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Melinis minutiflora Beauv.

Molasses grass, Stinkgrass

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


A well-known pasture, hay, and fodder grass in various tropical countries. Livestock must become accustomed to the grass before they eat it readily. Grass, used for leys in Kenya, is useful as a cover crop and mulch. Odor of fresh grass believed to repel insects, snakes, and ticks. Although grass has a foul odor at certain stages, dried grass is free of this odor. The grass is palatable to cattle once they become accustomed to the smell. In Tanganyika, the bruised leaf is rubbed on animals as an insect repellant, and the grass is used for nesting hens to control insect vermin. The whole plant is insecticidal and has been cultivated in Brazil and Central Africa for this purpose (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). Of six grass species investigated, molasses grass showed the highest anti-tick properties while Andropogon gayanus had the ability to maintain a defined, constantly low, initial host tick infestation and lengthy but low to moderate field tick population. Melinis minutiflora is a species which would best be used in a tick control within a marginal tick zone, while Andropogon gayanus would be better within an endemic tick zone (Thompson et al., 1978).

Folk Medicine

In Brazil, an infusion of the plant is used for diarrhea (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962).


Per 100 g, the hay (ZMB) is reported to contain 3.4–10.1 g protein, 0.9–2.2 g EE, 41.3–51.7 g NFE, 29.8–41.4 g CF, 8.2–20.2 g ash, 360–480 mg Ca, 190–440 mg P, 60–120 mg S, 390–920 mg Mg, 250–340 mg Na, 740–1,390 mg K, 90–270 mg Cl. The odor is attributed to a brown volatile oil (0.001%) exuded by the glandular hairs. With a cumin-like odor, it contains fatty acids, esters, and, probably, a phenolic substance. Calcium oxalate crystals are reported in the leaves (Lerson, 1983), as high as 1.06–1.7% (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976). Cut grass contains 3.4–10% CP, 29.8–41.4% CF along with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chlorine, and sulfur. Food value is higher at preflowering stage. Fodder gives proper balance in diets of sheep and in cattle increased or improved live weight and milk yield. Gohl (1981) reports the following:

As % of dry matter
Fresh, pasture, fertilized, Puerto Rico 25.6 9.0 36.5 7.8 3.0 44.7
Hay, leaves, prebloom, 60 cm, Lao 90.5 13.8 32.3 7.4 4.1 42.4
Hay, stem, prebloom, 60 cm, Lao 89.6 10.5 33.7 10.2 3.1 42.5
Hay, late vegetative, India 91.2 4.4 37.8 8.8 1.0 48.0
Hay, mid-bloom, India 91.3 4.2 36.8 10.1 1.1 47.8
Stem-cured, Kenya 88.9 6.1 32.3 8.4 1.7 51.5


Perennial grass, culms usually decumbent, viscid-glandular throughout, rooting at lower nodes, up to 1.8 m long, forming spreading tufts; leaves 5–17.5 cm long, 4–13 mm broad, minutely to densely hairy, the hairs viscous with characteristic somewhat sweet odor, purple or red-brown, sheaths pilose, panicle open in flower, closing at maturity, becoming dense and narrow, 10–30 cm long, usually pale pink to purple, with fine ascending filiform branches; spikelets numerous, ca 2 mm long, light green or purple, hairless, with 2 florets, only the upper one fertile; lower glume in form of tiny scale; upper glume as long as spikelet; valve of lower sterile floret similar in appearance to upper glume but with fine purple awn 6–15 mm long. Fl. November.


Reported from the African Center of Diversity, molasses grass, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate drought, fire, insects, laterite, low pH, poor soil, slope, and weeds. Not resistant to fire or waterlogging. There is wide variation in growth habit, hairiness, leafiness, and vigor. (2n = 36) (Duke, 1978; Gohl, 1981.)


Indigenous to Africa; introduced to South America, Assam, southern India, and elsewhere. In Kenya, in certain isolated areas, mostly in scattered tree grasslands. Cited as a weed in Brazil, Colombia, Hawaii, and Venezuela (Holm et al., 1979).


Ranging from Subtropical Dry to Wet through Tropical Very Dry to Moist Forest Life Zones, molasses grass is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 6.4 to 27.8 dm (mean of 16 cases = 16.3), annual temperature of 18.3 to 26.6°C (mean of 16 cases = 23.5), and pH of 4.5 to 8.4 (mean of 11 cases = 6.1) (Duke, 1978, 1979). Usually occurs on rocky ground in hilly country, sometimes forming pure stands. Succeeds throughout warmer, high-rainfall regions of Africa from sea level to about 2,170 m altitude. Under proper pasture management it forms a close sward. Grows in both moist and dry areas.


Seed production is good and establishment from seed is relatively easy. Propagated from cuttings, the plants are quick growing because of their spreading and rooting habits. They smother out weeds, producing a close herbage suitable for pasturing cattle.


Crop may be harvested 50 days after planting seed. It may be used for pasture or may be cut and used for fodder later. This grass is susceptible to overgrazing.

Yields and Economics

Duke (1978) reports hay yields up to 43 MT/ha. Trials in India gave yields of 29–48 tons green herbage/ha in 2 or 3 cuttings. Cultivated fodder in India, Brazil, and Africa; mainly used locally where grown.


According to the phytomass files (Duke, 1981b), annual productivity ranges from 2 to 16 MT/ha (2–16 in Colombia, 4–8 in Costa Rica).

Biotic Factors

Following fungi have been reported on molassesgrass: Claviceps sp., Corticium solani, Fusarium graminearum, F. sambucinum, Phyllachora graminis, P. melinicola, Uredo melinidis, Uromyces setariaeitalicae. Nematodes isolated from this grass include: Helicotylenchus dihystera, Hemicriconemoides cocophilus, Meloiodgyne javanica, Peltamigratus nigeriensis, and Scutellonema clathricaudatum.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Wednesday, January 7, 1998 by aw