43-5 IMarston Science
PEARL MILLET AS AN ALTERNATE CROP Library
IN A DOUBLE-CROP SYSTEM ;,. 1 8 1993
D.L. Wright, I.D. Teare, F.M. Rhoads, and R.K. Spjenke Frida
nmvers of Florida
Pearl millet [Pennisetum americanum (L.) Leeke] is a
potentially productive high-quality grain or silage crop that
appears superior to sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) in
establishment and production under limited soil moisture (Smith et
al., 1989). It is the principle grain crop in the Sahel (Niger and
Senegal, West Africa) and is grown under low-input management
conditions (noncrusting sandy soils with little fertilizer and
limited water; Payne et al., 1990). Timing and intensity of water
stress account for 70 to 85 % of the variation in grain yields
within and across years (India; Mahalakshmi et al.,1988). Critical
growth stages recieving stress were flowering and grain filling.
Grain yield and grain number, but not grain size, were affected by
time of stress onset in relation to flowering. Effects of timing
are also dependent on the intensity and duration of the stress
Hattendorf et al. (1988) has published measured ET/reference
ET for pearl millet which shows the greatest water use at 0.52 of
the growing season, about when 50% bloom occurs (Fig. 1). Boot
stage occurred at 0.42 and soft dough stage at 0.69 of the growing
season. Water use values during the season were similar for
sorghum and pearl millet and less than corn, soybean or sunflower.
However, pearl millet had a higher daily water use rate than corn
or sorghum. This indicates that pearl millet has a greater rooting
depth and density than corn or grain sorghum. Since greater
available water usually results in greater evaporation and above
ground biomass of crops (Teare, 1977), it follows that pearl millet
should produce a large above-ground biomass. Hattendorf et al.
(1988) report that pearl millet had the greatest leaf area index of
all the crops studied and only corn produced a significantly
greater above ground biomass. The corn seed yield was three times
greater than the pearl millet yield. Above-ground dry matter was
20.1, 15.7 and 15.6 and seed yield was 7.6, 6.3 and 2.5 Mg ha,
respectively for corn, sorghum and pearl millet. Average emergence
dates were 26 May, 10 June, and 10 June, respectively.
D.L. Wright, I.D. Teare, F.M. Rhoads, R.K. Sprenkel; North Florida
Res. and Educ. Ctr. Quincy, FL 32351 (Dept of Agronomy, Soils,
Entomology and Nematology, Inst. of Food and Agric. Sci., Univ. of
Florida, FL 32611) Florida Agric Exp. Sta. Res. Rep. No. NF 93-5.
0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
FRACTION OF GROWING SEASON
Measured ET/reference ET vs. fraction of growing season
for pearl millet.' Arrows indicate growth stages from
left to right: boot, 50% bloom, soft dough (emergence -
10 June; physiol. maturity 16 Sept.; population density
s 250,000 pl (ha-1). n = Manhattan, 81; A Manhattan, 82;
0 = Tribune, 81; and A = Tribune, 82. Manhattan was
nonirrigated and Tribune was limited pan-irrigation.
After Hattendorf et al., 1988.
Bationo et al. (1990) has shown that an increase in
fertilization and plant density increases grain yield of pearl
millet in average or wet years and only reduces yield slightly in
a drought year.
The objectives of this study were to 1) determine grain
millet tolerance to herbicide, 2) determine N influence on yields
over several planting dates, 3)' compare millet with tropical corn
in various methods of planting after wheat and 4) determine
irrigation and growth regulator effects on pearl millet.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
These studies were conducted on a Norfolk sandy loam (fine,
loamy siliceous, thermic Typic Kandiudult) located on the North
Florida Research and Education Center, Quincy, Florida. The soil
has a compacted layer located 8 to 14 inches below the surface.
The pearl millet hybrid used in this study was the W.W. Hanna
hybrid from Georgia. Much rain occurred throughout the growing
season and only six irrigations were necessary (Fig.2).
C -- 4- .4
---_ a -----
Co 7 I I (
---- ----^---- _
lilj I l i, il MI ii i i I
138 155 172 189 206 223 240 257
Day of Year
Fig. 2. Rainfall during the 1992 pearl millet growing season in
relation to planting dates and harvest.
The herbicide study was chisel plowed on May 19 and fertilizer
applied at the rate of 20-40-60 lbs/A broadcast and harrowed.
Pearl millet seed was planted at a 1/2 inch depth at 3 lbs seed/A
on 20 May. Millet emerged on May 25 and herbicides were applied
(Table 1) on June 6 when millet was 3 to 5 inches tall. Pearl
millet grain and silage (with and without (w/o) grain were
harvested on 19 Aug to determine the grain yield and silage yield
The nitrogen study was chisel plowed on 19 May and fertilizer
was broadcast after chiseling the experimental area at the rate of
0-40-60 lbs/A for P205 and K20, respectively. Seed were planted "
deep at 3 lbs/A. Atrazine @ 1 qt + crop oil was applied to each
of the planting dates when millet was 3-5 inches tall. The N
treatments were applied a few days after, emergence. Nitrogen
treatment rates were 0, 50, 100, 150 lb/A and the studies were
repeated on three planting dates 20 May, 17 June and 15 July. The
only successful planting date for grain yield was planted on 20 May
1992 because of bird damage on later plantings. Silage harvest
dates were 19 Aug, 21 Sept, and 5 Oct.
Irrigation was applied to the may planting date in 0.33 inch
quantities on 15,18,21,22,26 May and 10 July with an overhead
sprinkler system (total = 2 inches) in addition to the 32 inches of
rainfall recieved during the pearl millet growing season (1 May to
25 Oct, 1992)(Fig. 2).
The tropical corn-pearl millet study was planted on June 25
with a Brown Ro-Til Planter following wheat harvest. Starter
fertilizer (19-9-3 Ibs/A) was applied to the side of the row. N
was sidedress at 120 lbs/A on July 16. Atrazine at 2 qt/A +
Gramoxone @ 1 pt/A + X-77 surfactant was used for burn down.
Harvest date for pearl millet was 4 Sept and for tropical corn was
An irrigation-growth regulator study was planted on 17 June to
determine irrigation response on grain millet and if growth
regulators shortened plants. Fertilizer was applied at the rate of
20-40-60 lbs/A N, P205, K20, respectively. Nitrogen was sidedressed
soon after emergence at 100 Ibs/A. Atrazine @ 1 qt + oil was
applied when millet was in the 3-5 leaf stage. This herbicide
treatment killed some of the millet plants. Growth regulator
treatment (Pix @ pt/a, Cerone @ pt/A) were applied on 24 July
when millet was about 2' tall. By 1 September, hundreds of
blackbirds were in these plots before grain maturity and silage
yields were taken on 2 Oct 1992.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Best yields for both silage and grain were obtained from hand
weeded check (Table 1). Treatments with Atrazine and oil and
Atrazine, oil and Prowl were not different from the check. Adding
Pursuit herbicide did not affect silage yield dramatically but did
significantly reduce grain yields. Accent herbicide gave 100%
control of the grain millet and should never be applied to a
production field. Atrazine, Prowl treatments used on corn may be
satisfactory for millet, however, more work over a wide range of
conditions need to be done.
Table 1. Influence of herbicide on millet grain2 and silage3/
yields at the 20 May date of planting. Harvest date was
19 Aug 1992, Quincy, FL.
Grain Silage Yield
yield 35% D.M.
Grain Top Sil Total Grain/
Treatments bu/A only only w/o Silage Total
Handweed Check 64.6a 2.6 6.7 10.9 20.2 0.13
Atrazine 1 qt +
oil 1 qt 55.9a 2.3 4.2 11.8 18.3 0.13
Atrazine 1 qt +
Prowl 1 pt + oil 1 qt .60.0a 2.5 4.6 10.3 17.4 0.14
Unweeded Control 63.8a 2.6 4.9 8.7 16.2 0.16
Atrazine 1 qt + Pursuit
2 oz + oil 1 qt 38.8b 1.6 6.3 8.3 16.2 0.10
Atrazine 1 qt +
Accent % oz + oil 1 qt 0.Oc 0.0. 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
SMeans in a column followed by different letters are significantly different
at the 5% level of probability.
Corrected to 15.5 % moisture.
Corrected to 35 % DM (G = grain, T = top)
The May planting date was harvested on 19 August, about 90 days
after planting with heavy bird damage. Later plantings had grain
removed almost entirely by birds and no grain yield was taken.
Influence of nitrogen rate
and seed weight of pearl
on grain moisture, grain yield
millet planted 20 May 1992,
N Rates Moisture Yield Seed wt
lbs/A % bu/A gms/200 seed
0 13.8 29.5 1.08
50 13.6 55.3 1.42
100 13.4 65.6 1.31
150 13.5 81.5 1.37
Corrected to 15.5 % moisture
Table 2 indicates that optimum N rates may not have been
reached since grain yields continued to increase with N application
to 150 Ibs/A. Further studies will be conducted in larger fields
to avoid bird damage.
Table 3. Influence of planting method (planting date 25 June 1992 to compare
tropical corn and pearl millet, Quincy, FL.
Pearl Millet 1 Tropical Corn2/
Method of Grain Silage Yield3! Grain Silage yield3
Planting yield/ (ton/A) yield4 (ton/A)
Sil w/o Total Total
bu/A Grain 4G & T Silage bu/A Grain4 Silage
in-row subsoil 64.9 2.7 10.9 18.5 43.4 1.8 9.5
Conventional 55.9 2.3 9.5 16.1 43.0 1.8 9.4
Pearl millet grain was not harvested because of bird damage, but corrected
according to Table 1 ratios.
Pioneer Brand 3098
3 Corrected to 35% DM.
4Corrected to 15.5 % moisture.
Table 3 shows silage yields of grain millet and tropical corn
grown following wheat under different tillage methods. The no-till
plus in-row subsoiling method of planting at the same seeding rates
showed no yield differences on tropical corn and slightly higher
silage yields on the grain millet. Again more work needs to be
done where bird damage is less.
No yield advantage from silage was noted on the millet. Much
more research needs to be done with the grain millet to determine
yield potential, management, and its affect on nematode populations
on crops like peanuts and soybeans that might be in a rotation with
Ten acres of millet were grown and harvested for hog feeding
trials in comparison to corn. These studies will be done over the
winter and spring months.
Table 4. Influence of Growth Regulators and Irrigation on Silage
Yields of Grain Millet, Quincy, 1992.
Silage Yield 35% D.M. (tons/A)
Treatment Control Pix Cerone Avg.
Irrigated 21.0 21.0 19.7 20.5
Not Irrigated 21.9 22.2 17.6 20.5
Cerone tended to give less silage yield (Table 4) than the
other treatments and in each case no treatment gave higher yields
than the control.
Our thanks to B.T. Kidd, Biological Scientist II and E. Brown
Agricultural Technician IV; North Fla. Res. and Educ. Ctr. Univ.
of Fla., Quincy, FL; for plot preparation and management, data
collection, computer processing, and data illustration.
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