The native Napier grass could hold the key to improving diets, boosting farming yields and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in East Africa.

Growing and using Napier as a nutrient rich animal fodder on the farm, could also reduce pressure on forests, according to new research.

Intensive farming -- increasing yields by using more fertilisers or nutrient-rich animal fodder -- is often assumed to come at the cost of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

A new study, by researchers at Lancaster and Wageningen Universities and the Centre for International Forestry Research in Kenya, suggests that by using Napier grass it is possible to intensify small-scale dairy farming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, 'Intensification of dairy production can increase the GHG mitigation potential of the land use sector in East Africa', modelled the impact on greenhouse gas emissions and efficiency of three scenarios for feeding nutrient-rich diets to dairy cows in Kenya.

Unlike previous studies, the research factored in the impact of cattle's diets on land use and forests, as well as measuring the emissions involved in producing the fodder and how diet alters the amount of methane cows emit.

(Source: Agriculture and Food News, ScienceDaily.