Now that the planting materials of the Super Napier are starting to be available to local farmers, it is timely to write about how to plant this outstanding grass from Thailand.

By Zac B. Sarian

Pakchong 1 is the official name of this special grass but it is better known among local readers as the “Super Napier,” which we wrote about more than a year ago.

We called it Super Napier because it is outstanding in a number of significant ways. Compared to the old napier variety, it is much higher yielding. In Thailand, one hectare of Pakchong 1 can produce as much as 500 tons of biomass in one year. The grass is cut every 45 to 60 days after the first harvest, which is 90 days from planting.

The grass is cut to the level of the ground when it is harvested, and soon after, new growth will arise with more tillers than the previous ones as long as the plants are provided with enough moisture and organic, as well as chemical, fertilizer.

Besides its high yield, Super Napier is loaded with crude protein ranging from 17 to 18 percent. The leaves are smooth and hairless, so farm animals love to eat them. The juice is sweetish, so it is very palatable to the farm animals.

Seedpieces Now Available

One of the first to acquire planting materials from Thailand was Alex Carlos of King Ranch in Batangas. He is now releasing planting materials to interested farmers. The planting materials are in the form of cuttings with three nodes.

Alex Carlos and sons Angelo and King pose with 5-month old Super Napier ready for harvest as planting materials.

And his son, King Carlos who helps manage the farm, has provided us a comprehensive planting guide. Here it is:

Land Preparation – Deep plowing is recommended so that the roots will be able to penetrate deep in the ground. This will make the plants more resistant to drought. The soil should be well pulverized with the use of a rotavator.

Planting – The furrows are made 1.20 meters apart. The cuttings are planted flat in the furrows, 70 centimeters (cm) apart, and covered with soil one to two inches thick. After planting, irrigate to enhance germination. Always irrigate when necessary.

Fertilizer – To provide adequate fertility for the soil, incorporate 5 to 10 tons or organic fertilizer per hectare. Or you can apply complete fertilizer (14-14-14) at the rate of four bags per hectare. Spray Power Grower Combo for better root development and faster growth of the plants. The first spray is 20 days after planting. Spray again one month later. Also, control weeds as they rob your plants of the benefits of the fertilizer you apply.

Harvesting – You can make your first harvest 90 days after planting. The succeeding harvests can be 45 to 60 days thereafter, depending on the purpose. Cut the grass down to the level of the ground. Irrigate to hasten regrowth. A lot of tillers will sprout if the soil is rich and moisture is maintained.

Feeding to Animals – For hogs, poultry, rabbits, planteating fish (tilapia and pangasius), horses, etc., use 45-day old growth, chopped or shredded. For larger ruminants like dairy cattle, beef cattle, buffaloes, give 60-70 day-old growth, also chopped or shredded. Shredded napier can also be used for mixing with manure or any other substrate in vermiculture. The resulting vermicompost is said to have a high nitrogen content.

Cattle love to eat Super Napier because it is smooth, tender, and sweetish.

History

Pakchong 1 is a selectively-bred hybrid developed by Dr. Krailas Kyiothong and his team at
the Nakhonratchasima Animal Nutrition Research and Development Center in Thailand.

It was originally selected and developed as a biomass crop and feed for ruminants, and released in January 2010. Dr. Kyiothong describes Pakchong 1 as a woody, perennial, cane grass. He confirms that it is sterile, non-GMO, and a hybrid that is of value agriculturally in tropical and subtropical areas.

Since we wrote about Pakchong 1 in the Manila Bulletin publications, including the vernacular magazines, so many farmers have been looking forward to the availability of planting materials of this super grass. Now, it’s here at last!

This appeared in agriculture Monthly’s July 2014 issue.