Asad Saeed, Mohsin Tanveer, Shahbaz Atta Tung, Ali Ahsan Bajwa
Global environment is rapidly changing due to increase in global warming, associated with CO2 concentration leading to higher ambient temperatures. Expected reduction of agricultural production will cause serious problems. These threats are aggravated by limited freshwater resources and impending soil salinization. Irrigated agricultural production already has decreased 20–35% due to increasing levels of salinity Fast growing population is suffering from severe shortage of water and food which will aggravate with time. These problems could be partially alleviated by utilization of low quality irrigation water such as saline groundwater or seawater on appropriate wastelands for production of non-conventional crops especially in arid regions. Most of the conventional crops cannot tolerate salinity even al low concentrations. It is therefore necessary to develop sustainable biological production systems for brackish or high salinity water irrigation. The development of suitable halophytic crops has been considered for the production of food, forage, oil, wood, timber, ornamental, medicine and biofuel. A candidate for an economic and ecologically sustainable production system at arid conditions could be Panicum turgidum Forssk. It xerohalophyte is a tussock-grass, commonly found in the salt deserts of southern Pakistan but also in other arid areas. Panicum turgidum is a perennial, growing as dense bushes up to 1 m tall. It bends over and roots at the nodes. Leaves few, stems hard, bamboo-like, solid, smooth and polished; 2.5-3 mm in diameter, emitting from the nodes panicles of branches in tufts from a swollen base with panicle terminal, 3-10 cm long; spikelets 3-4 mm long, solitary. The roots are remarkable for their clothing of root hairs to which fine sand adheres, giving them a felty appearance. It is distributed from Pakistan west through the Arabian peninsula to northern Africa. In various parts of world, it has been renowned as Taman or tuman (Sudan), afezu (Nigerian Sahel), guinchi (eastern Sahara), thaman (Kuwait), markouba (Mauritania), du-ghasi (Somalia). It is native to Dead Sea Depression, at -380 m at Shor-es-Safiyeh, to 3 200 m in the Tibesti Mountains of the central Sahara. In the open tussock communities in Mauritania and the western Sahara plants survive by dissociating themselves from one another rather than growing in association. The root-stock is stout and the root fibres strong and woody; the root hairs bind particles of fine sand by the extrusion of a glue which allows them to absorb more moisture from the soil.
It is usually found on deep dune sand, but will grow in a well-drained latosol. The plant usually spreads by the bending over of the stems until the nodes reach the ground, where they take root to form a new plant. No preparation is necessary in the sandy environment in which it grows. In the Sahel it begins flowering in August, continues flowering through to February and is mature in June. The tuft grows again each year. There is a variation within the species, and there are forms with high grain yields. The vegetative yields of these forms in Near Eastern collections were up to twice those from Mauritania, especially at low levels of nutrients. Main attributed of this crop is its drought tolerance, sand-binding characteristics and grain production, while Main deficiency is its woodiness. It is native to hot, dry, arid climates with 4-38°N, longitude 17°W-80°E. The young leaves and shoots are very palatable; even in the dry state it is still eaten by camels and donkeys. There is little response to nitrogen, but some to phosphorus and potash. The Tuareg inhabitants of the Ahaggar Mountains in the central Sahara eat the grain. It is ground into flour and made into porridge. It is also used for thatch, and mats (the Tuaregs use the stems with a weft of thin leather strips). The ashes are added to tobacco for chewing, and the powder from ground stems is used for healing wounds. It is valuable for fixing dunes in the 100-400 mm rainfall areas. In the neighbourhood of the Red Sea, P. turgidum covers the whole of the coastal plain. Panicum turgidum is a perennial bunchgrass, growing in dense bushes up to 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall. It has roots at the nodes which are covered in hairs to which fine sand adheres creating a felty appearance.
P. turgidum is a remarkable drought-resistant species. Established plants may survive for several years without rain. It appears to be tolerant to fairly high salinity stress. Therefore, it is a good species for stabilizing loose soil. Since many native grasses of the coastal strip of Egypt are spring growers, the summer growth of P. turgidum may make this species suitable as complementary forage for the deteriorated lands of the western coastal desert of Egypt. P. turgidum has the merit of being resistant to drought and also an effective sand-binding xerophytes. Wind-borne sand usually accumulates around the bushes of P. Turgidum forming isolated mounds that gradually enlarge and eventually coalesce and form sandy patches that cover the original gravely or stony bed. Thus, it is one of the best grasses to protect the soil against transportation by both wind and water. Accordingly, P. turgidum is usually used in many rehabilitation programmes in arid regions. Also due to the high palatability of this grass it is considered an important fodder and grazing plant for many animals, especially in summer when annuals disappear and shortage in natural forage occurs. Also, in dry conditions, P. turgidum provides grazing as standing hay. Since many native grasses of the coastal strip of Egypt are spring growers, the summer growth of P. turgidum may make this species suitable as complementary forage for the deteriorated lands of the western coastal desert of Egypt. Panicum turgidum is halophyte with remarkable importance in biofuel production. As stated before, it is distributed in coastal area of Karachi, thus can be employed in biofuel production.
Panicum tyrgidum: A resilient fodder and excellent biofuel crop
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