Japanese millet is an important forage and green manure crop for farmers in the Northeast region. Seed production techniques for this crop are unfamiliar and there are currently no sources of organic seed available. This grant explores two combine harvesting methods for millet seed production 1. direct combining and 2. swathing before combining. Millet ripens unevenly and swathing is thought to facilitate drying, speed up harvest and reduce seed loss.
Our results demonstrated that direct harvest is the preferred harvest method with a properly equipped combine. Swathing with a disc mower was found to be a poor substitute for the specialized swathing machines that are generally used in grain cropping. The additional field operation of swathing caused additional seed loss and expense. While the swathing method definitely should not be discounted by the poor performance in this trial, we can confidently conclude that direct cut combining is a viable method to harvest millet in this region.
Our experimentation suggests that direct harvest of millet is possible and had distinct advantages over swathing under our growing conditions this year. As this was our first year growing millet we have learned baseline yield potential for this new crop. As with all combined-harvested crops yield can be greatly enhanced by proper combine setting adjustments and grower experience levels.
The seed was easily cleaned with a small, antique “clipper” seed cleaner and will be tested for purity and germination before marketing. We have not yet determined a selling price for the seed. It is likely that we will add a modest organic premium onto the $1.00/lb price that we paid for the conventional untreated seed that we planted. We hope to set the price at a level that we can receive a sustainable profit margin. We anticipate that seed yield will be somewhat variable from year to year and will try to set our price accordingly. The millet straw was baled up and is providing excellent bedding for the dairy herd. I estimate that the straw added a value of approximately $175/ acre to the cropping system.