Evaluation of Drought Tolerance and Forage Characteristics of Millet Cultivars


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Virginia Tech


Millets are C4 annual grasses that are mainly used for food and feed. This thesis describes two studies that evaluated drought tolerance of pearl millet cultivars (Pennisetum glaucum [L.] R. Br) grown for grain. A third study is also included in the thesis that evaluated foxtail millet (Setaria italica [L] Beauv) and pearl millet grown as cover crops and forage during a pasture renovation. The main focus of the thesis involved evaluation of Senegalese pearl millet cultivars for drought tolerance. Drought is one of the most important threats to pearl millet production in Senegal as it limits yield in most parts of the country. Although water stress on pearl millet is common during the growing season, a little is known about how terminal drought affects yield in Senegalese pearl millet cultivars. To address this issue, two field experiments were conducted in 2014 and 2015. The first field study evaluated 20 pearl millet cultivars under water stress and categorized based on their yield response. Whereas the second year field trial used four cultivars from the first field trial in a more detailed study to give recommendations for farmers in Senegal. The experiments were complete randomized block designs. Pearl millet cultivars were grown under irrigation until flowering then the stress treatment was applied by stopping the irrigation in half of the plots. Eleven cultivars showed a statistical indifference to water stress and considered the most drought tolerant. Four cultivars were selected from the 11 for the second year experiment. Of these, cultivar 4 (ICMV IS 89305) and 10 (SOSAT c 88) exhibited higher tolerance to terminal water stress based on evaluation of yield components and drought stress indices. These cultivars could be a good target for further breeding and selection in Senegal. Although the cultivars were more drought tolerant, both had relatively low total biomass. When used in a larger scale, these cultivars could potentially benefit farmers in Senegal and enhance food security.

The second part of this thesis addressed use of a forage type millets – specifically foxtail and pearl millet. In the US, these millets are primarily serve as a summer cover crops that can be used for forage. The objective of this experiment was to compare yield and forage quality of foxtail and pearl millet cover crops and their effect on subsequent pasture establishment. A field experiment was conducted in Virginia in 2014 to address this objective. Pearl millet and foxtail millet were randomly planted in 12 plots each and harvested in late summer. Plots were then converted to tall fescue (Schedonorus phoenix (Scop.) Holub) pasture. Foxtail millet had a significantly higher soil cover than pearl millet but the two species did not differ in terms of total biomass, forage quality, or their effect on tall fescue pasture establishment.



Pearl millet, Drought, Yield, Senegal, Foxtail millet, Forage