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New Uses of Moringa Studied in Nicaragua

New Uses of Moringa Studied in Nicaragua

We featured the work of Dr. Lowell Fuglie (Church World Service, Dakar, Senegal) with the moringa tree as a base for a nutrition program in EDN 64. When he spoke at ECHO’s conference last November he told us that he had heard of innovative research into uses of moringa in Nicaragua. In April of this year he made a trip to Nicaragua to see this work first-hand. The following is his report on that trip. While parts of this project make use of machinery that few in our network would have available, the results can still be helpful. You might find a way to adapt to your situation, even if yields might be less. Editor.


I was able to pay a 4-day visit to Nicaragua last week to see the work done by Nikolaus and Gabriele Foidl of BIOMASA in research on the moringa tree (Moringa oleifera). They have accumulated a wealth of new information about the use of moringa in agroforestry systems, as cattle feed, as a growth hormone for plants, as well as insights into oil extraction and water treatment.

BIOMASA is an agricultural research program located in Nicaragua that has studied various aspects of moringa for over six years.

Moringa Leaf Extract As A Plant Growth Hormone
Juice from fresh moringa leaves can be used to produce an effective plant growth hormone, increasing yields by 25-30% for nearly any crop: onions, bell pepper, soya, maize, sorghum, coffee, tea, chili, melon … One of the active substances is Zeatin: a plant hormone from the Cytokinines group. This foliar spray should be used in addition to (and not in lieu of) other fertilizers, watering and sound agricultural practices.

In one trial, use of this spray increased maize yields from 60 to 130 sacks per hectare. Using this hormone, BIOMASA was able to grow coffee at 30 meters altitude. Coffee, shaded with Jatropha curcas, produced beans in just 17 months.

Here is how they make the spray:

a) Make an extract by grinding young moringa shoots (not more than 40 days old) together with a bit of water (about one liter per 10 kg fresh material).

b) Filter the solid out of the solution. This can be done by placing the solution in a cloth and wringing out the liquid. The solid matter, which will contain 12-14% protein, can be used as livestock feed.

c) Dilute the extract with water at a 1:32 ratio and spray directly onto plants (if the extract is not going to be used within five hours, it is best stored in a freezer until needed). Apply about 25 ml per plant.

The foliar spray should be applied 10 days after the first shoots emerge fromthe soil, again about 30 days before plants begin to flower, again when seed appears and finally once more during the maturation phase.


For bulk orders, local fertilizer producers can mix this to order. Barring that, adding urea to existing fertilizers can provide many of the needed nutrients. [Ed.: Note that the soils in other locations may be able to provide a portion of these requirements and fertilizer needs may be different.]

Moringa As Livestock Feed

BIOMASA conducted extensive trials using moringa leaves as cattle feed (beef and milk cows), swine feed, and poultry feed. With moringa leaves constituting 40-50% of feed, milk yields for dairy cows and daily weight gains for beef cattle increased 30%. Birth weight, averaging 22 kg for local Jersey cattle, increased by 3-5 kg.

The high protein content of moringa leaves must be balanced with other energy food. Cattle feed consisting of 40-50% moringa leaves should be mixed with molasses, sugar cane, young elephant grass, sweet (young) sorghum plants, or whatever else is locally available. The maximum protein and fiber content of livestock feed should be:

Protein | Fiber Lactating Cow: | 18% | 26-30% Beef Cow: | 12-14% | 36%
Lactating Sow: | 16-18% | 5-7%
Meat Pig: | 12-14% | 5-7%

Care must be taken to avoid excessive protein intake. Too much protein in pig feed will increase muscle development at the expense of fat production. In cattle feed, too much protein can be fatal (from alteration of the nitrogen cycle).

Nutrient value of moringa leaves can be increased for poultry and swine through the addition of an enzyme (phytase) to break down the phytates, leading to increased absorption of the phosphorus found in moringa. The enzyme should be simply mixed in with the leaves without heating. It is NOT for use with ruminants. [Companies that sell phytase include Roche (Hoffman-LaRoche), which has distributors worldwide. ECHO was quoted a price of US$6.40/kg of Ronozymetm P (also sold as Roxazymetm in some regions). One kilo of enzyme at that concentration can treat 3333 kg of broiler chicken feed, the same amount of swine feed, or 5555 kg layer chicken feed. If you don’t know of a local Roche dealer you can find one on the internet at or write to their mail order address at Roche Vitamins Inc., PO Box 910, Nutley, NJ 07110-1199, USA.]

Cattle were fed 15-17 kg of moringa daily. Milking should be done at least three hours after feeding to avoid the grassy taste of moringa in the milk.

With moringa feed, milk production was 10 liters/day. Without moringa feed, milk production was 7 liters/day.

With moringa feed, daily weight gain of beef cattle was 1,200 grams/day. Without moringa feed, daily weight gain of beef cattle was 900 grams/day.

The higher birth weight (3-5 kg) can be problematic for small cattle. It may be advisable to induce birth 10 days prematurely to avoid problems. Incidence of twin births also increased dramatically with moringa feed: 3 per 20 births as opposed to the usual average of 1:1000.