Pearl millet

Scientific name(s)
Pennisetum glaucum


  • Annual.
  • Large seed.
  • Easy to harvest, handle and sow.
  • Can be drilled into moist soil.
  • Good emergence from depth, to 50 mm.
  • Relatively easy to establish on black cracking-clay.
  • Vigorous seedlings.
  • High growth rate.
  • Salt tolerant.
  • Drought.
  • Suitable for silage.


  • Needs moderate to high fertility.
  • Seedlings slow in early stage below 20oC.
  • Intolerant of waterlogging.
  • A little coarse for hay.

Plant description

Plant: A robust, multi-stemmed annual grass.

Stems: Stems erect, 150-300 cm long, 10-20 mm diameter. Nodes are bearded and slightly swollen. Nodes can produce adventitious roots. Above each node is a shallow groove containing a bud.

Leaves: Ligule is a fringe of hairs. Leaf-blades are flat, 50-100 cm long and 8-70 mm wide.

Seeds: Wedge-shaped seeds are 3-4 mm long and colour depends on variety. About 187,000 seeds/kg.

Seedhead: Seedhead is a compact, cylindrical spike-like panicle.

Pasture type and use

It is used as an annual summer forage crop for cattle.

Where it grows

Rainfall greater than 500 mm/yr and soil moisture stored during fallow are required for satisfactory forage crop production.

It is adapted to fertile loams to heavy cracking clays.

It grows during the warm season and tops are killed by heavy frost.


Companion species
Legumes: lablab, cowpea.

Sowing/planting rates as single species
6-15 kg/ha.

Sowing/planting rates in mixtures
3-7 kg/ha.

Sowing time
It is sown from spring to late summer.

Not applicable

Fertiliser application of 15-20 kg/ha P, 50-100 kg/ha N and 50-100 kg/ha K, if grown for hay, may be used to produce satisfactory forage crops.


Maintenance fertiliser
100 kg N/ha after grazing will increase late season production.

20 t/ha DM has been produced from good stands with sufficient moisture and fertiliser.

Ability to spread
There is little chance of spread.

Weed potential
It has negligible weed potential.

Major pests
Helicoverpa spp. can damage developing heads and should be controlled in seed crops.

Major diseases
Head mould and ergot can reduce seed yield.

Herbicide susceptibility
It is killed by glyphosate and is tolerant of atrazine.

Animal production

Feeding value
Forage quality depends on soil type and fertility, fertilisers applied, rainfall and age of the crop.

Reduced palatability is sometimes observed in droughted crops.

Production potential
At Katherine NT wet season grazing by beef cattle at a stocking rate of 2.5 beasts/ha produced a liveweight gain of 102 kg per head in 20-24 weeks. Cattle grazing standing pearl millet in the dry season made an average liveweight gain of 269 kg/ha over 16 weeks during a period when animals grazing natural pasture lost weight

Livestock disorders/toxicity
No known problems except unpalatability in some droughted crops.






ES004 possible commercial release spring 2011

ES006 possible commercial release spring 2011