Livestock Research for Rural Development 23 (2) 2011 Notes to Authors LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Effect of cutting regimes on seasonal fodder yields of Moringa oleifera in the tropical rainforest of Nigeria

A A Fadiyimu, A N Fajemisin*, J A Alokan* and R D Aladesanwa**

Department of Animal Production Technology, Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, Nigeria
* Department of Animal Production and Health, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria
** Department of Crop and Pest Management, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria


A 43 factorial experiment was carried out to determine the effect of cutting interval (4, 5, 6 and 12 weeks) and cutting height (50, 100 and 150 cm) on fodder yield of Moringa oleifera in both wet and dry seasons in the rainforest zone of Nigeria.

In the rainy season,  frequent harvests (4 to 6 week intervals) at a height of 150 cm gave the highest yields; however, for the 12 week intervals yields were lowest when the cutting height was 150cm. In the dry season , treatment responses were quite different, with the 12 week harvest interval giving highest yields with a cutting height of 100cm. It is concluded that the harvest management of Moringa oleifera should vary according to season. In the wet season Moringa should be harvested at 4-6 week intervals at a height of between 100 and 150cm. By contrast, in the dry season, the cutting interval should be extended to 12 weeks with a cutting height of 100cm.

Keywords: Livestock fodder, season, trees


In tropical Africa, trees serve various traditional purposes such as source of food (leaves and fruits), timber, medicine, mulch, manure, firewood and livestock fodder. However, little attention has been paid to tree cultivation for livestock feeding in the region (Dicko and Sikena 1992). In the 1980s the alley farming technology was introduced in Nigeria (Kang et al 1990) with focus mainly on two exotic browse species, Leucaena leucocephala and Gliricidia sepium (Gutteridge and Shelton 1993). Unfortunately, the adoption of these species by farmers has been faced with several challenges such as pests and diseases attack and presence of anti-nutritional factors. There is therefore the need to discover and recommend novel browse species with exceptional agronomic qualities which will be readily adopted by farmers.

The multiple uses and potentials of Moringa oleifera have attracted the attention of researchers in recent times. Although the plant is not completely strange in West Africa, it has been grossly underexploited as it is restricted to the arid northern zone where it is used mainly as live fence and as vegetable salad. Preliminary investigation showed that the plant grows fast, it has potentially high biomass production and exceptional biochemical properties, but there has been no systematic attempt to exploit Moringa either in terms of its agronomic or nutritive attributes (Akinbamijo et al 2004).

The objectives of this study therefore were to determine the effects of cutting height and cutting interval on fodder yield of Moringa oleifera in the rainforest ecological zone of Nigeria and to examine seasonal variation in quantity of fodder.  

Materials and Methods                                                                    

The experimental site was located in the Teaching and Research Farm of Federal College of Agriculture, Akure (716N, 512E) in the tropical rainforest zone of Nigeria. The zone is characterized by two distinct seasons: wet or rainy (April to October) and dry season (November to March). Average annual precipitation in the zone is about 1300mm with mean monthly rainfall of 162mm during the rainy season and 33mm during the dry season. The experimental design was randomized complete block into which was fitted a 43 (cutting interval versus cutting height) factorial arrangement. The cutting intervals were 4, 5, 6 and 12 (control) weeks while cutting heights were 50, 100 and 150 cm. Each treatment was replicated on twelve 4m2 plots.

The land was ploughed and harrowed using tractor mounted implements. Thereafter, the soil was sampled for mineral composition and some physical properties. The soil was sandy clay loam. Samples were air-dried and screened to pass through a 2 mm sieve. pH was determined using an electronic pH meter. Mechanical analysis was carried out using the Bouyoucas hydrometer. Organic matter and nitrogen content were analyzed according to the methods of AOAC (1995). Phosphorus was determined by vanando-molybdate method and potassium was extracted with ammonium acetate and determined using the flame photometer.

Seeds of Moringa oleifera were obtained from the International Trypanotolerance Center, Gambia. A day before planting, the seeds were soaked in water in order to soften the hard seed coat and thereby increase germination.  They were subsequently planted in nursery bags which had been previously filled with humus soil. After one month of raising in the nursery, seedlings were transplanted on field plots at a spacing of 40 40 cm. Field planting was done by digging holes about 15 cm wide and 30 cm deep. 200g fresh cattle dung was put in each hole and the nursery bags were carefully placed inside. Weeding was done manually at one month intervals. Precipitation was by rainfall throughout the duration of the experiment.

After twelve weeks of establishment (just before flowering stage), when the average plant height and average stem diameter were 249cm and 3.5cm respectively, the plant foliage was cut back to 50, 100 or 150 cm above the ground level and they were subsequently pruned to these respective heights at intervals of 4, 5 and 6 weeks. The control plants were not pruned until the next flowering stage (i.e., every twelve weeks). Fodder yield per plot was determined by summing up the weight of fresh leaves and tender stems obtained at each pruning time in both seasons and multiplied by a factor 2500 to obtain yield per hectare.

The data were subjected to two-way analysis of variance using the general linear model (GLM) procedure of MINITAB (2000). Where significant F-values for treatment effect were found, means were separated by Least Significant Difference (LSD). Linear correlation and regression analyses to determine the relationship between the cutting regimes (X) and fodder yield (Y) were performed using a scientific calculator (Casio fx-7400G PLUS POWER GRAPHIC model). 


 The soil was slightly acidic and sandy with high organic matter, moderate nitrogen and low phosphorus and potassium contents (Table 1).

Table 1. Physical and chemical properties of soil at experimental site



Sand, %


Silt, %


Clay, %


Organic matter, %


Nitrogen, %


Phosphorus, C mol kg-1


Potassium, C mol kg-1


Mean fodder yield in the wet season was about six times higher than in the dry season (Table 2). In the rainy season,  frequent harvests (4 to 6 week intervals) at a height of 150 cm gave the highest yields (Figure 1); however, for the 12 week intervals yields were lowest when the cutting height was 150cm. In the dry season , treatment responses were quite different (Figure 2), with the 12 week harvest interval giving highest yields with a cutting height of 100cm.

Table 2. Effect of cutting height, cutting interval and their interaction on seasonal fodder yield (t/ha) of Moringa oleifera



Fresh matter by season

Dry matter by season







Cutting interval, weeks








































Cutting height, cm






















































Interval Height







abcd, Means in columns within main treatments with different superscripts are different at P<0.05

Figure 1. Mean values for DM yield of Moringa oleifera in the
rainy season according to cutting height and frequency
Figure 2. Mean values for DM yield of Moringa oleifera in the
dry season according to cutting height and frequency


The pH of the soil at the experimental site was within the range (6.3-7.0) reported to be preferred by Moringa oleifera (Fuglie and Sreeja 2001). Browse productivity (production per unit area) has been found to be linked to habitat and soil physic-chemical properties (Dicko and Sikena 1992). The highest annual DM yield obtained in this study (3.99 t/ha at 6 week harvest interval) compares favourably with 3.3 t/ha DM obtained by Foidl et al (2001) who used a spacing of 30 35 cm against 40 40 cm in the present study. Similarly, it is in agreement with Manh et al (2003) who obtained 15.5 t/ha fresh biomass at a spacing of 50 80 cm compared with 18.8 t/ha in this study.

The same authors also reported a value of 9.12 t/ha fresh matter yield for Leucaena leucocephala while Baumer (1992) reported 2.3 t/ha DM for Gliricidia sepium. This suggests that Moringa has the potential for higher fodder productivity than both Leucaena and Gliricidia. Apart from species effect, the differences in yield could be due to planting material used, as it has been reported that establishment of browse plants from seeds rather than stem cuttings resulted in deeper and more extensive root system which could penetrate the water table and draw on deep water resources as well as tap nutrients, thus increasing yield (Odeyinka and Ademosun 1993).

Season had significant effect on the yield of Moringa, contrary to the findings of Odeyinka and Ademosun (1993) for Gliricidia and Leucaena. The significant reduction in yield during the dry season could be due to moisture stress resulting in increase in the number of fallen leaves and the fact that this period coincides with flowering by the Moringa plant with consequent reduction in vegetative growth. Also, the contrast between Moringa on one hand and Gliricidia and Leucaena on the other hand in differences in wet and dry season yields could be due to the fact that the former is a non legume whereas the latter plants are legumes which are known for precocious growth even during the dry season.

The increase in forage yield with cutting height in the wet season was probably a reflection of the fact that availability of precipitation benefits taller plants more than their shorter counterparts as a result of better access of the former to sun light and hence higher rate of photosynthetic activity than the latter. In contrast, the reduction in yield in the dry season with cutting height was probably because lower cutting heights helped to conserve moisture as a result of lesser rate of evapo-transpiration at a time when soil moisture availability was limited. These contrasting findings are similar to those reported by Attah-krah and Sumberg (1988) for Gliricidia sepium.

It was observed in this study that when Moringa was left for a long time without being cut (ie: at 12 week harvest intervals in the wet weason), it had the tendency to grow up straight and tall like a mast, growing leaves only at its crown. To prevent this, Fuglie and Sreeja (2001) recommended regular pinching of the terminal tips of the plant in the first few months of growth before it flowers for the first time. According to the authors, this will enable the tree to form branches and develop a strong production frame for maximizing its yield. This implies that flowering probably has a negative effect on fodder yield of Moringa, consistent with the findings of Odeyinka and Ademosun (1993) for Leucaena and Gliricidia.



The authors are grateful to Dr. O O Akinbamijo of the International Trypanotolerant Centre, The Gambia for providing the seeds of Moringa oleifera.


Akinbamijo O O, Adediran S A, Nouala S and Saecker J 2004 Moringa fodder in ruminant nutrition in the Gambia. International Trypanotolerance Centre, Banjul, the Gambia.

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Received 22 August 2010; Accepted 1 October 2010; Published 1 February 2011

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