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  • Azolla (mosquito fern, duckweed fern, fairy moss, water fern) is a genus of seven species of aquatic ferns, the only genus in the family Azollaceae. They are extremely reduced in form and specialized, looking nothing like conventional ferns but more resembling duckweed or some mosses. They float on the surface of water by means of numerous, small, closely-overlapping scale-like leaves, with their roots hanging in the water.
  • Azolla are also serious weeds in many parts of the world, covering bodies of water so thickly that no water is exposed. This is where they derive the name 'mosquito fern', from the belief that no mosquito can penetrate the coating of fern to lay its eggs in the water. Azolla is reputed to be able to grow so quickly that it can double its mass in three days under good conditions.
  • Most of the species can produce large amounts of anthocyanins in bright sunlight, creating an intense red color and causing the water surface to appear to be covered with a red carpet.Mosquito ferns are safe to grow in cool temperate areas with prolonged freezing in winter, as they cannot overwinter in these conditions. They are often grown as an ornamental plant by water-garden hobbyists.
  • Azolla can reproduce asexualy by breaking off. Each branch that breaks off forms a new plant. Azolla can also reproduce sexually. Like all ferns, Azolla produce spores. Unlike most ferns, Azolla produces two kinds of spores. The male sporocarp is greenish or reddish and looks like the egg mass of an insect or spider. It is two millimeters in diameter, and inside are numerous male sporangia. 
  • Azolla has reportedly been used as a feed for pigs and ducks in SE Asia; for cattle, fish and poultry in Vietnam; and for pigs in Singapore and Taiwan. It is described as an excellent substitute for green forage for cattle in Vietnam and may replace up to 50% of the rice bran used as feed for pigs in that country. Although very low in DM, it contains a high level of protein (24% CP). The amino acid composition of Azolla compared well with reference protein sources. 
  • As a supplement for growing pigs, performance was reduced compared to controls in the growing phase but the animals compensated and grew faster in the period from 24-89 kg. It has been used as a sole feed for lactating sows which have a higher intake to deal with the low DM content. 
    Ducks (650-1800g LW) consumed 350g Azolla when given free-choice with sugarcane juice and soya. It is also used for grazing ducks and geese in paddy fields where the Azolla is used as a fertilizer.
  • Based on year 2000 data, the cost savings (per user per hectare) resulting from the biological control program included a reduction of on-site damages caused by the weed to the value of US$589 per hectare per year.

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