NSP - Pennisetum clandestinum





Family: Poaceae

Common names: Kikuyugrass, Kikuyo

Kikuyugrass is a creeping perennial grass belonging to the Panicoideae sub-family. The runners commonly produce upright shoots rising to 10-60 cm. Leaf blades alternate, softly hairy and narrow, 8-15 mm wide and 25 cm long. The spikelets consist of only 3-4 florets enclosed and half hidden by the leaf-sheath, hence the name clandestinum. The fruit is a dark caryopsis, 2.8 by 1.5 mm size, having only one seed.

It reproduces by seed production and vegetatively through its rhizomes and runners. The seeds of the plant can remain viable in soil for more than 10 years. Rhizomes and runners produce fibrous roots from their nodes, creating dense mats. The rhizomes can penetrate the soil to a depth of 20-30 cm

It is used as a fodder crop and also for preventing soil erosion. Notwithstanding its usefulness this perennial grass thrives in many crop areas, becoming a difficult to control weed.

It is a common plant in highland. It tolerates well cool temperatures. The noxious effects of the weed show up rapidly, particularly in lucerne, cereals and grasslands, where the soil is not disturbed after sowing. In the Andean zone lucerne fields can be completely devastated in 2-3 years after the development of kikuyugrass. The plant originated from highland pasture land of East Africa and was introduced as a fodder crop into several high-altitude tropical and subtropical zones within the last century, mainly in countries located within 35oC north or south of the equator.

Outside Africa, this plant is now widespread in Asia, Oceania and Latin America, particularly in India, Sri Lanka, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand and countries of the Andean zone. It has been identified as a constraint to the production of 14 crops in 36 countries. Kikuyugrass also thrives along irrigation canals, roads, railways and industrial areas, causing considerable problems.

Kikuyugrass is an aggressive plant and the main concern is to prevent its further spread into non-infested crop areas. Crop seed should be free of kikuyugrass seeds. Cattle already grazed in infested areas should be kept away from non-infested areas for at least 10 days. It is also advisable not to apply cattle manure from infested areas onto those weed-free.

All the kikuyugrass plants growing in the borders of croplands should be weeded to the point of complete eradication. Agricultural implements should be carefully cleaned after any operation or cultivation in an infested area so that seeds or vegetative parts of the weed are not transported further into the weed-free crop areas.

In row crops it is really very difficult to control kikuyugrass within the growing period, but some success is achieved with inter-row cultivation and the use of any post-emergence graminicide, such as fluazifop-butyl, which may be suitable in a number of broad-leaved crops. However, it is always best to reduce the problem before planting. The best method is to plough and to bring up the subterranean parts of kikuyugrass onto the soil surface for their exposure and further desiccation under the effect of sunlight, or to collect and burn them to avoid their further regrowth. It is also possible to apply glyphosate, within the land preparation period and 2-3 weeks before sowing, after the first shoot emergence of the weed. The use of the herbicides would necessarily depend on the economics of the farm, and money available to purchase such agrochemicals.

In the case of lucerne fields or grasslands, handweeding is the most effective control method. Other possible control measure could be the use of a flexible tooth harrow after grazing or cutting the crop.

Countries: Colombia, Peru


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