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Acanthus -mollis, a wild ornamental plant with very high nutritive value



Acanthus -mollis, a wild ornamental plant with very high nutritive value



Ann Ist Sperim Zootec Roma 8: 101-140



Acanthus mollis, used with good results in feeding lactating goats and dairy cows in some parts of Sicily, was found in clusters of a certain abundance in shady places. Experiments were carried on at the farm of Tor Mancina of the Institute Sperimentale Zootecnico, Rome, where the possibility of its cultivation, fertility, chemical composition, digestibility and nutritive value were studied from 1951 to the present. The plant has the characteristics of a perennial plant with vegetative-rest periods in summer and a quick growth in spring and autumn. Sown in rows at a distance of 35 to 50 cm with 40-50 kg seed per ha, a medium dense stand is gained with 10 to 16 plants per m2. A spring and autumn crop, large leaved, bushy forage, can be evaluated on the non irrigated culture at more than 10, 000 Scandinavian units and at 1800 kg digestible protein per ha. The chemical composition of A. mollis is very similar or superior to leguminous forages. The protein content in the pre-flowering and autumn stages is superior to alfalfa and clovers at the same vegetative stages. The standard of fiber in the pre-flowering and autumn crops and in the last flowering stage is below that of leguminous forage. Its mineral content, especially calcium (7.7% in 100 ash) and phosphorus (3.1%) is almost the same as that of Vicia fabar. minor, and other leguminous fodders. Its content of [beta]-carotene in the pre-flowering stage and in the autumn is equal or superior to that of alfalfa or other leguminous forages. The digestibility, examined for a number of years in a sequence of 6 experiments on a total of 16 subjects, was very high in the pre-flowering and autumn periods. There was good agreement in data between the various experiments. There were slightly lower but still high values for digestibility of the plant in full bloom or in the advanced flowering stage. The nutritive value, calculated from the chemical composition, and the digestibility determined in 4 experiments made on autumn crops (also valid for the spring pre-flowering stage), was around 99 Scandinavian Units with 21.4 kg digestible protein in 100 kg dry matter, and around 103 Scandinavian Units with 13. 4 kg digestible protein in 100 kg dry matter in the full or advanced flowering stage of the plant. The above figures demonstrate the advantage of introducing the cultivation of A. mollis in order to increase the number of available forage varieties and diffusing it in southern farms where, on account of the lack of agricultural man power, the land is not cultivated intensely any more.

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