Prota 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs
Oliv., Fl. trop. Afr. 9(4): 589 (1920).
2n = 14, 28
Origin and geographic distribution
Urochloa trichopus is distributed in the more dry regions throughout tropical Africa. It also occurs in Yemen and has been introduced into Brazil and India.
The grain of Urochloa trichopus is sometimes gathered for food, e.g. in Kordofan (Sudan), Tanzania, Botswana and Zimbabwe. In Botswana it is ground into flour, which may be cooked with water, milk or melon juice or made into cake; it is also used for making beer.
Urochloa trichopus is valued as a fodder in semi-arid regions; in Brazil and India it is a forage grass.
The fodder value of Urochloa trichopus plants in the Sahel is: crude protein 10.7%, crude fibre 28.5%, crude fat 1.4%, nitrogen-free extractives 45.2%, P 0.19%, K 4.69%, Ca 0.38%, Mg 0.37% and Na 0.02%. In Botswana the crude protein content of Urochloa trichopus ranges from 6.2% in the dry season (July) to 10.4% in the rainy season (January), and the dry matter digestibility ranges from 41% in July to 57% in January. Information on the nutritional characteristics of the grain is not available.
Coarse, tufted annual grass up to 1.7 m tall; stem (culm) geniculately ascending, often rooting at the lower nodes. Leaves alternate, simple and entire; leaf sheath glabrous to slightly pubescent; ligule a ciliate membrane; blade linear, 5–30 cm × 5–20 mm, acuminate, glabrous or hairy. Inflorescence composed of 3–20 racemes borne on a central axis 4–20 cm long; racemes 1–14 cm long, bearing solitary spikelets on a narrowly winged rachis. Spikelet ovate, 2.5–5.5 mm long, glabrous or less often hairy, acuminate, 2-flowered with lower floret male and upper bisexual; lower glume elliptical-oblong, slightly shorter than spikelet, 3-veined, upper glume as long as the spikelet, 5(–7)-veined with cross-veins; lemma acuminate, leathery, 5-veined, with a mucro; palea shorter than lemma; stamens 3; ovary superior, with 2 plumose stigmas. Fruit a strongly flattened caryopsis (grain).
Urochloa comprises about 12 species distributed in the Old World tropics, mainly in Africa. It is distinguished from the related Brachiaria by the shape and orientation of the spikelets but the boundary between the two genera is unclear due to a number of intermediate species. It has been proposed that Brachiaria be nearly completely reduced to Urochloa, which would increase the size of Urochloa to about 120 species, with a pantropical distribution. Within Urochloa the species are sometimes difficult to separate. Urochloa trichopus is the annual counterpart of the perennial Urochloa mosambicensis (Hack.) Dandy, which possesses dormant buds at the base.
Urochloa trichopus occurs from sea-level up to 1500 m altitude in semi-arid climates, in grassland and savanna woodland; also in disturbed locations and as an arable weed.
Urochloa trichopus is collected from the wild. In Botswana stored grain is attacked by weevils, ants and rats, but it generally stores well. In Botswana the grain is considered difficult to thresh and pound. Urochloa trichopus is considered a weed in Ethiopia.
Genetic resources and breeding
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, holds 5 accessions of Urochloa trichopus (3 from Ethiopia; 2 from Mali). Three accessions from Ethiopia are held at Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia; 2 accessions from Tanzania in the Australian Tropical Crops & Forages Genetic Resources Centre, Biloela, Queensland. In view of its wide distribution, Urochloa trichopus is not threatened by genetic erosion.
Urochloa trichopus is a useful source of food and fodder in semi-arid regions of tropical Africa, but is unlikely to increase in importance. For use as a cereal, the small grain size and difficulty in processing are considered serious limitations. Its role as a pasture grass will probably remain modest compared to that of its perennial and more persistent counterpart Urochloa mosambicensis.
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Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2006. Urochloa trichopus (Hochst.) Stapf In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.