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Spotted brachiaria (Brachiaria nigropedata)


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Common names 

Spotted brachiaria, spotted signal grass, black-footed grass, spotted false paspalum, sweet grass [English]; haasgras, krulgras, soetgrass, swartvoetjie, swartvoetjiegras, wurmsinjaalgras, wurmpiesgras [Afrikaans]; Schwarzfüßchen [German]; beye-llxui-doaglam (-si), glaqm [Jul'hoan]; beye||xui-doa [Kxoe]; muranganandho, muranganandhoghoro [Thimbukushu]; chiDyashana [Tonga]


Urochloa nigropedata (Munro ex Ficalho & Hiern) A. M. Torres & C. M. Morton; Panicum nigropedatum (Ficalho & Hiern.)

Taxonomic information 

Many Brachiaria species, including Brachiaria nigropedata, have been placed by some authors in the Urochloa genus, so the taxon Urochloa nigropedata is often considered as the correct one. However, these changes remain disputed and recent papers still refer to Brachiaria nigropedata (Torres González et al., 2005).

Related feed(s) 

Spotted brachiaria (Brachiaria nigropedata (Munro ex Ficalho & Hiern) Stapf) is a tropical grass that is mostly used for forage in dry areas of Eastern and Southern Africa. It is well grazed by livestock. It can also be used for mats, and to prevent soil erosion (SEPASAL, 2007).


Spotted brachiaria (Brachiaria nigropedata) is a densely tufted perennial grass species that grows to a height of 25-100 cm. It is shortly rhizomatous. The wiry leaves are bright or dull green in colour, flat, pubescent, 6-30 cm long x 2-8 mm wide. They grow from the base, taper to a very fine point and curl when old (Hyde et al., 2017; SEPASAL, 2007). The inflorescence is a 3-14 cm long racemose. The racemes are 1-6 cm long bearing silky villous, ovate elliptic spikelets, 3.5-5 mm in length, darkly coloured, turning purple black at maturity (FAO, 2017; Hyde et al., 2017).


Spotted brachiaria is mainly used for forage production. It is useful for making mats and adhesives for arrows. It has environmental uses such as revegetation and soil binding. Mats made of this species are used in hunting rituals in Namibia (SEPASAL, 2007).


Brachiaria nigropedata is native to eastern tropical Africa (Kenya, Tanzania), southern tropical Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and southern Africa (SEPASAL, 2007). It is naturally found in open or bushed grassland, often on sandy soil and rocky ground from 500 m to 1600 m altitude (FAO, 2017; Hyde et al., 2017). It was reported to grow on granitic soils in the Kruger National Park in South Africa (Miles et al., 1996). In southern Africa, Brachiaria nigropedata occurs in Eragrostis vegetation types where annual rainfall is between 250 and 500 mm. This type of vegetation is suitable for extensive livestock use (Rattray, 1978).

Environmental impact 

Erosion control and reclamation

Brachiaria nigropedata is a pioneering grass. It is useful against erosion as its roots produce an exudate that binds soil particles. It helps for revegetation of copper-rich soils (SEPASAL, 2007).

Environmental indicator

Brachiaria nigropedata is an indicator of good condition in the veld. It is sensitive to overgrazing and one of the first grasses to disappear in such case (SEPASAL, 2007).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Nutritional information about Brachiaria nigropedata is scarce. It seems to be a grass of relatively poor to medium quality with a protein content about 6-12% DM, and even lower (2-6% DM) during the dry season (Aganga et al., 2005; Dougall et al., 1965; Skarpe et al., 1986; Lascano et al., 1996). NDF values of 65-75% DM have been reported and are in the range of other Brachiaria species (Aganga et al., 2005; Lascano et al., 1996).


Spotted brachiaria is appreciated for its good forage production, nutritive value, and palatability. It is considered a sweet grass (hence some of its names in English and Afrikaans), relished by all stock and game species (SEPASAL, 2007). In the Kalahar sandveld (Botswana), where it represented 25% of grass cover, spotted brachiaria was reported to be well grazed by cattle without particular problem (Mudongo et al., 2016). It was reported to be preferred by sable antelope (SEPASAL, 2007).

Reported in vitro DM digestibilities in the Colombian llanos range from 48% in the dry season to 65-73% in the rainy season (Lascano et al., 1996). In Botswana, DM digestibility of spotted brachiaria was shown to be relatively low (42 or 43%) in the hardveld and the Kalahari sandveld, two important places for cattle herds. During the dry season, in the Kalahari sandveld, spotted brachiaria together with rangeland species did not satisfy animal requirements and the animals lost weight. During the rainy season a good animal performance was obtained, though (PANESA, 1988).


No information seems available in the international literature on the use of spotted brachiaria in rabbit feeding (2017). However, this sweet grass is well grazed by livestock in Africa without particular problem (Mudongo et al., 2016). Since other Brachiaria such as Brachiaria decumbens, B. ruziziensis, B. mutica or B. brizantha are commonly used to feed rabbits, mainly as a source of fibre, Brachiaria nigropedata is probably a potential source of forage for rabbits, but experiments would be necessary before extensive use.

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

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 42.6 12.9 33.6 63.8 5  
Crude protein % DM 8.8 2.2 6.3 12.3 6  
Crude fibre % DM 30.7          
Ether extract % DM 1.6          
Ash % DM 11.5   9 14 2  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 66         *
Acid detergent fibre % DM 36         *
Lignin % DM 4.5         *
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.5         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 3.2 0.9 1.8 4.1 6  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 1.4 0.6 0.7 2.3 5  
Magnesium g/kg DM 1.2          
Potassium g/kg DM 9.3          
Sodium g/kg DM 0.14          
Manganese mg/kg DM 58          
Copper mg/kg DM 7          
Iron mg/kg DM 1066          
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.6         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 8.6         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 61         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 63         *

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


Aganga et al., 2005; Dougall et al., 1965; Skarpe et al., 1986

Last updated on 11/12/2017 14:54:28

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Thiollet H., Tran G., Lebas F., 2018. Spotted brachiaria (Brachiaria nigropedata). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/485 Last updated on June 15, 2018, 13:23

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