Proso Millet

By Michael Boland, Kansas State University.

Revised by Mykel Taylor, Assistant Professor, Kansas State University, June 2012.

Revised by Margaret Smith, AgMRC, Iowa State University July, 2016

Introduction

Millet is a general term used to categorize a wide range of small-seeded cereals. Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.), is thought to be one of the earliest cultivated grains, likely preceding wheat. It’s center of origin is thought to be Egypt and Arabia and it was cultivated in what is now Turkey and southern Europe since prehistoric times. “Proso”, however, is an ancient Slav name used in Russia and Poland, which helps indicate the wide range of the grain’s domestic distribution.

Proso millet has also be called common millet, hog millet, broom corn, yellow hog, hershey and white millet (Baltensperger, 1996). Proso millet is a warm-season grass capable of producing seed from 60 to 100 days after planting. Because of its relatively short growing season, it has a low moisture requirement and is capable of producing food or feed where other grain crops would fail.

In 2014, U.S. farmers produced 3.6 million bushels of proso millet. This was a large decresa from the 17.3 million bushels produced in 2007. Greatest production in 2014 was in Colorado, followed by Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and North Dakota (2012 USDA NASS Census of Agriculture). There is no USDA grain standard for test weight for proso millet, but a bushel weighs from 52 to 56 lbs.

Marketing

Proso millet grain can be used for human consumption, livestock feed, and bird seed------a common use in the United States.  Millet is desirable for human food because it is easily digestible and gluten-free. It can be ground into flour, used to bake flatbreads, used to make tabbouleh, or for brewing beer. The composition and feed value of proso millet for cattle and swine is generally considered equal to grain sorghum or milo (and corn when less than 50 percent of the ration’s corn is replaced). It contains crude protein of 12.0 percent, crude fiber of 8.0 percent, and total digestible nutrients of 76 percent.

Nearly all proso millet grown in major production areas is white seeded. Red-seeded proso has some demand but is best grown with a contract or specific market identified. Millet for birdseed purposes also is often grown under contract. Historically, prices have been higher than corn or sorghum, although prices can vary consdierably from season to season.

Production

Proso millet is often planted as an emergency cash crop for situations where other crops have failed, been hailed out or were never planted due to unfavorable conditions. Proso millet may also be beneficial in a crop rotation. In a rotation, it has the advantage of enhancing weed control, especially with winter annual grasses in winter wheat. Proso is versatile in that it can be successfully grown on many soil types and is probably better adapted than most crops to “poor” land, such as land with soils having low water holding capacity and low fertility. Proso millet has high water use efficiency and can produce a crop with only 13 or 14 inches of water. Planting rate is 20-30 lbs pure live seed/A and the crop is drill planted, rather than in rows.

Good production guides are provided by North Dakota State University, Colorado State University, and the University of Nebraska.

Management

Proso millet seeds do not mature uniformly and shattering of early ripening seeds is a common problem. Swathing is preferred to harvesting the standing crop. Growers should begin swathing when seeds in the upper half of the panicle have matured. Seeds on the lower half of the panicle will continue to mature and dry in the windrow before threshing. The grain should be stored at 13 percent moisture or less. If harvested at higher moisture content the grain can be artificially dried.

Proso grain should be processed to crack the hard seed coat, allowing for better livestock digestion. For swine and poultry, proso millet, like most other cereal grains, should be supplemented with lysine and checked for adequacy of calcium and B vitamins.

The grain may be cleaned and further processed and used for bird seed. Some proso millet undergoes a dehulling process to supply both human and animal needs.

Financial

Colorado State University has provided production costs and returns for proso millet. For 2013, variable and fixed costs were $165.35/A and land costs were $32.50/A, for total production costs of  $197.85/A. With an estimated yield of 2,200 lbs/A and price of $9.76 per hundredweight, there was a positive return of $16.87/A. Clearly, even slightly lower yields or higher land costs would quickly shift that profit to a loss.

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