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Tifleaf 3 Pearl Millet

Wayne W. Hanna 1, Gary Hill 2, Roger N. Gates 4, Jeffrey P. Wilson 3, and Glenn W. Burton 5

Tifleaf 3 is a three-way hybrid between Tift 85DA 4 , Tift 83 and Tift 383. It is a short, very leafy hybrid that showed more resistance to rust ( Puccinia substriata ) in tests at Tifton, GA than Tifleaf 2 at a non-mature growth stage and showed high resistance to leaf spot ( Piricularia grisea ), the major diseases on pearl millet forage in the USA. Tifleaf 3 matures later than most tall hybrids and furnishes excellent grazing for longer periods in the summer. It will reach a height of about six feet if not defoliated.

Tifleaf 3 is as good as Tifleaf 2 in dry matter yield and forage quality. Higher dry matter yields can be expected from Tifleaf 3 compared to Tifleaf 2 in years when there is a moderate disease infection before the middle of August. Differences in dry matter yield in favor of Tifleaf 3 can also be expected as planting dates become later in the season. In vitro dry matter digestibility was similar for Tifleaf 2 and Tifleaf 3.

Table 1. Mean dry matter yields of Tifleaf 2 and Tifleaf 3 pearl millet for three years (1991-93) at eight locations in six states.

Dry matter yields (lbs/A)
 
NC
GA
KN
LA
AR
FL
Tifleaf 2
6,502
10,095
8,880
8,290
11,960
9,915
Tifleaf 3
6,193
10,074
11,980
8,940
11,920
10,275

Heifers grazing Tifleaf 3 gained 412 lbs/acre compared to 345 lbs/acre for Tifleaf 2 which is probably related to the better rust resistance of Tifleaf 3. Although average daily gains, heifer days per acre, and gain per acre all favored Tifleaf 3, the differences were non-significant due to large statistical errors in grazing studies.

Yields of commercial Tifleaf 3 seed can usually be doubled by producing hybrid seed on Tif 8593, a F 1 cytoplasmic-nuclear male sterile, instead of on inbred Tift 85DA 1 . Increased seed yields of commercial Tifleaf 3 seeds will keep seed prices reasonable and at the same time provide a high quality summer annual forage for farmers and ranchers.

1 Research geneticist, USDA-ARS, Coastal Plain Exp. Stn., Tifton , GA.

2 Professor, Animal Science Dept., Coastal Plain Exp. Stn., Tifton , GA.

3 Researcsh plant pathologist, USDA-ARS, Coastal Plain Exp. Stn., Tifton , GA.

4 Research agronomist, USDA-ARS, Coastal Plain Exp. Stn., Tifton , GA.

Planting Methods

Prepare a good seedbed by turning and smoothing the soil as for corn or peanuts. Per-acre seeding rates of 10 lbs. In 36-inch rows, 15 lbs. In 24-inch rows, or 25 lbs. In 7-inch grain drill rows should give good yields. The 24- and 36-inch row plantings require cultivation or an application of 3/4 lb/A of Atrazine after plants reach 2-3 leaf stage. At Tifton, we have obtained adequate stands by planting 15 lbs/A of 2,4-D to control the broadleafed weeds. Maximum yields have been obtained from late April or early May plantings. Earlier plantings gain little because pearl millet makes little growth when temperatures are below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although pearl millet will make more growth than most other crops on infertile sandy soil, fertilizing will generally pay. Fertilization will increase yield and heavy fertilization will also increase protein and vitamin A content. Phosphorus and potassium requirements for Tifleaf 3 can usually be met by applying 250 pounds of 0-10-20 for every 100 pounds of N applied.

Pearl millet can be grazed rotationally, a practice we followed for many years. More recently we have had good results starting to graze pearl millet plantings when they are 15 to 18 inches tall and grazing continually at a stocking rate to leave about 9 to 12 inches of stubble. Pearl millet does not contain the prussic acid glucoside that can sometimes break down and poison cattle grazing sorghum-sudangrass hybrids. Thus pearl millet can be safely grazed at any stage of growth and during droughts that usually increase the risk associated with grazing sorghum-sudangrass hybrids.

Tifleaf 3 can make good quality hay if cut when it is 2 to 3 feet tall. The stems are coarse and a hay conditioner that crushes the stems will facilitate drying. However, Tifleaf 3 cut at the suggested growth stage will still require two to three times as long as Coastal bermudagrass to cure enough to be baled.

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