Scientific name(s)
Plant description
Pasture type and use
Where it grows
Animal production
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Pearl millet

Scientific name(s)

Pennisetum glaucum



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.

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

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

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 fertliser

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.

Seed production

600-800 kg/ha.

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.


Cultivar Seed source/Information
Katherine Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars
Ingrid Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars
Tamworth Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars
Siromill Progressive Seeds