By: Laura Miller
It looks like a corn seedling, but it’s not. It’s wild proso millet (Panicum miliaceum), and for many farmers, it’s considered a problematic weed. Bird lovers know it as broomcorn millet seed, a small round seed found in many tame and wild bird seed blends. So, which is it? Is wild millet a weed or a beneficial plant?
Wild Millet Plant Info
Wild proso millet is a reseeding annual grass which can reach heights of 6 feet (2 m.) tall. It has a hollow stem with long, thin leaves and looks very similar to young corn plants. Wild millet grass produces a 16-inch (41 cm.) seed head and it readily self-seeds.
Here are a few reasons why farmers consider wild millet grass to be a weed:
- Causes reduced crop yields which results in loss of income for farmers
- Resistant to many herbicides
- Adaptive seed-producing strategy, produces seeds even in poor growing conditions
- Spreads rapidly due to prolific seed production
Growing Proso Millet
Also known as broomcorn millet seed, wild proso millet is cultivated for both livestock feed and bird seed. The question as to whether millet is a beneficial plant or a nuisance weed can be answered by looking at the two types of millet.
Weedy millet produces dark brown or black seeds, while cultivated varieties of wild proso millet have golden or light brown seeds. The latter is grown in many Great Plains states with crops yielding as much as 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg.) per acre.
To plant broomcorn millet seed, sow the seed no deeper than ½ inch (12 mm.). Water is needed only if the soil is dry. Millet prefers full sun and soil with a pH less than 7.8. From the time of sowing, it takes millet crops 60 to 90 days to reach maturity. The plant is self-pollinating with the blossoms lasting about a week and care must be taken at harvest time to prevent seed shattering.
Cultivated millet has several agricultural uses. It can be substituted for corn or sorghum in livestock rations. Turkeys show better weight gain on millet than other grains. Wild millet grass can also be grown as a cover crop or green manure.
Wild millet seeds are also consumed by many types of wild birds, including bobwhite quail, pheasants, and wild ducks. Planting millet on mudflats and wetlands improves habitat conditions for migrating waterfowl. Songbirds prefer bird seed mixes containing millet over those containing wheat and milo.
So, in conclusion, some types of millet can be a nuisance weed, while others have marketable value.
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Read more about General Grains
How to Grow Millet | Guide to Growing Millet
Binomial Name: Setaria Italica
Varieties: Pearl, Foxtail
The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops or grains, widely grown around the world for food and fodder. They do not form a taxonomic group, but rather a functional or agronomic one. Their essential similarities are that they are small-seeded grasses grown in difficult production environments such as those at risk of drought. They have been in cultivation in East Asia for the last 10,000 years.
“Millet” is a name that has been applied to several different annual summer grasses used for hay, pasture, silage and grain. The millets most commonly cultivated in Kentucky, pearl millet and foxtail millet, are grown primarily as a forage for temporary pasture. If properly managed they can provide high yields of good quality forage in a short period, without the risk of prussic acid poisoning.
Pearl millet is higher yielding than foxtail millet and regrows after harvest if sufficient stubble is left. Dwarf varieties, which are leafier and more suited for grazing, are also available.
Foxtail millet is a lower-yielding grass that will not regrow to produce another harvest. Because it is shorter and finer-stemmed, it is easier to harvest as hay. It can serve as a good smother crop to be used before no-till seeding of other crops, such as fescue or alfalfa. Foxtail millet is also used as a wildlife planting to produce food
and cover for various wild birds.
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Dove Proso Millet is one of the most popular millets used for attraction and feeding of doves. The millet seed-heads of dove proso mature from the top of the stalk downward and become so heavy that the seed-heads will tend to droop over toward the ground giving the birds easy access to the mature seeds even before they fall off. All types of wild birds and fowl will feed on these seeds from the stalk or from off the ground. Proso can grow from 3-7 feet tall and provide mature seeds in 65 days. Often the fields will be mowed to provide additional shattering of the seeds for easier consumption by birds. Contact game and fish agencies on rules on planting and mowing this crop in your state if planted for game hunting purposes.
Type: warm season annual grass
Uses: These plants can reach 4 to 6 feet tall producing an open seed head similar to oats. A unique characteristic is the seed will not mature uniformly. They will start to ripen from the top of the head down, dislodging and dropping to the ground as they mature. The seeds are very shiny, slick and resist mold and mildew making them an excellent plant for doves, quail and ducks.
Planting Dove Proso For Food Plots
- Date: (For most wildlife species) North Alabama and North Georgia from May 15-June 10 central Alabama and central Georgia from April 15- June 10 South Alabama and South Georgia from March 15- June 10. (For dove only) June 1–June 10 area wide
- Rate: 12 lbs. per acre Broadcast or 6 lbs. per acre drilled
- Depth: Ѕ" maximum
Best for: Turkey, Duck, Dove, Pheasant, Quail
Also check out the Pennington WingMaster DOVE mixture which is contains a mix of proso type millets.
Dove Proso Millet Information
Dove Proso was obtained from Almora, United Province, India by the United States Department of Agriculture and assigned the plant introduction number 196292. Seed from this introductions was obtained from the Southern Regional Plant Introduction Station at Experiment, Georgia by the Soil Conservation Service to evaluate at its Plant Materials Center. It was first planted at the American Plant Material Center in 1961 and compared in subsequent years with over 30 other Proso introductions. Dove Proso was also evaluated on the farms of many soil and water conservation district operators in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina before being released for commercial production.
Dove Proso grows 3 feet to 6 feet in height. The plants have a sprangling top somewhat similar to oats. Dove Proso Millet seed do not mature uniformly at one time, but mature when planted in the spring throughout late summer and fall. The seed mature from the top of the head down. The plant bends over and the head turns down as the seed begin to mature. The mature seeds fall from the seed head onto the ground as they complete ripening. Dove Proso Millet seed have a shiny seed coat. They do not mold or mildew easily, thus they retain their attraction for birds. Dove Proso Millet does not volunteer the next year to a great extent, thus they do not create a pest to crops to be grown in later years. Dove Proso is adapted to the entire Southern region of the United States, and normally blooms in 60 days and matures in 75 days after emergence.
Yield Capacity Seed: Dove Proso Millet varies widely in yield of seed due to moisture, sunlight hours and fertility. It is extremely difficult to harvest mechanically due to its variance of maturity in that portions of the seed head matures prior to the remainder.
Forage: Dove Proso millet in trials conducted on the farms of W. M. Prichard of Louisville, Georgia yielded equally with pearl type millets.
Grazing: Dove Proso millet in grazing trials conducted in the Sandersville area of Georgia performed equally with Pearl Cattail and Brown Top Millets.
Hay: Dove Proso millet in trials conducted on the farms of W.M. Prichard of Louisville, Georgia yielded equally with Coastal Bermuda. Livestock fed with the baled Dove Proso Millet in the winter of 1969 ate the hay with relish - preferring it to Coastal Bermuda hay.
Planning Information for Birds: Plant in 36 inch to 42 inch rows, using 10 to 15 pounds of seed per acre. Clean cultivate twice. Or: Plant broadcast or with drill using 20 lbs. of seed per acre.
For combination Bird, Grazing and Hay Use: Plant 25 pounds per acre with grain drill or 30 pounds per acre broadcast. In all methods of planting Dove Proso Millet, seed should be covered from 1/4 inch to one inch deep in soil on a firm, clean, weed free seed bed.
Herbicides: Use any herbicide you generally use on millets or grain sorghums at the recommended rate and method of application.
Fertilization: use 200-500 pounds of 8-12-12 or equivalent plant food per acre. Top dress with 30 to 40 units of Nitrogen per acre when plant reach "shoe-top" height. When using for grazing and hay, increase Nitrogen application to appropriate levels.
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What Is Wild Proso Millet: Wild Millet Plant Care And Concerns - garden
-Panicum spp. Bibliography (1991)
-Panicum spp. Outline & Bibliography (1998)
a. fall panicum (Panicum dichotomiflorum)
b. wild proso millet (P. miliaceum)
c. witchgrass (P. capillare)
d. taxa: complex of associated species or demography
4.16.98 | panicumbiblio.html
Panicum spp. Biology Outline & Bibliography
Prepared by: Lowell Sandell, April 1998
Outline for Panicum Species
Agronomy 517: Weed Biology and Ecology
** The main species involved while researching for Panicum species:
- Wild-Proso Millet ( Panicum milaceum )
- Fall Panicum ( Panicum dichotomiflorum )
- Witchgrass ( Panicum capillare )
I included these species together to make a more extensive and complete search for information. These three species are very similar in a great number of aspects such as lifecycle, growth habit, and the crops they are a problem in.
Description of Panicum Species
- Common and Scientific Names
- Wild-Proso Millet (broomcorn millet, wild millet) Panicum milaceum
- Fall Panicum Panicum dichotomiflorum
- Witchgrass (ticklegrass, panicgrass, tumbleweed grass) Panicum capillar
- Proso Millet was an extensively cultivated crop in ancient time, it is much less prevalent today
- Fall Panicum and Witchgrass are native species to North America
- Wild-Proso Millet is an escaped biotype of cultivated Millet crop of Europe, Asia, and Africa
- Became a serious weed problem in 1970
- Adapted to less fertile soils and growing conditions
- Tolerates hot temperatures and low rainfall
- Require a shorter growing season
- Related Species
- Proso Millet crop species
- Switchgrass ( Panicum virgatum )
- Texas Panicum ( Panicum texanum )
- Plant Characteristics
- Height 0.1 to 0.7 m (wild-proso millet can grow to 2 m)
- Spreading and open panicle ( 10 40 cm )
- Long hairs on sheath or blade (except Fall Panicum )
- Ligule is truncate with hairs
- Culm is upright or erect and terete to slightly flattened
- Can produce over 20,000 seeds per plant
- Seeds and very small and can be different colors
Geographical Distribution and Habitat
- These plants do very well in cultivated agricultural fields
- Panicum species colonize waste areas very quickly
- Roadsides are common habitats
- Abused and poorly maintained pasture land
- It is a relatively late emerging species compared to other weeds
- Can complete its lifecycle in a very short period of time ( 60 - 90 days)
- There are many biotypes creating a large amount of diversity
- Panicum species can tiller profusely
- Root systems are shallow and adventitious
- Seedlings are vigorous and grow quickly
- Seedling can emerge from depths of 5 cm
- Panicum species are late emerging weeds
- The late emergence is a key factor why this weed is successful and occupies its niche
- Panicum species reproduce sexually
- Inflorescence are open, spreading, and large
- Seed heads shatter easily
- Seed heads can break off and tumble along the ground spreading seeds over a great distance
- Wind and water can easily move small, light, slick seeds
- Via contaminated crop seed
- Farm machinery ( cultivators, combines, etc. )
- Wildlife, especially migratory birds
- Large seedbanks can be established very quickly, especially in colonizing areas
- Due to small seed size and predation, seed doesn't have extremely long life in the seedbank
- Seed dormancy has been noticed in Panicum species, making a persistent component of the seedbank
- Probably is influenced by seasonal or induced dormancy
- It is not a major host for any specific insect species
- Few diseases affect weedy Panicum species, minor ones are:
- Can reduce corn yields 30% to 50%
- Large infestations can be hard on machinery such as combines
B. Crops threatened by Panicum species
- Use competitive crop cultivars
- Use clean, weed free crop seed
- Clean tillage equipment and combines when moving to a new site
- Plant crops with vigorous early season growth to develop canopy
- Pre-plant and Pre-emergence
- Many times the effectiveness of soil applied chemical will run out later in the season
- Good coverage by the spray may be hard to achieve due to crop canopy
Reasons for Success and Benefits of Panicum Species
- Late emergence - cultural and chemical control can easily miss this species
- Produces large numbers of seeds per plant
- Does well in hot dry weather
- Does well in less fertile and favorable sites
B. Benefits of Panicum Species
- Food source for wildlife, especially birds
- Provides winter cover in many areas for animals
- Can be used as a poor forage if the need arises
Bibliography of Panicum Species
Agronomy 517: Weed Biology and Ecology
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While millet does not contain gluten, it does contain goitrogens. These are substances that suppress thyroid activity and can lead to goiter. This condition involves enlargement of this very important gland which resides in the throat. Low iodine intake can also lead to goiter for those who rely on millet as a staple according to the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Hypothyroidism is a serious and sometimes debilitating condition. It accompanies a weak or enlarged thyroid such as what occurs with goiter. Depression, difficulty losing weight, loss of hair, cold hands/feet, and fatigue are common hypothyroid symptoms. By some estimates, hypothyroidism is at epidemic proportions in Western society. (1)
Goitrogens in foods that contain them are usually reduced by cooking such as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. However, cooking actually increases the goitrogenic effect of millet! Incidentally, the same effect occurs when fermenting soy.
Therefore, when folks begin eating large amounts of millet bread with a wholesale switch over from wheat, the thyroid suppressing effects of this simple dietary change can be profound. Injuring the thyroid can have a cascade effect on other glands as well. For example, those suffering from adrenal fatigue many times have thyroid issues as well.
Brown Top Millet
Brown top millet emerges and establishes quickly to form excellent groundcover to prevent soil erosion and suppress weeds. It produces a heavy amount of seed within 50 – 60 days following emergence that is highly attractive to multiple game bird species including dove, quail and turkey. When planted around water edges and in waterfowl impoundments, brown top millet seed also provide excellent food for ducks. It is well suited for planting in mixes with sunflowers, grain sorghum and other millet species.
Type: Warm Season Annual Grass
USES: To provide food for dove, turkey and quail. To plant around water edges and in waterfowl impoundments to provide food for ducks. To establish quick cover on erodible sites.
Method: Choose a well-drained site that receives a minimum of 8 hours of full sun daily. Prepare a clean, smooth and firm seedbed by plowing and dragging the soil. Fertilizer and lime can be applied during this step to incorporate it into the soil. Plant with a drill or broadcast seed evenly across the soil surface and incorporate it using a culti-packer or by shallow disking (1/2 - 1”deep) when soil moisture is adequate for good germination. Care should be taken to ensure seed are planted at the proper depth. If seed are disked in, the use of a culti-packer or roller after seeding ensures good seed/soil contact and improves stand emergence.
Seeding Date: In the spring after danger of frost when soil temperatures stabilize at 65° F or higher at a 4” soil depth through late summer. (For dove and duck attraction, plant approximately 50 – 60 days prior to hunting season.)
Seeding Rate: 20 - 30 lbs. per acre alone 10 - 20 lbs. per acre in mixes
Depth: 1/4” – 1/2” (stand failures will result from seed planted too shallow or too deep).
Fertilizer: Soil testing is highly recommended. Liming to a pH of 6.0 - 6.5 and providing adequate levels of potassium and phosphorus are necessary to ensure a productive food plot. See your local county extension office for soil sampling assistance. In the absence of a soil test, apply 400 – 600 lbs. per acre 10-10-10 (10 – 15 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.) or equivalent fertilizer and 1 ton/acre ag lime (50 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.). Apply fertilizer just prior to seeding. If practical, apply lime a minimum of 3 months ahead of planting.
Control damaging insects: Monitor brown top millet plantings weekly throughout the summer months for damaging insect presence (worms, aphids, chinch bugs, etc.). If insects are found and feeding damage is significant, an appropriate insecticide should be applied. The local university extension office can provide information on treatment thresholds and recommended insecticides. Note: When using pesticides, carefully read and follow all label guidelines for mixing, applying and personal safety.
Special Consideration: Some game birds are federally regulated. Read and follow all federal and state regulations regarding field management/preparation for hunting.
Tips for Successful Food Plots:
1. Every successful food plot begins with a soil test. Most woodland soils have low pH and low fertility. A soil test will tell you how much fertilizer and lime is needed. Information on taking a soil test can be obtained from your local county extension office.
2. Spend the extra time necessary to properly prepare the soil by plowing, smoothing and firming the ground. Planting on a weed free, smooth and firm seedbed that allows good seed-soil contact is essential for a thick, productive forage stand.
3. Plant seed at the proper seeding depth. Planting too shallow or too deep can result in stand failure. Seed mixes containing small seeded legumes and forbs should not be seeded deeper than ¼ inch. Use a cultipacker, log or a light drag to firm the soil after planting.
4. When selecting a wildlife food plot site, choose an area that is long and narrow with curves or bends in it. This provides a sense of comfort and safety for wildlife. When developing food plots, a good rule of thumb is to plant 2.5 to 7 acres of food plots for every 100 acres of habitat.
5. Avoid droughty sites such as eroded hillsides or shallow, rocky soils. Southwest facing slopes are hotter in the summer and tend to dry out faster than bottom land.
6. A minimum of 50% full sunshine is essential for a healthy and productive food plot. Morning sun is better than afternoon sun for summer game food plots. The reverse is generally true in the winter.