1.1 Background to the study
Millet (Pennisetum typhoides Burm. F.) belongs to the family Poaceae (Remison, 2005). It is an annual and cross-pollinated crop, with 2n=14 chromosome number (Raemaeker, 2001). It is believed to have originated in West Africa (Van Oosterm, Leavy, Cranberry and Cranfaud, 2002). It is planted as grain and fodder crop across a wide range of environments around the world (Raemaeker, 2001). It is a high quality forage crop in developed countries like United States of America and India (Van Oosterm et al., 2002). Millet is the world’s sixth most important cereal crop after wheat (Triticum aestivum), rice (Oryza sativa), maize (Zea mays), barley (Hordeum valgare) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) (Singh, Singh and Tyagi, 2003).
Millet is a drought tolerant cereal and it is the crop of the driest region grown on soils so low in nutrients and water – holding capacity of the atmosphere (Bidinger and Hash, 2003). In the United States of America, the planting date for millet is defined by minimum threshold for soil temperature (Soler, Nlaman, Zhang, Mason and Hoogenboom, 2008). Millet can grow in areas with annual rainfall of 250-900 mm with optimum temperature of 30-35oc (Raemaeker, 2001). In the sahelian regions, the first rain suitable for planting is often followed by several dry days that cause the plant to fail and require the farmers to replant. The ideal soil pH range is 5.5-7.0, but it can also grow in soils with pH as high as 8.3 (Fahmy, Youssef and Elshaer, 2010; Yakubu, Ngala and Dugje, 2010).
World millet production stands at around 30 million tonnes annually with about 97% of this annual figure produced in developing countries (Van Oosterm et al., 2002). Millet is an important crop in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Africa, especially, in India, Nigeria, Mali and Niger (Crawford and Gyoung-Ah, 2003). In Africa, the total millet production is about 14 million tonnes annually with West African countries producing the highest tonnes (Crawford and Gyoung-Ah, 2003). In West Africa, the annual production record is about 13 million tonnes with Nigeria, Niger, Burkina-Faso, Chad, Mali and Senegal contributing about 94% of this annual figure (Ishaq and Meseka, 2014). In Nigeria, the annual production record stands at about 5 million tonnes (Amodu, Adamu, Adeyinka, Alawa and Jegede, 2005). However, over 40% of land sown annually to cereals in Nigeria’s agro-ecological zones is devoted to millet (Uzoma, Eze, Alabi, Mgbonu, Aboje and Osunde, 2010).
Millet is locally known as “bajra” in India (Lee, Hanna, Buntin, Dozier, Temper and Wilson, 2004), “Gero” in northern Nigeria (Izge, Kadama and Sajo, 2007). Millet varieties are classified into “Gero”, “Maiwa” and “Dauro” (Remison, 2005). There are many species of Pennisetum grown in different countries of tropical Asia and Africa, but the most widely grown is pearl millet and is regarded as the main important millet crop of East Africa and Nigeria and are grown on the largest area. With the advent of high yielding dwarf millet varieties, it is now being considered as a substitute for maize (Zea mays) and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) in certain countries of the world (Maas, Hanna and Mullinix, 2007). Research on millet for grain production has been centered on developing dwarf hybrids, proper row spacing (Pale, 2002) controlling weeds, dates of planting and adaptability to local condition (Maman, Lyon, Mason, Galuasha and Higgins, 2003).
According to Bationo and Ntare (2000) millet is of great importance in the arid and semi-arid tropics, where it is the staple food for millions of people. Today, millet covers the food needs of more than 500 million people. It is the second most important, only to sorghum, as a staple food in the savanna areas of Nigeria (ICRISAT, 2006). Millet is used in many different ways by different cultures. The Hunzas who live in a remote area of the Himalayan foothills use millet for making bread and soup (USDA, 2009). In India, it is used to make ‘roti’ which is a thin flat cake made from millet flour and is used as basis for various meals (Lee et al., 2004). In Africa, its uses are diverse and range from baby food to bread. In Nigeria, the grain is used primarily for human consumption. It is processed into “tuwo” “kunu” and “akamu” (Remison, 2005). The stem is used for fencing, thatching, roofing and fodder for livestock (Uzoma et al., 2010). Millet grains may be cooked as rice, or may be ground into flour to make cake and bread. The grains are also used to produce malt, and in Nigeria the malted seed is an important source of beer (Remison, 2005). It is proving to be superior feed for poultry, pigs, cattle, fish and other livestock and humans as well are benefiting from its virtue. As a food source, it is non- glutinous and non- acid forming so it is smoothing and easy to digest (Oelke, Oplinger, Putnam, Durgan, Doll and Undersander, 2011).
Timely planting of millet ensures sufficient time for root development and vegetative growth for optimum harvesting (Amodu et al., 2005). In sahelian locations, manipulation of planting dates in millet cultivation offers flexibility owing to the narrowness of the optimum time of sowing as conditioned by erratic onset of the rains and shorter raining season. In the northern guinea savanna of Nigeria, sowing dates and planting methods affect the crop population, which must be optimal in order to successfully compete with weeds, absorb nutrient and moisture for good growth and development (Shinggu and Gani, 2012). According to Uzoma et al. (2010), the best planting date in guinea savanna zone of Nigeria is early June. Agber, Ter and Ayuba (2012) observed that early planting in April was the best planting date for millet in Makurdi, Nigeria. Uzoma et al. (2010), reported that 17th June was the best planting date with a grain yield of 3371 kg/ha in northern Nigeria. Siddig, Mohamend, Kamal, Ali and Thabit (2013) reported that the best planting time for millet is July 15th with a grain yield of 3169 kg/ha in northern Nigeria.
Millet produces good quality forage and supplies forage from June through August (Uzoma et al., 2010). Millet planted in spring (April) should be ready for grazing 30 – 40 days after planting. Imran, Sartajkhan, Zulfigar, Allah, Mujtaba and Sultani (2007) observed highest dry matter yield of 13.5 t/ha and green fodder yield of 65.4 t/ha in PARC-MS-6 variety when planted in July in Pakistan. Sowing date is an important production component that can be manipulated to counter the effects of environmental stress. However, delay in sowing decreased values of all parameters and yield can be increased by identification of higher yielding varieties and proper planting time (Arif, Ihsanullah, Khan, Ghani and Yousafzai, 2001; Khan, Khalil, Nigar, Khalil, Haq, Ahmad, Ali and Khan, 2009). Planting date can have a dramatic effect on crop development and proper planting date is important for maximum grain yields, because optimum seeding dates establish healthy and vigorous plant (Caliskan, Caliskan, Arslan and Arrioglu, 2008). Mass et al. (2007) found that yield tended to decline from April through June and then significantly decreased when planting were in July or August in America. Result of experiment conducted in Nebraska showed that the best planting date for millet were between 7th June and 6th July, suggesting that millet could be an alternative crop for double cropping and late planting situations (Pale, 2002). Abd El-latief (2011) reported that 15th of May recorded the highest green fodder of 24.122 t/ha and dry matter yield 4.478 t/ha in India.
1.2 Justification for the study
Previous study on millet in the Edo focused on evaluation of varieties in this zone (Nwajei, 2013; Omoregie and Nwajei, 2015).
It is necessary to determine the appropriate planting date to obtain better growth, forage and grain yield in this zone, since millet is affected by environmental conditions, particularly photoperiod.
There is an indication that livestock population and ruminant herding have increased in the forest-savanna transition zone of Edo State, Nigeria. This has also brought with it an increase in Hausa/ Fulani herdsmen who have become resident in the zone and whose main food include millet. There is the need to plant millet as forage crop to feed the increasing livestock population, especially cattle in this zone. This will prevent the animals from encroaching/destroying conventional crops planted by other farmers which in turn will further prevent crop farmers from clashing with herdsmen.
Besides, with dwindling revenue from petroleum and its products and the government policy to diversify the economy, there is need to revamp the Agricultural sector, particularly, the cultivation of arable crops beyond their traditional agro-ecological zones to provide sufficient food and income for the ever increasing population.
Therefore, a study of this nature is necessary to fill the gap existing in the knowledge of planting date of millet production in the state. Given enough information on weather parameters; it is possible to establish a simple relationship between crop yield and planting date. Such information will be useful in selecting suitable planting date for a particular variety of millet.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The overall aim of the study was therefore to determine the appropriate time of planting on the performance of two varieties of millet in a forest-savanna transition zone of Edo state, Nigeria.
The specific objectives were to determine the effect of planting date on:
- growth of the two varieties of millet;
- grain yield and yield components of the varieties;
- green forage and dry matter yield of the varieties; and
- mineral composition and nutrient uptake of the varieties.
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