.  Total acid hydrolysable carbohydrate was greater in the older plants, and especially so in the lower half. Overall, Arundo donax has moderate nutritional values, but is abundant in fibres.


Arundo donax for animals: digestibility

Although earlier studies reported only 47-52% digestibility, giant reed silage has proven to be as digestible as maize silage, according to Abo-Donia et. al (2009).

Some trials in Egypt studied the value of the Arundo donax as forage feedstock both in ensiled and fresh forms. Fresh giant reed forage feedstock and silage (ensiled 3% molasses on fresh basis) were better digested by Rahmani sheep than Arundo donax hay or berseem hay. It can be explained by a higher microbial activity in the rumen with fresh or ensiled forages compared to the hays, as total volatile fatty acids concentration and microbial protein were higher 4 hours after the feeding.


Arundo donax for animals: feeding trials – silage, fresh or hay?

Trials were done (all taking place in India) about the utilisation of Arundo donax for feeding cattle. Extracts had anthelmintic properties (around 55% of efficacy) against gastrointestinal parasites (Ascaris sp., Oesophagostomum sp. and Paramphistomum sp.) of cattle. A commercial bolus made of a mixture of several powdered plants, including Arundo donax, enhanced milk yield in dairy cows, which was attributed to the presence of components reported to be galactogogues.

In Egyptian lambs, ensiled and fresh giant reed forage gave better fattening performance than giant reed hay, the latter being close to berseem hay in that respect (Ahmed et al., 2009). Dressing values, carcass weight and more generally carcass quality (shoulder and leg cuts) were significantly improved with silage or fresh giant reed compared to berseem hay and giant reed hay.Blood parameters were similar for all the treatments, except red blood cells which were higher for the fresh or ensiled reeds.

In Egypt, giant reed silage or fresh forage fed to Zairibi goats gave higher milk yields than giant reed hay. The milk composition did not differ between diets.

Arundo donax for animals – purchasing giant reed

If you are interested in purchasing Arundo donax to produce forage feedstock, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at info@arundobioenergy.com. Further information on forage feedstock from Arundo can be found on our website.

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