Pearl millet : Planting season, Harvesting and Yield

The crop is cultivated for grain as well as fodder in the semi-arid tropical regions of Africa and Asia including India. In India, the annual planting area is around 10 million ha producing nearly 7.5 million tonnes of grains. It is grown mainly in Rajasthan, Maharastra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra

Pearl millet traditionally is an indispensable component of the dry farming system. With the advent of pearl millet hybrids in mid-sixties, its cultivation doubled. The crop is mainly confined to low fertile water deficit soils. Because of its remarkable ability to withstand and grow in a harsh environment, reasonable and assured harvests are obtained. The crop responds to nitrogen, cultural management, and water harvesting.

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Soil and climate

The crop is mostly grown in Kharif season from June to October. The crop grows on a wide range of soils from very light soils from sand dunes in Rajasthan to red loams of Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Seed rate and sowing

The recommended spacing is 45 cm between rows and 10-12 cm between plants within a row. The seed rate of 8-10 kg/ha for single cut and 12-15 kg/ha for multi-cut is required to obtain desired yields.

Manures and fertilizers

It responds well to applied nutrients. Besides the recommended dose of fertilizers, application of 8-10 tonnes of FYM is also helpful as it conserves moisture. An application of 20-40 kg N/ha in 2 split doses is recommended in Rajasthan,
while in Gujarat, Haryana, and Maharashtra, 60-80 kg N/ha is recommended as optimum. Application of 20 kg ZnSO4/ha enhanced grain and fodder yields. Also the foliar application of ZnSO4/ha at tillering and pre-flowering stage increased grain and fodder yield. Maximum grain yield was recorded in plots of dust mulching when the trial was conducted to mitigate the adverse effect of drought stress under rainfed conditions.

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Inter-cultivation and weed management

The fields should be maintained free from weeds for the first 30 days as it is very important to ensure good crop growth. Two inter-cultivation and one hand weeding are necessary to minimize weed competition. 

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Diseases and pest management

The crop is comparatively less prone to pests and diseases. However, downy mildew among diseases, shoot fly and root grub among pests are prevalent in many states. Choice of diseases resistant variety is an important step in effectively managing the diseases. A seed treatment with Jeevamrutham and spray 20-25 days later will effectively check the disease.

Rotation of different varieties and hybrids in alternate years is also effective in arresting the spread of downy mildew. Seed treatment with neem oil 5 ml/kg seed + spray of 5% (neem-seed-kernel extract (N.S.K..E.) at 50% flowering was found effective in controlling pests. Plant-protection measures are essential for white-grub and shoot fly. Four varieties, MH 1336, MH 1364, MH 1392, and Pusa 383, were found to be resistant to smut ergot and blast.

Pearl millet-based cropping systems

In Rajasthan, intercropping of pearl millet with cluster bean or moth bean or cowpea or green gram in 2: 1 proportion is followed. This not only covers the risk due to failures of the monsoon but also provides the grain legumes which help in better nutritional security and a source of additional income. In most parts of north India, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, intercropping of pearl millet with pulses is followed, viz. red gram/ green gram/ cowpea/horse gram/ cluster bean.

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Harvesting and storage

When grain moisture is around 20%, pearl millet is harvested as the grains are prone to spoilage during storage. It is very important to bring down moisture to 12% or less for safe storage. Improved storage structures, viz. metal bins made out of GI sheets, are suitable for safe storage of grains. The stover is a valuable feed for cattle.


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