Potential of pearl millet as a forage crop in wheat-based double cropping system in Central Asia
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Livestock is a vital resource for smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in Central Asia, but shortage of winter season fodder is a major constraint to livestock productivity in this region. Three pearl millet populations were compared with a locally adapted improved maize variety in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for their forage potential in wheat-based cropping system as a second crop after wheat harvest. Two medium-maturity, dual-purpose populations (HHVBC-Tall and Raj 171) significantly out-yielded locally adapted improved maize cultivars in both countries that had different productivity levels. While HHVBC-Tall had 6.56 t ha-1 of dry forage yield in Kyrgyzstan and 13.70 t ha-1 of dry forage yield in Tajikistan (28% higher than maize cultivars in both countries), Raj 171 had 18% higher dry forage yield than the locally adapted improved maize variety in Kyrgyzstan and 10% higher dry forage yield than locally adapted improved maize variety in Tajikistan. The benefit-cost ratio from forage production of both pearl millet populations was highest for HHVBC-Tall (0.89 in Kyrgyzstan and 1.56 in Tajikistan), followed by Raj 171 (0.74 in Kyrgyzstan and 1.20 in Tajikistan), which were much higher than those for maize varieties. These results showed that medium-maturity pearl millet varieties have good potential to fill in the fallow land after wheat harvest and significantly contribute to fodder security in Central Asia.