- Agronomic: millet
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Farm Business Management: market study
Limited acreage and equipment availability does not allow small farmers to economically grow cotton or peanuts during the summer. Pearl millet is one option that may be compatible with my enterprise. It can be grown and harvested with the same equipment used for producing rye seed. It can be grown in dryland conditions with little fertilizer. New evidence indicates that it builds soils by sequestering greater amounts of carbon in the soil than other crops. To successfully integrate this alternative crop with limited market outlets into a sustainable cropping system, it is necessary to simultaneously improve production while identifying and cultivating premium-value markets. Adoption of pearl millet in sustainable southern systems has been limited in part by its net profitability. The need to plant hybrid seed is a recurring cost, adding nearly $40/acre to the cost of production. Production recommendations require multiple trips over the field with harrows, cultivators, herbicides, and split applications of fertilizer. Adapting conservation tillage practices to pearl millet will reduce production costs by saving time, fuel, and fertilizer. Unfortunately, conservation tillage recommendations do not exist for pearl millet. Limited markets are another barrier to production by a small producer. The scale of the market must be appropriate to the production level of the farm. A single small farm cannot produce a sufficient quantity that would interest a poultry feed mill. Although pearl millet is a high-quality feed, expansion of pearl millet use has been slow because corn is a readily available source of nutrition for poultry rations. Markets other than poultry feed must be identified. The objectives of this project are 1) to develop conservation tillage practices for pearl millet and 2) to develop niche markets with improved profitability.