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Azolla ferns replace imported livestock feed

A Palestinian farmer in Gaza has become the first to succeed in growing Azolla ferns to feed his farm animals without paying high prices for imported fodder.

Mohammed Asad from the Middle East Monitor reports that Wael Musallem owns a poultry and cattle farm and had relied completely on imported fodder to feed the animals, driving him into debt. “After several failed attempts to find the right way to plant Azollas, I succeeded in planting them, relying on my past experience in agriculture. I have about 300-500 metres of containers of planted Azollas, and I use them as feed for my fish, ducks, cattle and poultry,” said Mr Musallem.


  • A Palestinian farmer in Gaza has successfully created Azolla ferns that have enabled him to feed his animals without paying for imported fodder. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

    A Palestinian farmer in Gaza has successfully created Azolla ferns that have enabled him to feed his animals without paying for imported fodder. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

  • Wael Musallem has about 300-500 metres of containers of planted Azollas. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

    Wael Musallem has about 300-500 metres of containers of planted Azollas. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

Aquatic ferns

Azollas include 7 species of aquatic ferns that float on water. They have symbiotic bonds with algae and a high percentage of protein, ranging between 25% and 30% of their dry weight. It is also used as a biofertiliser, according to the Middle East Monitor.

“Azollas are planted once and they reproduce on their own based on the water area allocated to the plant. It requires a specific climate and the water area must be 50% covered. It also must not be under direct sunlight,” he explained.


  • Azollas are planted once and they reproduce on their own based on the water area allocated to the plant. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

    Azollas are planted once and they reproduce on their own based on the water area allocated to the plant. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

  • Azollas include 7 species of aquatic ferns that float on water surfaces. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

    Azollas include 7 species of aquatic ferns that float on water surfaces. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

Alternative feed type

The farmer noted that he has been able to almost completely eliminate some kinds of feed and use Azollas as an alternative. He noted that 90% of fish feed can be made of Azollas, and 70% for cattle, with the addition of a small amount of corn because they need carbohydrates. For poultry, Azollas can make up 50% of their feed.

Azollas have symbiotic bonds with algae and a high percentage of protein. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor
Azollas have symbiotic bonds with algae and a high percentage of protein. Photo: Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor

Mr Musallem also pointed out that he managed to replace 90% of the feed he used to import with Azollas for fish and 65% for ducks.