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2010, Vol. 5 No. 1, Article 53


A Study on Nutritional Potential of Aquatic Plants

K. A. Shah*, Syed Sumbul and Syed Anjum Andrabi


Department of Animal Husbandry (Kashmir), Srinagar


*Corresponding Author; e-mail address: khurshid@kashvet.org



A study was conducted to evaluate nutritional potential of three local aquatic plants, Nymphaea alba-water lilly (Bum), Nymphoides peltata (khor) and Hydrilla species (Khel) which grow abundantly in the Dal and other lakes and water bodies of Kashmir. Proximate analysis revealed that all the three plants had dry matter below 10%. Crude protein content of Hydrilla, Nymphaea and Nymphoides was 17.10%, 20.28% and 21.87% respectively. Ether extract level of Hydrilla (2.79%), Nymphaea (1.5%) and Nymphoides (3.5%) was also estimated. Ash content varied from 8% in Nymphaea to 19.45% in Hydrilla. Calcium content was 1.29%, 1.10% and 1.56% in Hydrilla, Nymphae and Nymphoides respectively. Fiber content was lowest (13.34%) in Hydrilla and highest (21%) in Nymphoides. Animals fed with aquatic plants (Group A) produced about 3 liters more milk per day per animal than straw fed (Group C) animals.There was however no significant difference in daily milk yield of Group A and Berseem fed (group B) animals .


Aquatic plants, animal feeding, milk yield.


Aquatic plants grow profusely in lakes and waterways all over the world and have become weedy in many lakes and ponds in India as well (Gupta, 2001). These may be categorized as floating submerged and emergent aquatic plants. For centuries, aquatic plants have been perceived as a nuisance rather than resource. They block canals, hinder boat traffic and increase water borne diseases. In the recent past numerous workers all over the globe have tried to explore the possibilities of using these plants as a source of animal feed (Anon ,1984) (Benergy and Matai, 1990) and as medicinal plants (Nandkarni, 1992), (Nagma and Sarwat, 2005) (Deepa et. al. 2009). In Jammu & Kashmir numerous aquatic plants like Nymphoides, Rannunculus, Nymphaea,  Hydrilla, Azolla, Nelumbo, Trapa etc. species are found in different lakes and water bodies (Bhat, 2002 ) which deplete their water quality and reduce their area. Owing to acute shortage of fodder in the valley, utilization of these plants as animal feed could be considered after evaluating their nutritional potential. Aquatic weeds are known to differ widely in their chemical composition depending upon species, season and location (Anon, 1984).
The present study was undertaken with an objective of carrying out the proximate analysis of three aquatic plants Nymphaea alba - water lilly (Bum), Nymphoides peltata (khor) and Hydrilla species (Khel) and recording effect of feeding these plants on milk yield of cattle under field conditions. Nymphaea alba (Fig 1) is an aquatic, floating perennial herb occurring in lakes,  ponds, ditches and similar water bodies in parts of valley below 5200 ft. sea level. Nymphaea alba is a well known and potent chemo preventive agent and suppresses Fe-NTA-induced oxidative stress, hyper proliferative response and renal carcinogenesis in Wistar rats (Naghma Khan and Sarwat Sultana, 2005). Nymphoides (Fig 2) is also a floating aquatic plant found in lakes and ponds of the valley and Hydrilla (Fig-3) is a submerged type of aquatic plant occurring in ponds lakes and ditches.


The plants were harvested in a lush green condition from different lakes of the valley to form eight replicate samples of each plant. The harvested samples were placed in polyethylene bags and transported to the laboratory where they were cut to include only leaves and petioles. These were then washed thoroughly and drained before being weighed and dried in an oven at 100°C to constant weight for dry matter determinations. Samples were ground in a mill and stored until analyses could be conducted for proximate components and calcium (AOAC, 1995).
To evaluate the effect of feeding these plants on milk production, a field trial was conducted on sixty cross bred cows of variable age and lactation in certain pockets of Srinagar where farmers were previously feeding aquatic plants adlib to cattle and claiming higher milk yields. The animals were randomly allotted to three groups, A, B & C with twenty animals in each group. Animals of Group A were fed with 10 kgs of the aquatic plants (all the three plants in equal quantity), 6 Kgs of concentrate and were also allowed 4-6 hours of grazing daily for 45 days. The same feeding schedule (Table 1) was adopted for animals of the other two groups but aquatic plants were replaced by green fodder (Berseem) in group B and by Paddy straw in Group C (control). The total quantity of feed was almost constant for all animals. The observations were based on the field trial hence all the treatments were carried out in the field animals randomly without selection but recorded properly.


The results regarding proximate components and calcium are indicated at (Table 2). Animals fed with aquatic plants (Group A) produced about 3 litres more milk per day per animal than straw fed (Group C) animals. There was however no major difference in daily milk yield of Group A and group B animals (Table3).


All the three plants had dry matter below 10% which lies in agreement with reports of Boyd (1968). Crude protein content of Hydrilla, Nymphaea and Nymphoides was 17.10%, 20.28% and 21.87% respectively which is comparable with findings of Polisini and Boyd (1972), the lower values observed in Hydrilla which is a submerged plant, may be due to environmental differences as nutrient concentration in the aquatic environment are known to affect crude protein contents of aquatic plants Hutchinson(1975). Ether extract level of Hydrilla (2.79%), Nymphaea (1.5) and Nymphoides (3.5%) falls within the range (1.18% - 5.42%) reported in aquatic plants by Boyd (1968). Ash content varied from 8% in Nymphaea to 19.45% in Hydrilla. Calcium content was 1.29, 1.10 and 1.56% in Hydrilla, Nymphae and Nymphoides respectively. Fiber content was lowest (13.34%) in Hydrilla and highest(21%) in Nymphoides. All these values fall in close agreement with the findings of Banerjee and Matai (1990).
The higher fiber content in Nymphaea and Nymphoides may be due to the fact that floating plants require more strength to support aerial vegetation. Nitrogen free extract ranged from 43.92% in Hydrilla to 62.22% in Nymphaea. These values are higher than those reported by Banerjee and Matai(1990). Among the three aquatic plants Nymphaea and Nymphoides were highly palatable and had almost negligible refusal where as in case of Hydrilla refusal was about 60-70%.
Nymphaea alba has medicinal properties and perusal of literature reveals that all these plants contain traces of alkaloids and polyphenols but within a range (Banerjee and Matai, 1990 and Bondi and Alumot, 1987) which will not produce any harmful effect to the animals
Nymphaea and Nymphoides contain crude protein (above 20%) which is higher than that of berseem hay (15-17%) and other conventionally used livestock feeds (Reddy 2001), calcium (1-1.5%) which is higher than that of all pasture grasses (0.1%) and all cereal grains (0.06-0.31%) (Lander 2001). The NFE, a non specific source of energy (50-62%) was higher than that of berseem hay (41%) and maize (51%) (Banerjee, 1980). The increase in milk yield of the animals fed with aquatic plants may be attributed to the higher nutrient content of these plants. Additionally, both Nymphae and Nymphoides had high palatability and palatable feeding stuffs are easily digested and tend to promote digestibility of the whole ration (Lander 2001). Thus these plants could used as a potential substitute for forages consumed by ruminants to over come fodder scarcity in the state. The nutrient content and palatability of Hydrilla was comparatively low with 60-70% refusal. Vast study with diversified parameters needs to be carried out on mineral content, digestibility, palatability and safety aspect of these plants.


The authors are highly indebted to Poultry Nutritionist and Assistant Poultry Nutritionist, Department of Animal Husbandry for their valuable support.


  1. Anon. 1984. Making aquatic weeds useful : some perspectives for developing countries. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 175.

  2. AOAC, 1995. Official methods of analysis (14th ed.) Association of Official Analytic Chemistry, Washington

  3. Banerjee, A. and Matai. S. 1990. Composition of Indian aquatic plants in relation to utilization as Animal Forage: J . Aquat. Plant Manage. 28: , 69-73

  4. Banerjee, G. C. 1988: Feeds and Principles of Animal Nutrition (2nd Ed.) Oxford and IBH Pub. Co. Delhi P630-40

  5. Bhat, N.A. 2002: Some Common Wild Flowers of Srinagar. Makoff printers Delhi

  6. Bondi, A and Alumot, E. 1987: Anti nutritive factors in Animal feed stuffs and their effects on live stock. Progress in Food and Nutrition Science (11) ; 115-151

  7. Boyd, C.E. 1968 Fresh water plants: a potential source of protein. Economic Botony 22: 359-368.

  8. Christine Pollock from: http://www.ehow.com/facts_5649884_aquatic-plants-used-cattle-feed.html

  9. Deepa, M Usha, P.T.A., Nair.,CP Prasanna Kumar: 2009. Antipyretic activity of seeds from Nelumbo nucifera in Albino rat: Veterinary World Vol. 2(6) 213-14

  10. Gupta, O.P.1987. In: Aquatic Weed management, I V F .Pub. Co. Ltd. New Delhi

  11. Hutchinson, G. 1975 Limnological Botany ,New York p 260-395

  12. Lander, P. 2001 The Feeding of Farm Animals in India, Biotech Books Delhi p-303-312

  13. Naghma Khan and Sarwat Sultana. 2005. Anticarcinogenic effect of Nymphaea alba against oxidative damage, hyperproliferative response and renal carcinogenesis in Wistar rats. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 271: 1-11.

  14. Nandkarni, A.K. 1992: Nandkarni’s Indian Meteria Medica , Vol.1 p-845

  15. Polisini M. and Boyd, C. 1972: Relation between cell wall fraction, nitrogen and standing crop in aquatic macrophytes. Ecology. (53) 483-90

  16. Reddy, D.V. 2001 Principles of Animal Nutrition and Feed Technology Oxford and IVH Pub. Co. Delhi


Table-1 Schedule of feeding

Feeding hours

Group A

Group B

Group C






Aquatic plants -10kgs

Green fodder-10kgs

Paddy straw-10kgs





Table 2: Chemical composition of aquatic plants (% DM)





Organic Matter          




Crude Protein             




Ether Extract               




Total Ash                   




Crude Fiber                 




Nitrogen Free Extract  








Dry matter





Table3: Daily average milk yield of cows under different feeding schedules


Daily milk yield(Litre)







Fig 1: Nymphaea alba



Fig 2: Nymphoides peltata

Nymphoides peltata


Fig 3: Hydrilla spp.




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