Livestock Research for Rural Development 22 (8) 2010 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Biomass production of Tithonia diversifolia (Wild Sunflower), soil improvement on sloping land and use as high protein foliage for feeding goats

Nguyen Van Sao, Nguyen Thi Mui and Đinh Van Binh

Goat and Rabbit Research Center, Sontay, Bavi, Vietnam
NIAH, Hanoi, Vietnam


Three experiments were carried out at the Goat and Rabbit Research Centre and on farms in Bavi, Ha Tay province of North Vietnam. In the first experiment, biomass production of Tithonia diversifolia (Wild Sunflower) and the effect on soil fertility was studied in a complete random plot design with three treatments: (TD) Tithonia in pure stand; (GG) Guinea grass in pure stand; and TD-GG Association of Tithonia and guinea grass. Cattle manure (10 tonnes/ha/year) was supplied for all plots. Soil fertility changes were monitored with the bio-test method by using maize plants grown in the soil taken from experimental plots before and at the end of the trial.  The second experiment was a  3*3 Latin square design to determine apparent digestibility and nitrogen retention when goats were fed Tithonia as sole feed compared with foliage of  Stylosanthes and Jackfruit. In the third experiment, feed intake was recorded in a trial with 5 treatments: (TD) Tithonia as sole feed fed ad libitum; (TD-GG) Tithonia fed ad libitum + 1.5% of LW (DM basis) of guinea grass; (TD-GG-JA) Tithonia fed ad libitum + 1.5 % LW of guinea grass + 1% LW  of Jackfruit foliage, (TD-GG-BL); Tithonia fed ad libitum + 1.5 % LW of guinea grass + 1% LW of Banana leaf;  and (TD-GG-CA) Tithonia fed ad libitum + 1.5 % LW of guinea grass + 1% LW of Caliandra foliage.

After 12 months growth, the edible biomass yield of Tithonia was 172 tonnes/ha/year in fresh form equal to 25 tonnes DM with 6 tonnes crude protein (CP)/ha/year when Tithonia was planted in pure stand.  Soil fertility was improved according to maize biomass yield grown in the soil taken from plots planted with Tithonia. Foliage of Tithonia contained 23.9% CP (DM basis) and had low NDF content (38.4%). Apparent digestibility coefficients of DM and CP were 53.7% and 67.8%, respectively, higher than for Jackfruit foliage (51.52 % and 38.37%) and Stylosanthes (51.0% and 62.3%). However, nitrogen retention of goats when fed Tithonia as sole feed was lower than that obtained with Jack fruit foliage and Stylosanthes. Urine N was 15.8 g/day on Tithonia compared with 5.7 and 7.2 on Jackfruit and Stylo, indicating that a high proportion of the feed N was degraded in the rumen and excreted in the urine.

It is concluded that Tithonia plants have high biomass yield per unit of land and could improve soil fertility. Foliage of Tithonia is well consumed by goats but needs appropriate supplementation for the expression of its potential nutritive value.

Key words: Banana, biotest, calliandra, digestibility, jackfruit, maize, nitrogen retention, stylo, soil fertility


Tithonia, commonly known as Mexican or Wild sunflower, is a shrub belonging to the family Asteraceae. Tithonia originated from Mexico, and it is now widely distributed throughout the humid and sub humid tropics in Central and South America, Asia and Africa (Sonke 1997). It is common in indigenous fallow systems in Southeast Asia (M. Cairns, personal communication). Tithonia was probably introduced into Africa as an ornamental. It has been reported in Kenya (Niang et al 1996), Malawi (Ganunga et al 1998), Nigeria (Ayeni et al 1997), Rwanda (Drechsel and Reck 1998) and Zimbabwe (Jiri and Waddington 1998). In addition, it is also known to occur in Cameroon, Uganda and Zambia. Green biomass of Tithonia has been recognized as an effective source of nutrients for lowland rice (Oryza sativa) in Asia and more recently for maize (Zea mays) and vegetables in eastern and southern Africa.

The reported uses of Tithonia include as a fodder (Anette 1996; Roothaert and Patterson 1997; Roothaert et al 1997), poultry feed (Odunsi et al 1996), fuelwood (Ng’inja et al 1998), compost (Drechsel and Reck 1998; Ng’inja et al 1998), land demarcation (Ng’inja et al 1998), soil erosion control (Ng’inja et al 1998), and as building materials and shelter for poultry (Otuma et al 1998). In addition, extracts from Tithonia plant parts reportedly protect crops from termites (Adoyo et al 1997) and contain chemicals that inhibit plant growth (Baruah et al 1978; Tongma et al 1997) and control insects (Carino and Rejestes 1982; Dutta et al 1993). Extracts of Tithonia also are reported to have medicinal value for treatment of hepatitis (Lin et al 1993; Kuo and Chen 1997) and control of amoebic dysentery (Tona et al 1998). Among the various uses of Tithonia, its medicinal value is one that farmers in western Kenya frequently report.

Tithonia grows wild in the high lands in Vietnam but there are no reports on its use for live stock. . The foliage contains a high content of CP (26.2% based in DM). It is reported that the protein in Tithonia foliage is highly soluble and hence is quickly fermented in the rumen of goats (Mahecha and Rosales 2005). A high proportion of N released in the rumen could contribute to higher N retention if it is fed in combination with high tannin foliage in the diet. soil pr

The objective of this study was to provide information on: (i) the use of Tithonia for production of biomass and improvement of soil fertility; and (ii) knowledge gaps and priorities for using it as animal fodder for goats in Vietnam.

Materials and methods

The experiments were conducted during 2006 and 2007 at the Goat and Rabbit Research Centre (GRRC) and on 3 farms in Bavi district, Hatay province, Vietnam.

Experiment 1. Effect of integrating Tithonia diversifolia and Panicum maximum (guinea grass) in cropping systems on biomass yield and soil fertility

Treatments and design

A Random Block Design was used with 3 treatments: (i) Pure stand of Tithonia (TD), (ii) integration of Guinea grass and Tithonia (TG-GG) planted as alternate rows; and (iii) Pure stand of Guinea grass (GG). The plots were located on sloping land with 150 m2 for each treatment. Total area was 1350 m2 (Table 1).

Table 1. Experimental layout for agronomic trial




150 m2

150 m2

150 m2

Pure Tithonia


Pure Guinea grass

Guinea grass




Guinea grass

Three farms were involved in the experiment and each farm was considered as one replication.


 Biomass productivity of Tithonia and Guinea grass was measured in each of 7 harvests during the 12 month period following planting. Samples of each foliage from each plot were analysed for DM, CP amd NDF (AOAC 1990). Soil fertility characteristics were measured by the “Bio-test method (Phan Gia Tan and Preston 1995) in samples of soil taken at the beginning of the trial and 6 months later.

Statistical analysis

The data were analyzed by ANOVA using the General Linear Model (GLM) software of Minitab (Version release 13.31). Sources of variation were treatments, farms and error

Experiment 2. Effect of Tithonia diversifolia foliage on digestibility and N retention in goats

Treatments and design

A 3*3 Latin Square Design was used for measurement of the digestibility of DM, CP, NDF and ADF of foliages from Tithonia diversifolia, Stylosanthes (Stylo) and Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus). In each period, the goats were adapted to the experimental diets during 14 days and the next 7 days were used for collecting feces followed by 7 days for relaxing with the normal diets of guinea grass + Jack fruit foliages + concentrate + cassava root. The goats were weighed at the start and end of the collection period. 


Chemical composition (DM, CP, NDF and ADF) was determined by AOAC (1990) methods. Apparent digestibility coefficients were determined for DM, CP, NDF and ADF.

Statistical analysis

The data were analyzed by ANOVA using the General Linear Model (GLM) software of Minitab (Version release 13.31). Sources of variation were treatments, animals, periods and error.

Experiment 3. DM intake by goats of Tithonia foliage offered alone or in combination with Guinea grass, Jackfruit foliage, Banana leaves or Caliandra foliage

Treatments and design

Thirty kids were randomly allocated to 5 treatments balanced for sex with 6 animals per treatment. The length of this trial was 3 weeks (21 days). Before starting, the kids were adapted to the new experimental feeds for 10 days. The kids were treated against parasites with injections of Ivermectin solution (1ml per 4 kg body weight) and vaccinated against Pasteurellosis and Enterotoxaemia.

The treatments were:

(Ti): Tithonia foliage fed ad libitum

(Ti-GG): Tithonia foliage fed ad libitum plus  1.5 % BW of Guinea grass  

(Ti-Ja-GG): Tithonia foliage fed ad libitum plus  1% BW of Jackfruit foliages and 1.5 % BW of Guinea grass 

(Ti-Ba-GG): Tithonia foliage fed ad libitum plus 1% BW of Banana foliages and 1.5 % BW of Guinea grass 

(Ti-Ca-GG): Tithonia foliage fed ad libitum plus 1% BW of Calliandra foliages and  1.5 % BW of Guinea grass 


DM intake was measured of each of the foliages.


Biomass DM production was similar for the three treatments (Figure 1) but crude protein yield was twice as high from Tithonia (6 tonnes/ha/year) as from Guinea grass (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Biomass DM production of Tithonia alone
(Pti), combined with Guinea grass Ti-GG, compared
with Guinea grass alone (GG)
Figure 2. Crude protein production of Tithonia alone
(Pti), combined with Guinea grass Ti-GG, compared
with Guinea grass alone (GG)

Soil fertility, assessed by the growth of maize plants in soil taken from the experimental plots, increased when Tithonia was grown in pure stand (Figure 3). The chemical composition of the soil also tended to be improved in the plots planted with Tithonia (Table 2).

Figure 3. Yields of maize green biomass and roots in the plots before and 6 months after planting the Tithonia and Guinea grass [Tithonia alone (Pti), combined with Guinea grass
Ti-GG, compared with Guinea grass alone (GG)]

Table 2. Chemical composition of soil in the experimental plots before and 6 months  after planting Tithonia and Guinea grass


Before planting

After 6 months of planting




Total organic carbon, %





Total nitrogen, %





Total P2O5, %





Total K2O, %





Available N, mg/100g soil





Available K, mg/100g soil





Experiment 2. Chemical composition and apparent digestibility in goats fed foliages of Tithonia, Jack fruit or Stylo as sole feeds

Coefficients of apparent digestibility of the DM, NDF and crude protein were higher for the Tithonia diet than when the diet was Jackfruit foliage or stylosanthes (Table 3). N retention was lowest and N excreted in urine was highest when Tithonia was the sole feed (Figure 4).

Table 3. Apparent digestibility of DM, crude protein and NDF in goats fed foliages of Tithonia, Jackfruit or stylo, as the sole feed


Chemical composition

Apparent digestibility














Jack fruit














ab Means within column without common superscript differ at P<0.05

Figure 4. N balance in goats fed foliages of Tithonia,
Stylo or Jackfruit as sole feed

DM intake was higher when Tithonia was given as the sole feed than when it was combined with other forages (Figure 5).

Figure 5. DM intakes by goats fed Tithonia alone or supplemented with Guinea grass  (GG), Jackfruit foliage (JF), banana leaves (BAN) or Caliandra foliage (CA)


The positive impact from growing Tithonia on soil fertility, especially the phosphorus status,  is supported by the reports of Phiri et al (2001) and Rao et al (No date) that Tithonia diversifolia  has a high potential for the rapid restoration of fertility in degraded soils by increasing the plant available phosphorus. 

The finding of the low rate of N retention and high rate of N excretion in the urine of goats, when Tithonia was the sole feed, agrees closely with the report of  Pathoummalangsy Khamparn and Preston (2008). These authors concluded  that the "expression of the potential in fresh Tithonia foliage (high feed intake and high crude protein content)  requires supplementation to improve rumen microbial growth (addition of fermentable carbohydrate) and/or to increase the supply of bypass protein.



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Received 11 April 2010; Accepted 25 June 2010; Published 1 August 2010

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