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Question :

Write a report and explain briefly the role of Rhodes grass in Oman agriculture,The problems Rhodes grass production faces,Types of Weeds in Rhodes Grass In Oman,Disadvantages of Weeds,Reasons of Weeds Distribution,Impact of Weeds in Rhodes Grass with proper conclusion.

Answer :

A – Introduction

Agriculture in Oman

Oman is one of the oldest independent states among the Arabian countries and is located at a strategic position at the south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula according to BBC News (2016). Majority of Oman is a sub-tropical desert with average temperatures ranging from 17.8 degrees to 28.9 degree Celsius. Agriculture and fisheries are one of the key employment areas in the Sultanate of Oman. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Oman’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) have estimated that about 1.77m ha of land in Oman currently falls under agricultural land and 73,500 ha of land can be further cultivated. The majority of cultivation happens in the Al Batinah plains in Oman’s north-western region falling between Muscat and the UAE according to the report provided by Oxford Business Group (2014). There are productive valleys in these plains and ample levels of water table which get replenished naturally by storm run-off providing seasonal water flows for irrigation purposes. The Dhofar region in the south-west ranks as the second agriculturally productive region in Oman. The monsoon crop (khareef) is the main product of this region in the months of July to September as this area receives the highest rainfall in Oman of about 200 to 260mm. The growth rate of agriculture has not been on par with the dramatic growth rate of other sectors like oil and industries. Agricultural contribution to the GDP of Oman was 2.8% in 1995 which has fallen down to 1.1% in 2012 and 0.7% in 2014 says Oxford Business Group (2016). The agricultural sector was up by 4.8% in 2013 after a drop of 2.5% in 2012. The government of Oman wants to increase the contribution of farming and fishing towards the GDP to 5.1% by 2020. Dates is the primary crop in Oman accounting for 80% after which come tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, watermelons. Besides these fruits and vegetables, fodder crops like Rhode grass and alfalfa also are being cultivated in Oman. As of 2013, Oman was estimated to be 72% self-sufficient for its fruit demands, 62% for vegetables. The livestock levels also have increased steadily and people in Oman are preferring Oman’s dairy products as against the previous trends of importing them. This has led to demand for fodder crops too along with fruits and vegetables as per Oxford Business Group (2014).

Role of Rhodes grass in Oman

Rhodes grass is one of the most popular fodder crops grown in Oman to meet the needs of its increasing livestock. Along with alfalfa, Rhodes grass is grown predominantly in the Batinah region and it occupied 62% of the total area in Oman occupied by Rhodes in 2004 reported by MAF, Oman (2007). It is used as fresh fodder in pastures as well as in the form of hay by drying the grass and used during winter.

Problems in Rhodes grass production

Increasing human and livestock population in Oman has led to an increase in demand for food and dairy products. This in turn has led to expansion in cultivation area for food for human consumption as well as fodder for livestock, subsequently leading to increasing demand of water for irrigation. Oman being arid and near the sea, potable water is a scarce resource. Rhodes grass requires more water than what is available in Oman and hence cultivation of Rhodes is putting a strain on the water resources in Oman observed by Mishakhi & Koll (2007). Also, Rhodes grass requires nitrogen fertilizers in order to grow to their full potential in Oman due to the low levels of natural nitrogen presence in the soil states Dutton (2013).

Problem of weeds

Alfalfa which was among the first fodder crops to be grown in Oman was found to be highly affected by weeds. In order to solve this problem, it was rotated with Rhodes grass. Research studies show that Rhodes grass does not seem to be impacted much by weeds once it matures as it itself overgrows the weeds and is fit to survive in different climatic conditions.

Aim of report

Through this report, the impact of weeds on production of Rhodes grass in Oman is explored. Through conducting a literature review the background of Rhodes grass, its significance in Oman, the problems faced with its production, the impact of weeds on it and how different farming methods are adopted to solve the menace of weeds have been explored.

B – Rhodes Grass

Background

Chloris gayana or commonly called as Rhodes grass is a native of Africa and then introduced in India, Pakistan, Australia and the USA writes Whitmore (2013). It is an excellent forage grass spread across tropical and subtropical countries used both for pasture and hay.

Description

Rhodes grass is a perennial grass which can spread easily through its seed and stolon and its stalk can grow as tall as 1.5m. In the tropical countries, Rhodes grass, can produce up to six cuts in a year while in high latitude areas it can yield only one crop a year writes Whitmore (2013). The grass cannot survive in temperatures less than -8 degree Celsius. It needs 600-750 mm of rains annually enabling it to grow even in dry areas. It can survive droughts due to its ramified roots which can extract nutrients and moisture from the soil. The grass grows best in moist soil even if its alkaline in nature. The first yield is the most productive of all and Rhodes grass growing in moist soil is leafy, highly nutritious and enjoyed as a fodder by livestock according to writes Whitmore (2013). There are many strains of Rhodes grass and some of them are great in pasture lands and recover even when trampled. The germination of its seed takes very less time ranging from 1-7 days and it spreads to large areas by three months thereby proving beneficial to farmers when they want to cover their bare soil. Besides being able to grow in drought conditions, Rhodes grass shows good tolerance to salt in the soil too thereby proving to be the best option for forage in tropical and sub-tropical countries and in places with saline soil. It needs good amount of sun as it doesn’t thrive in shade. Though it can survive floods for about 15 days, waterlogging over 30 cm can kill it

Use of Rhodes grass in Oman and in general

The primary use of Rhodes grass in Oman as well as in other countries is to be given as fodder for the livestock. Many farmers grow Rhodes grass when their soil conditions are poor due to its high survival rate and sell the grass as a fodder in the market according to Dutton (2013). Rhodes grass is also grown to hold on the soil and protect it from erosion thereby helping farmers to maintain their soil quality for cultivating desired crops. Rhodes grass is dried to convert it into hay and made available for cattle during dry seasons when pastures do not have much grass to eat. The hay is of more nutritive value when the grass is cut and dried before flowering takes place as per FAO (2016). Rhodes grass is good as livestock fodder due to its high protein content (9-12%) according to Arshad (2015). Oman exports the surplus hay of the Rhodes grass writes Oxford Business Group (2016). Rhodes grass is also combined in association with other crops like legumes, alfalfa in order to improve their yields according to Feedipedia (2016).

Farming methods of Rhodes grass in Oman

Prior to sowing the seeds of Rhodes grass, the land is ploughed to remove any weeds and stones which can hamper the spread of the grass roots upon germination. There after the seeds are evenly sown not too deep and the land is levelled to prevent water logging and rotting of the seeds. Since alfalfa is also quite popular in Oman, traditional hand cutting methods which were used for it were also used for Rhodes grass. But this method is not advisable for Rhodes grass as it then cuts the stolons and prevents further propagation of the grass naturally during the next season thereby reducing the yield according to Dutton (2013). For Rhodes grass, harvesting using mechanical cutters are encouraged by MAF and if it is not possible, light hand cutting is enforced in farms by training labourers. Since Rhodes grass requires nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, fertilizers are used at fixed rates and intervals for a good crop. Since there is shortage of fresh fodder during non-monsoon seasons, farmers are encouraged to produce Rhodes grass to its peak in summer and made into hay by drying the grass for one or two days under the summer sun and stored for use during shortage of fresh grass. Getting peak yields in summer season is dependent on proper irrigation management techniques writes Dutton (2013). Sprinkler based irrigation methods have proved to give the best yield of Rhodes grass, however, it has also caused reduction in water levels and increase in soil salinity in the coastal areas necessitating the government intervention to move Rhodes grass cultivation to develop alternative areas in the Najed to meet the demand for fodder states Ishag (2015). Irrigation is done only after the rainfall ends as excess waterlogging can cause harm to the seeds of Rhodes grass. Modern irrigation techniques are used in the commercial farms of Batinah region for production of Rhodes grass.

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