Botanical Name : Panicum maximum Jacq.
Family : Poaceae (alt. Graminae)
Subfamily : Panicoideae
Tribe : Paniceae
Many species of the genus Panicum are known for their wide adaptability. However, P. maximum (Guinea grass) is an important multicity forage grass, because of its ease of propagation, fast growth and high quality forage during the rainy season. The crop yields 40–60 t/ha dry matter, contains crude protein up to 14% and 41–72% dry matter digestibility. The tolerance of the crop to saline sodic conditions is also reported. P. maximum is also used as silage at Tanzania, Brazil, Nigeria and Australia. The dry matter contains 7–10% crude protein, 30% crude fiber, 40% N2 free extract, 2.33% ether extract and 8.36% ash.
The crop has been adopted well by the farmers in India because of its multicity nature and high yield of green fodder. It is cultivated in Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh. It has also wide adaptability in humid tracts of eastern and southern India. It has excellent growing habit, quick recovery after cutting and good quality herbage. The green fodder productivity ranges from 80 to 100 t/ha and dry matter productivity from 25–35 t/ha. Guinea grass is tolerant to the light stress and can perform very well under shaded condition. Another significant feature is quantum jump in quality (crude protein) content under shade condition. The crop is grown both as annual and perennial. First cut is taken 75 days after sowing and subsequent cuttings at 45 days interval. Thus, it can give 7–8 cuttings annually.
Guinea grass as understory grass in agroforestry system has high potential for tropical regions. It is also suitable for rangelands receiving 900 to 1500 mm rainfall, although can survive under less than 400 mm rainfall. Additionally, availability of annual as well as perennial types makes the crop suitable for cultivated as well as rainfed conditions.
The guinea grass is of tailoring nature. The tillers arise from the base and the stem is having 6–10 nodes. The plant height ranges from 100 to 230 cm and leaf length from 15 to 75 cm and panicle length from 20 to 55 cm. At each node there is leaf sheath encircling the stem up to nearly half the internode distance. The end of leaf sheath is attached to leaf blade. The tillers bear panicle at the time of flowering. The species possess typical gramineous flowers represented in tribe Panicoideae. The flowers are arranged on a panicle, which is 30 to 60 cm long and 15 to 25 cm wide. Small branches originate from the main branch of the panicle and on these branch axis, the spikelet’s are arranged. Spikelet’s are 3 to 30 mm long and 1 mm wide. The flowers possess small lower glume (green/ purple), upper glume (green/ purple), upper lemma (green/ purple). There are 3+3 anthers and single bifid 32 hairy stigma. Most widely used cultivars are having 70–80 cm long hairy leaf, erect stem of 2m long without hair and leaves are 15–18 mm wide with hairy leaf surface. Panicle is 15– 40 cm long and 12–30 cm wide, green, spikelet and glumes are hairless.
It requires well prepared land (2–3 ploughings followed by 3–4 harrowings). It can be established by planting of rooted from slips in lines keeping a distance of 1 m from line to line and 50 cm slip to slip. It can be established by seed also. 3–6 kg seed/ha is required but percent germination should be tested before sowing. Being highly responsive to manuring 10–20 t/ha of FYM and 30 kg/ha P2O5 as basal dose should be applied to the crop. After each cut 50–60 kg N/ha are applied. After a period of 4–5 years, replanting of the crop is required.