Plant Geneticists Improving Proso Millet Yields

Plant-breeding professors and father-and-son team Patrick and James Schnable have started a company in Iowa that’s working to improve yields of proso millet, with an eye toward using the drought-tolerant crop for many of the same applications as corn. They note that millet can be managed with the same equipment as corn and can be used for livestock feed and ethanol production, yet it takes less water than corn and has a lower carbon score. Iowa farmer Jeff Taylor is growing the crop himself and serves as board chair of the new company. “Proso millet has been easy to grow so far, and last year, our new varieties had record yields,” Taylor said. “It’s a short season crop that fits in well with our current cropping system. It doesn’t need much tillage, water or fertilizer, and it uses equipment we already have. It emerges fast and quickly shades out competition between the rows.”