1. Characterization of Selected Range Grass Species in the ASALs of Kenya

PI: Everlyne C Kirwa

In Kenya, natural pastures are the main diet for most of the ruminant animals including livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats whose diets comprise a significant proportion of grasses.  However, the effects of drought, climate change, opportunistic cultivation, mismanagement and continuous overgrazing has resulted in diminished or even total loss the most palatable and preferred forages, especially grasses

Different partners have been involved in initiatives to promote pasture improvement and reseeding albeit with limited success particularly in the pastoral communal rangelands. This is due to various factors including lack of sustainability of the activities introduced in the respective regions. KALRO Kiboko through the community seed bulking initiative and other entities have proven that farmers have the capacity to produce, store and even market their own seeds and planting material to be used in other areas.

Unfortunately appropriate seeds and vegetative materials for reseeding degraded natural pastures have not been readily available in the market. The focus has also been on four rangeland grass species namely Eragrostis superba, Enteropogon macrostachyus, Chloris roxburghiana, and Cenchrus cilliaris. Littleis known about the ecotypes of these species as well. In the ASALs, there exists other potential key species which are important forage materials of which only the classification is known.In order to commercialize this important undertaking with great potential to impact on the livestock sector, these local ecotypes and the other grass species must be characterized and varieties identified, multiplied, and that can be registered for commercialization purposes.

The specific objectives of these activity is to describe the characteristics of natural and commonly growing grass species in different ecological settings and to identify and promote unique ecotypes based on both the morphological and genetic characteristics which have a wide adaptation to different ecological settings.

Collections of the different ecotypes are being done in North-western Counties (Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu) North-Eastern (Garissa, Kitui, Mwingi, Wajir) Northern Kenya (Marsabit, Isiolo) South Eastern (Makueni, Machakos, Tana River, Kajiado and Taita Taveta)


From left, Panicum maximum (Guinea Grass), Cenchrus ciliaris (African Foxtail Grass) ecotypes being evaluated for adaptability in ASALs for forage production at KALRO Kiboko

Pasture seed processing at KALRO Kiboko