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Antelope grass (Echinochloa pyramidalis)


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Common names 

Antelope grass, limpopo grass, pasto limpago, sil grass (Ecoport, 2010; USDA, 2010)


Echinochloa holubii (Stapf) Stapf, Panicum holubii Stapf, Panicum pyramidale Lam., Panicum quadrifarium Hochst. ex A. Rich.

Related feed(s) 

Antelope grass (Echinochloa pyramidalis (Lam.) Hitchc. & Chase.) is a tall perennial grass, usually 1.8-2.4 m high but occasionally reaching 3.4-4.5 m. Culms are reed-like: erect or geniculate, with roots growing out from the lower nodes. Leaves are blade-shaped, stiff, expanded or folded, 8-60 cm long x 2-25 mm wide. Leaf sheaths can be hairy or glabrous. Inflorescences are racemes (3-20 cm long) borne along a central axis (8-40 cm long). Spikelet packing is irregular, 4- to 6-rowed. Spikelets are acute, awnless and 3-4 mm long (FAO, 2010; Quattrocchi, 2006; Clayton et al., 2006). Echinochloa pyramidalis has a very strong fasciculated root system that is able to spread quickly throughout the soil (Barbiero et al., 2001).

Echinochloa pyramidalis is mainly grown for fodder in pure and dense stands with a leafy table at 1.2-2 m. It is relished by livestock and able to withstand heavy grazing (Ecocrop, 2010; Quattrocchi, 2006). It starts growing during the rainy season but it is also a good source of fresh fodder during dry season since it is able to regrow quickly and vigorously after dry season fires, even in very dry conditions. Types with glabrous leaf sheath may be used for hay (FAO, 2010). The grain is used as human food in some parts of Africa (FAO, 2010).


Echinochloa pyramidalis is native to tropical Africa, Southern Africa and Madagascar. It grows in swampy areas, seasonally flooded areas and wet clay soils, alongside water and in floating meadows (FAO, 2010; Quattrocchi, 2006). It is a highly productive C4 plant with an optimum growth temperature above 30°C. It grows best at altitudes ranging from sea level up to 300-1500 m, on badly drained alluvial black clays and alkaline soils (FAO, 2010). It is well suited to clayey depressions that are periodically flooded (Barbiero et al., 2001). Antelope grass is frost sensitive (FAO, 2010). It can withstand long periods of drought and grow in dry lands with a satisfactory yield (Bogdan, 1977).

Forage management 

Echinochloa pyramidalis can achieve DM yields of 15.3 t DM/ha/year in 12 cuts when grown in permanently flooded mangrove areas (Nascimento et al., 1988). In Guyana, DM production increased from 21.3 t DM/ha to 27.6 t/DM ha when harvested after 21 or 35 days (Seaton et al., 1994). Phosphorus addition can increase yields (Smith et al., 1991). In a semi-arid climate, harvest at 42 days gave better quality hay than at 56 or 98 days (Braga et al., 2008). In the Amazon Basin and under rotational grazing, much lower yields of 0.39-0.76 t/ha were obtained (12-day grazing and 40-day rest period), with a 50% decrease between the 1st and 4th cut, suggesting that this type of management is inadequate (Abreu et al., 2006). In order to maximize forage use efficiency and to prevent losses due to leaf senescence, a 25-day regrowth interval has been recommended, as leaf senescence increases strongly after 25 days (Andrade et al., 2008).

Environmental impact 

Thanks to its dense, tangled, floating stems that root at the nodes, Echinochloa pyramidalis can have a protective effect against wave action on the walls of earth dams and flood-induced erosion of river banks (FAO, 2010). It has been tested successfully in sludge dewatering beds. Increasing concentrations of faecal sludge had a positive effect on the sturdiness and productivity of Echinochloa pyramidalis: it yielded 150 DM t/ha/year of above-ground biomass, and 30 DM t/ha/year of below-ground biomass (Kengne et al., 2008). Echinochloa pyramidalis was able to remove 50-80% of nutrients in distillery wastewater (Fonkou et al., 2010).

In some humid situations, Echinochloa pyramidalis is considered one of the most troublesome weeds, e.g. in the aquatic system of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Bishundial et al., 1997) or in the freshwater wetlands of the Mexican tropics (Lopez Rosas et al., 2006). This alien species reduces biodiversity by replacing native species. To eliminate this species completely, it is necessary to recreate the natural topography and hydrology of the wetland and to select control mechanisms that disrupt the growth characteristics (e.g. rapid propagation from rhizomes and horizontal expansion via tillers) that make this grass more competitive than native species (Lopez Rosas et al., 2006).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Echinochloa pyramidalis has a variable composition that depends on the season and age of regrowth. The average crude protein content of 21 samples was 6.5% DM (± 3.9) (Feedipedia, 2013), but much higher values have been reported, such as 15% (Bogdan, 1977) or 20% (Abreu et al., 2006). At six weeks, the concentrations of crude protein and structural and non-structural carbohydrates were respectively 9.8%, 44.3% and 51.2% DM (Adebowale, 1988)Crude protein content, P, K, Na, Fe, Zn and Cu were higher during periods of rainfall, while the Ca, Mg, S, Mn and B were higher in drier periods. Sulfur is the only element that was below the ideal level for the nutrition of cattle (0.2 to 0.5 g/kg) (Abreu et al., 2006). The crude protein content of hay decreased from 6.6% to 4.7% between days 42 days and 98 (sampled at 42, 56, 70, 84 and 98 days) (Braga et al., 2008).

Potential constraints 

No toxicity of this plant has been reported (Adebowale, 1988; Abiola et al., 2010).


Echinochloa pyramidalis is a good fodder used for hay and silage, and is excellent for dry-season grazing after burning of waste biomass (Adebowale, 1988). Although very coarse, animals graze it easily at ground level at the end of the dry season (Abiola et al., 2010). It is of great value as deferred feed for cattle, sheep and goats throughout tropical Africa (Abiola et al., 2010).


Echinochloa pyramidalis is highly palatable, especially at the early growth stage, and was among the most palatable (with Digitaria eriantha) of 15 species evaluated for their feeding potential in Venezuela (Cunha et al., 1974). It becomes less palatable at later stages of regrowth, even at the early flowering stage (Bogdan, 1977).


In Guyana, heifers continuously grazing antelope grass had a daily weight gain of 300 g/day and 754 g/ha at an optimum stocking rate of 1.1 head/ha (Seaton et al., 1994). Pasture containing Echinochloa pyramidalisCynodon dactylonDigitaria eriantha and Digitaria swazilandensis, with a 28-day (or less) grazing, was able to maintaining up to 5 cows/ha/year (Cunha et al., 1975).


Black Belly sheep were fed on chopped Echinochloa pyramidalis for 3 years (4.5 kg/ewe/day supplemented with rice bran, wheat middlings and copra meal). Reproductive performance was satisfactory: 40% ewes lambed once per year, 52% ewes had 2 lambs per litter and lambing percentage was 139%.The percentage of lambs weaned per ewe mated was 98.9; birth weight was 1.8 kg (Davis et al., 1994).


Goats could be maintained on Echinochloa pyramidalis after six weeks growthas it was better ingested than grass after 3, 9 or 12-weeks of growth. At the six weeks stage, daily digestible DM intake was 30 MJ/kg W0.75, DE intake was 0.60 MJ/kg W0.75 and nitrogen retention was 0.1 g/kg W0.75 (Davis et al., 1994).


No information found (2013).

Nutritional tables

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 27.7 2.5 22.9 31.7 18
Crude protein % DM 6.5 2.3 3.2 13.4 21
Crude fibre % DM 38.7 2.0 34.5 41.3 19
NDF % DM 73.6 *
ADF % DM 44.9 *
Lignin % DM 6.5 *
Ether extract % DM 1.5 0.3 1.1 2.1 18
Ash % DM 8.5 3.2 5.8 17.9 21
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.1 *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Calcium g/kg DM 3.3 0.7 2.0 5.0 20
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.5 0.5 0.9 2.4 20
Potassium g/kg DM 17.2 6.5 8.8 32.4 20
Sodium g/kg DM 0.2 1
Magnesium g/kg DM 2.5 0.6 1.5 3.4 20
Manganese mg/kg DM 419 1
Zinc mg/kg DM 23 1
Copper mg/kg DM 3 1
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 57.9 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 55.3 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.0 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.1 *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


CIRAD, 1991; Dougall et al., 1965

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:37

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
Dry matter % as fed 82.5 1
Crude protein % DM 15.6 1
Crude fibre % DM 33.5 1
NDF % DM 68.8 *
ADF % DM 39.2 *
Lignin % DM 5.2 *
Ether extract % DM 2.4 1
Ash % DM 10.2 1
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.4 *
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb
OM digestibility, Ruminant % 62.3 *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 58.8 *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.8 *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.6 *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 56.5 1

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Walker, 1975

Last updated on 24/10/2012 00:43:38

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Boval M., 2016. Antelope grass (Echinochloa pyramidalis). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/448 Last updated on March 21, 2016, 15:47

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)
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