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New Crops News, Spring 1993, vol. 3 no. 1

Pearl Millet: New Feed Grain for Indiana

Late summer drought can be devastating to crop yields in Indiana. Pearl millet, a cereal with good drought tolerance, could alleviate this problem. Furthermore, the short growing season required by pearl millet confers the potential of millet being double-cropped after winter wheat has been harvested in northern Indiana so that valuable soil is not idled after June.

Successful introduction of pearl millet to Indiana will necessitate a coordinated evaluation of the feeding value of pearl millet in livestock feeds. Since Indiana is the leading duck producing state in the U.S., two feeding trials were sponsored by Purdue's New Crops Center in 1992 and conducted by Layi Adeola and John C. Rogler of the Department of Animal Sciences at Purdue University to evaluate pearl millet as a substitute feed for ducks.

In the first experiment, pearl millet was obtained from Kansas (13% protein as compared to 9% for yellow corn), while in the second experiment pearl millet was obtained from Nebraska (11% protein). The amino acid composition of pearl millet was higher than corn, with higher concentrations of methionine, lysine, tryptophan, and threonine, amino acids particularly important in animal nutrition. Corn and pearl millet were compared at protein levels of 22 and 18% (22% protein diet is the recommended level of young ducks) and at an isonitrogenous basis where the protein remained constant by adjusting the amounts of grain and soybean meal.

Six experimental diets were compared. At the normal protein level, the three-week weight gains of ducks were not significantly different between diets containing pearl millet and corn when compared on an equal nitrogen basis. Similar results were obtained when compared on a pound-for-pound replacement. At the end of weeks 1 and 2, weight gains of ducks on the higher protein diets were significantly better than those on the lower protein diet. When compared on an equal weight or percentage basis, the millet diets appeared to be equal to the corn diets, particularly at the lower protein level. The efficiency of converting feed to body weight, measured as grams of weight gain per unit gram of feed intake, was similar between diets containing pearl millet and corn when compared on an equal nitrogen basis (0.64 vs. 0.62, respectively). The replacement of corn with pearl millet on a pound-for-pound basis also gave the same feed efficiency (0.62 vs. 0.62). At the lower dietary protein level, the feed efficiency was also similar among diets that contain corn and pearl millet regardless of whether the replacement of corn with pearl millet was on an isonitrogenous or pound-for-pound basis. Results of the second experiment were essentially the same as in the first test.

These preliminary results indicate that pearl millet is of equal nutritional value to corn when used in duck diets. Future studies will focus on determining the metabolizable energy values and digestibility of pearl millet. Trials are underway to cast pearl millet before swine.

Results are in from the pearl millet Regional Grain Yield trials conducted by John Axtell and Greg Brown at the Agronomy Research Center in West Lafayette. With a fairly wide variety of germplasm being tested, the average yield was 3467 kg/ha with the highest yielding hybrid producing over 5100 kg/ha. These results were comparable to, although somewhat lower than, the results obtained in other states. A new pearl millet hybrid, YM 261, released by Pioneer Seeds, is now available. This new hybrid will be included in this season's regional trials and in double-crop experiments at the Northeast Purdue Agronomy Center.