Azolla Fern in Mwea Irrigation Scheme and Its Potential Nitrogen Contribution in Paddy Rice Production

  •  Wilson A. Oyange    
  •  George N. Chemining’wa    
  •  James I. Kanya    
  •  Paul N. Njiruh    


Azolla fern is invasive in Mwea Irrigation Scheme in Kenya and its management in paddy rice fields is a challenge to farmers. A survey was undertaken to establish farmers’ knowledge and potential nitrogen contribution by Azolla in the paddies. The Scheme was stratified into seven sections and a questionnaire administered to 250 farmers. Data were collected on awareness levels, source, trend of infestation, abundance, fertilizer regimes and management practices. Five farms from each of the sections were also sampled for Azolla coverage and tissue N levels analyzed. Survey data were analyzed using SPSS software and interpreted using descriptive statistics. Biomass sampling data were analyzed using SAS software and means separated using the least significant differences at P ≤ 0.05.

The results demonstrated that Azolla has infested nearly all the paddy farms in Mwea. Azolla invasion occurred more than 10 years ago and coverage per unit area was on a decline and stood at 25%. Water shortage and herbicide use were the main reasons associated with this trend. Azolla is conspicuously noticed at transplanting and weeding times. The presence of Azolla in Mwea is enhanced by widespread use of P and K fertilizers and continuous paddy cropping, thus providing a suitable environment for Azolla growth. Azolla was reported to enhance soil fertility, rice yield and yield components. The maximum Azolla biomass coverage was 14.92 t/ha, with a potential nitrogen contribution of 37.6 kg N/ha. Azolla is invasive in Mwea, widespread, beneficial to paddies and with a high potential N contribution.

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