Cenchrus ciliaris L.
Syn.: Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link
Pennisetum cenchroides Rich.
Buffelgrass, Anjangrass, African foxtail
Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.
- Folk Medicine
- Yields and Economics
- Biotic Factors
This highly nutritious grass is considered excellent for pasture in hot, dry
areas and is valued for its production of palatable forage and intermittent
grazing during droughty periods in the tropics. Yield of some strains makes it
good for forage during the wet season also. The grass, fed green, turned into
silage, or made into hay is said to increase flow of milk in cattle and impart
a sleek and glossy appearance.
C. ciliaris is reported to be lactagogue. Related species are recorded
as being anodyne, diuretic, and emollient, and are folk remedies for kidney
pain, tumors, sores and wounds (Duke and Wain, 1981).
Per 100 g, the fresh plant is reported to contain on a zero-moisture basis,
11.0 g protein, 2.6 g fat, 73.2 g total carbohydrate, 31.9 g fiber, and 13.2 g
ash (Gohl, 1981). Per 100 g, hay is reported to contain on a zero-moisture
basis 7.4 g protein, 1.7 g fat, 79.2 g total carbohydrate, 35.2 g fiber, and
11.7 g ash (Gohl, 1981).
Bunchgrass, or rhizomatous perennial, often forming mats or tussocks; culms
erect or decumbent, 15120 cm tall, with a knotty crown; sheaths glabrous to
sparingly pilose, compressed; ligule ciliate, 0.51.3 mm long; blades green to
bluish-green, scabrous, sometimes slightly pilose, 2.830 cm long, 2.28.5 mm
broad, tapering to a point; inflorescence dense, cylindric, 212 cm long, 12.6
cm wide, purplish; rachis flexuous, scabrous, internodes 0.82 mm long (usually
about 1 mm), flowers solitary or alustered, surrounded by numerous bristles;
burs elongate, variously pubescent, 615 mm long, 12 mm wide; spines erect or
spreading, 4.310 mm long, long-ciliate pubescent on inner margins, antrorsely
barbed; lower whorl of spines bristle-like, shorter than the inner ones;
spikelets 24 per bur, 25.6 mm long; first glume 13 mm long, 0.71.4 mm wide,
thin and membranous, 1-veined; second glume 1.33.4 mm long, 13-veined;
sterile lemma 2.55 mm long, 56 veined; fertile floret 2.25.4 mm long,
enclosing the ovoid caryopsis; caryopsis 1.41.9 mm long, about 1 mm broad;
anthers 22.5 mm long. Roots dense and long (Reed, 1976).
Reported from the Hindustani and Indochina-Indonesia Centers of Diversity,
buffelgrass, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate disease, drought, fire,
fungus, grazing, heavy soil, insects, limestone, low pH, and sand (Duke, 1978).
Many ecotypes and strains are known, each adapted to certain conditions and
localities. Spreading types are used for pasture, and erect forms for hay.
Local strains have been selected from native stands in parts of Africa.
'Chipinga foxtail' is a fine, leafy form in Rhodesia; 'Manzimnyamal and
'Sebungwe' are dwarf forms suitable for semi-arid conditions. 'Zeerust' is a
tall, leafy form adapted to 5063 cm rainfall in Tanzania. Other species of
Cenchrus used for fodder include: C. barbatus Schum. (C.
catharticus Delile), C. setigerus Vahl (C. biflorus Roxb.,
C. montanus Nees) and C. pennisetiformis Hochst. & Steud.
(Pennisetum cenchroides var. echinoides Hook. f.). The first two
are common in and regions of northwest India and Madras. C. setigerus
yields up to 14 T/ha of green fodder in one cutting under rainfed conditions.
C. pennisetiformis is considered a hybrid between C. ciliaris and
C. setigerus, being most like the first (C.S.I.R., 19481976).
(2n = 32, 34, 36, 40, 44, 52, 54; apomictic.)
Native to dry sandy areas throughout Africa, Arabia, Canary Islands, Malagasy,
Indonesia, northern India, and Pakistan. Introduced into many tropical and
subtropical areas of the world. Probably introduced into Western Australia
about 18701880 in Afghan camel harnesses. Adventive to North America (Texas,
Mexico), South America, West Indies, Hawaii, and Virgin Islands.
Ranging from Warm Temperate Thorn to Moist, through Tropical Desert to Moist
Forest Life Zones, buffelgrass is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of
(2.5-)3.826.7 dm (mean of 20 cases = 10.1), annual temperature of
12.527.8°C (mean of 20 cases = 21.5), and pH of 5.58.2 (mean of 16 cases =
6.9) (Duke, 1978, 1979). Buffelgrass thrives from sea level to 2000 m, in dry
sandy regions, with rainfall 250750 mm annually (but tolerates much higher
rainfall), on shallow soils of marginal fertility. Such characteristics extend
its production range and increase its value for pasturage. It responds to
rainfall by developing brighter color and an increase in growth rate, giving
highest yields when rain is plentiful. Crop has been grown on heavy dark clays
3090 cm deep, underlain by loose marl, with pH of 7.08.0. It fares poorly on
heavy clay or soils deficient in Ca. It thrives at high temperatures with
35°C being optimum for photosynthesis. In Australia, buffelgrass withstood
5-day flooding without any loss of plants, and 20-day flooding with losses of
2085%, depending on the cultivar (Anderson, 1970). For greater flood
tolerance, Anderson (1970) recommends selecting taller varieties of C.
ciliaris, and leaving the plants uncut/ungrazed shortly before the highest
Seed is widely spread by wind and by sticking to animal fur. Buffelgrass may
be established throughout the year, although its chances for establishment are
better at onset of wet season. The light, fluffy wind-blown seeds are
difficult to drill or to sow by hand, and should be mixed with fine soil or
hammer-milled to beat off the bristles. Use larger seeds for better
germination, and sow 12 cm deep. Usual sowing rates are 312 kg/ha; another
recommendation is 68 kg/ha for drilling in rows and 12 kg/ha for broadcasting
(Bogdan, 1977). Most of the data indicates that post-harvest maturation time
of from a few to 18 months is required. Only seed that has been stored for at
least 6 months should be sown, however, in Tanzania, 1-month old seed had a 90%
germination rate, with the maximum of 92.5% being reached at 18 months (Bogdan,
1977). According to Reed (1976), germination is improved up to 70% by storing
seed up to 2 years under dry conditions. Most seeds germinate within 24 hours.
Buffelgrass is also propagated vegetatively from tuft splits or rhizomes in
India and Bolivia. In Australian trials, the grass was successfully
established by seed broadcasting without soil tillage into burnt, brigalow
grass, yet other trials show seedbed preparation to be essential for reasonable
establishment in denuded pastoral lands (Bogdan, 1977). Sowing whole clusters
of spikelets almost invariably gives better results than sowing naked
caryopses; in Tanzania, five-fold better seedling emergence was observed from
clusters than from naked caryopses. In Australian trials, naked caryopses
germinated in soil if freshly dehusked and mixed with superphosphate
immediately before sowing (a 12-hour delay in sowing reduced germination)
(Bogdan, 1977). Plants ratoon well and withstand repeated drastic defoliation,
recovering fairly rapidly following rains. Crops also withstand cutting well
(Reed, 1976). Close cutting or grazing (510 cm from ground level) is reported
to give higher yields and better herbage quality than cutting at higher levels,
and is reported to give reduced yields with frequent cutting along with reduced
carbohydrate content and root volume (Bogdan, 1977). Green shoots often sprout
from old, seemingly dry stems during the dry season, contributing to the volume
of dry-season grazing. It is not advisable to top the stems after wet-season
grazing. Manuring the field before sowing helps to establish a thick stand.
The grass is usually benefitted by the addition of fertilizer P. Good
responses to N and especially PN have been frequently observed in Australia and
South Africa, but in Tanzania, when grown under low rainfall and on good soil,
the benefit of N on C. ciliaris was only seen during exceptionally wet
seasons. Where harvester ants are a problem, insecticides may be needed; the
use of seed dressing harvester ants are with aldrin in Kenya and with lindane
and aldrin in Australia has been found to be helpful (Bogdan, 1977).
Most strains mature a seed crop in 34 months when planted in 60 cm rows at
onset of wet season (Reed, 1976). Establishment is slow and grass can be used
912 months after sowing (Bogdan, 1977). Seed is harvested by hand, or
mechanically. Seed is not shed so readily as in some other tropical grasses so
production and harvesting are somewhat easier. In South India, pastures are
kept 540 years, and regular grazing is allowed from 3rd year onwards.
Pastures are usually plowed after a shower at intervals of 35 years.
Seed yield is reported as 500 kg/ha (Duke, 1978). In Tanzanian trials, 150210
kg/ha of seed were obtained (no N added). In Queensland, 8 kg/ha were obtained
(without N, without irrigation); and 47504 kg of seed/ha were obtained with
the addition of from 84672 kg N/ha. C. ciliaris is commonly used for
reseeding denuded arid pastoral lands, and for improving worn-out pastures in
Australia, India, Pakistan and E. Africa. This is a very important pasture
grass in many parts of the tropical world, mainly because of its ease and low
cost of establishment, comparatively high value and yield, extreme drought
tolerance, stand persistance, and tolerance to crop pests, overgrazing and
trampling by livestock. It is cultivated for permanent pastures and leys in
Central and East Africa and northern Australia, and is an important forage
grass in India.
According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from
1 to 26 MT/ha, but some strains give as high as 37 MT/ha, depending on the
conditions. Total annual yields of green fodder vary from 3456 MT/ha in three
to four cuttings. Dry matter yields increase by 17% when about 96 kg N/ha is
used annually (Reed, 1976). In Bogdan (1977) herbage yields are reported as
28 MT DM/ha, 1020 MT green matter, and 36 MT hay/ha/yr.
The following fungi have been reported on buffelgrass: Beniowskia
sphaeroides, Cerebella andropogonis, C. cenchroides, Claviceps sp.,
Fusarium heterosporum, Puccinia cenchri var. africana, Sorosporium
cenchri, S. dubiosum, S. penniseti, Sphacelotheca panjabensis, Tolyposporium
cenchri, Uredo cenchricola, Ustilago penniseti. It is also parasitized
by Striga hermonthica. The following nematodes have been isolated from
buffelgrass: Criconemoides sp., Helicotylenchus cavenessi, H.
dihystera, H. microcephalus, H. pseudorobustus, Peltamigratus nigeriensis,
Pratylenchus sp., and Scutellonema clathricaudatum.
Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Anderson, E. 1970. Effect of flooding on tropical grasses. Sect. 6(a). p.
591594. In: Norman, M. J.T. (ed.), Proceedings of the 11th International
Grassland Congress. Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia. 936 p.
Bogdan, A.V. 1977. Tropical pasture and fodder plants. Longman, London.
C.S.I.R. (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research). 19481976. The wealth
of India. 11 vols. New Delhi.
- Duke, J.A. 1978. The quest for tolerant germplasm. p. 161. In: ASA Special
Symposium 32, Crop tolerance to suboptimal land conditions. Am. Soc. Agron.
Duke, J.A. 1979. Ecosystematic data on economic plants. Quart. J. Crude Drug
Duke, J.A. 1981b. The gene revolution. Paper 1. p. 89150. In: Office of
Technology Assessment, Background papers for innovative biological technologies
for lesser developed countries. USGPO. Washington.
Duke, J.A. and Wain, K.K. 1981. Medicinal plants of the world. Computer index
with more than 85,000 entries. 3 vols.
Gohl, B. 1981. Tropical feeds. Feed information summaries and nutritive values.
FAO Animal Production and Health Series 12. FAO, Rome.
Reed, C.F. 1976. Information summaries on 1000 economic plants. Typescripts
submitted to the USDA.
Last update Tuesday, December 30, 1997