Pearl Millet is an important coarse grain crop in Pakistan specially in areas where drought is common, despite its economic importance this crop has received little attention compared with wheat, rice and maize. It is grown in most districts south of latitude 34 0N, but is particularly important in: Gujrat, Gujranwala, Chakwal, Mianwali, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Rawalpindi, Attock and Jhelum in Punjab; Hyderabad, Khairpur, Dadu, Nawabshah and Sanghar in Sindh; Lorali, Khuzdar and Sibbi in Balochistan; and Bunnu, Karak, D.I.Khan in NWFP.

About 90% of the grain produced is used on the farm as food and as seed. The little surplus is sold mainly as seed for the fodder crop in the irrigated areas where farmers do not keep their own seed. Since the crop is grown for grain as well as for fodder production from February to August, it is difficult to assess the cropped area and production accurately. However, according to the Agricultural Statistics of Pakistan (1998-99), the average area under millet during 1998-99 was about 463,000 hectares. About 60.7% of this area was in Punjab, 37.8% in Sindh, 0.1% in Balochistan and 1.4% in NWFP (Table-1).

The percentage of the total area for grain production is not known exactly. According to some estimates, at least 50% of the irrigated and 25% of the rain  fed millet area is harvested exclusively for fodder before the grains are formed.

The total production of millet grain in Pakistan during the period 1998-99 was about 213 thousand tonnes as compared to 211 thousand for the period 1997-98.

Table-1 Five-year averages of millet area, production and yield in Pakistan.

Period             Punjab             Sindh             NWFP             Balochistan             Pakistan

1975-80             370.4             226.6                 28.7                     0.9                     662.6

1980-85             302.6             193.4                15.9                     0.5                     512.4

1985-90             280.4             181.2                14.8                     0.4                     476.8

1990-95             285.3             123.1                 11.5                    0.5                    420.4

1995-96             286.7             111.5                 8.0                     0.6                     406.8

1996-97             279.1             156.0                 7.6                     0.6                     302.9

1997-98             290.0             160.0                 9.3                     0.7                     460.0

1998-99             280.9             175.0                 6.4                     0.3                     462.6

Production (000 t)

Period             Punjab             Sindh             NWFP             Balochistan          Pakistan

1975-80            195.5             98.8                 11.7                     0.3                     306.3

1980-85             164.7            77.3                 7.0                       0.2                     249.2

1985-90             134.7            63.7                 7.6                       0.3                     206.3

1990-95             125.5            48.0                 6.9                       0.3                     180.7

1995-96             135.7            20.8                 4.6                       0.4                     161.5

1996-97             132.6             8.6                 4.0                        0.4                     145.6

1997-98             139.5             66.2                5.1                       0.5                     211.3

1998-99             136.2             73.1                3.3                        0.3                    212.9

Yield (kg/ha)

Period             Punjab             Sindh             NWFP             Balochistan          Pakistan

1975-80             528             436                 408                         333                     489

1980-85             544             400                 438                         500                     486

1985-90             480             352                 514                        636                     433

1990-95             440             390                 600                         600                     430

1995-96             473             187                 575                         667                     397

1996-97             475             551                 526                         666                     480

1997-98             481             414                 548                         714                     659

1998-99             485             418                 516                         1000                    460


About 90% of the grain of this crop produced, is used on the farm as food and seed. The little surplus is sold mainly as seed for the fodder crop in the irrigated areas where farmers do not keep their own seed. Recently with the expansion in poultry production, the demand for coarse grains including millet grain has risen substantially. The millet stovers, after the harvest of grains, is used as a dry fodder, particularly during the winter months when fodder is usually scarce. In addition, millet crop is grown specially for production of green fodder, particularly in irrigated areas near towns.


(a) Rotation and Crop Association: In the irrigated and relatively high-rainfall areas, a millet – wheat rotation is common. However, in some parts of Sindh, two-year rotations of millet-wheat-cotton-fallow, or millet-spring maize-rice-brassica are also followed. In the unirrigated areas which are too dry for other crops, millet may be grown on the same piece of land each year. Mostly millet is grown as a sole crop, but sometimes it is intercropped with other crops such as sesame, mong and mellon in the plains of Baluchistan and with guar and mellon in NWFP.

b) Land Preparation: Tractors are increasingly being used for land preparation, but bullock power is still important in millet growing areas. The recommended practice is to plough the land twice immediately after harvest to burry the stubbles and weeds, and once or twice at sowing to prepare a fine seed bed followed by planking to conserve moisture. However, land preparation is usually inadequate, particularly in moisture-stress areas farmed by resource-poor farmers, where the land is usually ploguhed only once.

c) Sowing Date: In the rainfed “barani” areas, millet is sown with the start of monsoon rains, usually during the first fortnight of July. In areas irrigated by hill torrents, e.g. in D.G. Khan, D.I. Khan and the plains of Baluchistan, the sowing period is usually from mid- July to mid-August, depending on the arrival of the flood water. In central Punjab, irrigated millet, mainly for fodder, is grwon from May to July. In Sindh, millet for fodder may be grwon from February to July, but for grain production, sowing is delayed to June-July to avoid flowering in July-August when the temperatures are extremely high.

d) Sowing Method: Different sowing methods are used. The most common are:i) broadcasting the seeds and covering them by a cultivator;ii) the “Kera” method of dropping the seed by hand in furrows created by a bullock – drawn plough and covered by feet; & iii) “Pora” method in which a locally made sort of a single- row drill pulled by bullock or man is used. Broadcasting is the quickest and cheapest sowing method, but it often results in uneven germination due to placement of seeds at different depths.

e) Seed Rate: Different seed rates are used depending on the variety, moisture level and relative importance of grain and forage. For grain production, the seed rate commonly used is 10-12 kg/ha. For fodder production, the seed rate is used as 20-30 kg/ha.

f) Irrigation: The number and frequency of irrigations vary with the climatic and soil conditions and growth duration of the variety. Usually, four to five irrigations are sufficient in most areas of the country.

g) Fertilizers: As far as application of inputs to millet crop is concerned, this crop has been neglected. Most of the farmers plant this crop on marginal lands and use no fertilizer. However the recommended dose of fertilzer is 90 kg Nitrogen and 45 kg P2 O5 for irrigated areas and 60 kg Nitrogen and 30 kg P2 O5 for rainfed areas.

h) Weed control: No herbicides are used. In case of the kera and pora methods of sowing, weeds may be controlled by interculture using the desi plough. When sowing is done by broadcasting, only hand weeding is feasible.

i) Diseases of Pearl Millet:

Millet crop is attacked by several diseases including, downy mildew, grain molds and covered kernel smut. Although covered smut can be easily and cheaply controlled by treating the seed with fungicide but no such treatment is used, and heavy incidence of this disease is reported particularly in Sindh province.

j) Harvesting: Pearl millet crop takes 80 to 90 days to mature depending on the variety. Therefore when the crop is planted in 1st week of July becomes ready for harvesting by the end of September or 1st week of October. The mature heads are cut manually using sickles. The cut heads are spread on clean floor for sun drying. In most areas, threshing is done by walking animals over the harvested heads. Some grain is usually lost due to the inefficient harvesting method. No thresher has been developed for this crop so far.


The factors responsible for low productivity of millet in Pakistan are:

i) Grain millet is grown mainly in marginal areas under moisture stress conditions.

ii. The varieties grown are mostly unimproved mixed land-races grown for both grain and fodder production but are poor producers for either purpose.

iii) The plant stands, particularly in rainfed areas, are usually poor because of inadequate land preparation, in-efficient sowing method, poor quality seeds and poor emergence through hot, dry crusted soil surface.

 iv) The soil fertility in most of the millet growing areas is depleted and no fertilizers are added.

 v) Weeds can be a serious problem, specially in the rainfed areas where heavy rains during July and August may preclude weeding. No proper weeding is done for control of weeds.

 vii) Millet is also attacked by several diseases including, Downy mildew, Grain molds and Covered kernel smut. Although covered smut can be easily and cheaply controlled by treating the seed with fungicide but no such treatment is used, and heavy incidence of this disease is reported particularly in Sindh province.


 Although some high-yielding exotic varieties have been identified, and some have even been released, these have not yet been spread among farmers, either because of intrinsic shortcomings (such as poor grain quality, short stature resulting in low fodder yield, late maturity & poor germination, emergence and establish-ment under moisture-stress conditions) or because they have not been adequately tested and demonstrated in farmers fields and there is no efficient seed production and distribution system. Thus mostly mixed local land races are grown in Pakistan at present. Detail of the improved varieties of millet developed by different Provincial Cooperating Research Institutes of Cooperating Research Programme on Sorghum and Millet is given here under:-


 Variety                    Res. Instt:                 Group             Status

 18-BY                         MMRI, Y/wala         Tall             Approved

Y-84        “`                 -do-                        -do-            Promising

Cholistani Bajra            RARI,B/pur                               Approved

Barani Bajra                   -do-                      Tall                -do-

DBR-3 (Jattal)               ARI,D.I.K.               Tall               -do-

DB-5                             -do-                       Tall            Promising

C-47                            ARS,Dadu.              Tall             -do-

PARC-MS-1                 PARC/NARC           Tall             -do-

PARC-MS-2                 PARC/NARC           Tall             -do-


  •  A total of 517 entries of millet have been had from ICRISAT in the form of nurseries and replicated trials and distributed to the Provincial Cooperating Units for use in the breeding programme.

  • Five Pearl Millet varieties PARC-MS-1, PARC-MS-2, PARC-MS-3, PARC-MS-4 and PARC-MS-5 have been developed at NARC. The grain yield potential of these varieties ranges from 2000 to 2500 kg/ha.

  • Pearl Millet variety WC-C-75 introduced from ICRISAT India has been identified resistant to downymildew.

  • Pure line selection in the local millet types grown in Potohar area and around Islamabad has been proved very effective. 2947 heads collected from farmer’s fields were grown in a head to a row system, out of which some 123 have been selected on the basis of overall promising performance.

  • The optimum sowing date under rainfed conditions could vary with the variety. However, early sowing could give better results if good moisture conditions prevail. As such 1st week of July is recommended for having significant yields.

  • Optimum plant population for tall, intermediate and dwarf millet varieties is recommended as 1,00,000, 1,50,000 and 2,00,000 plants/ha, respectively.

  • Fertilizer level of 60 kg N and 30 kg P2 O5/ha has been recommended for millet crop under rainfed conditions and 90 kg N and 45kg P2 O5 under irrigated conditions.

  • The technology developed using improved sorghum variety with improved cultural practices has been demonstrated through FSR trials on farmers’ fields and the results obtained reveal that the improved variety with improved practice produced grain yield of 1276 kg/ha as against 400 kg/ha from farmers’ variety with farmers’ practice.

  •  500 kg pre-basic seed of improved varieties of millet PARC- MS-1 and PARC-MS-2 was produced and distributed to the farmers, in Potohar area.

  • In view of the afore mentioned situation and status of this crop, the following recommendations are made to enhance the productivity of this crop and hence the desired goals could be achieved accordingly:


 1. Millet as food grain can play a vital role in supplementing wheat/rice supplies. Presently more than one million tones of wheat is used in poultry feeds which is because the price of wheat (Rs 240/= per 40 kg) is lesser than the millet (Rs 600/= per 40 kg). The use of millet in poultry feeds is only possible when the price falls below the price of wheat and this way wheat can be saved which will be used for human beings and will help reduce imports saving foreign exchange. The strategy therefore, should be to increase its production without disturbing production of other major food and cash crops which is only possible with the development of high yielding varieties coupled with improved production technology. Hence introduction and evaluation of better crop varieties and improved production systems can help achieve the desired results.

2. The chances for horizontal expansion in millet production in Pakistan are limited. The increase in production has to come, therefore, mainly from higher yields per unit area.

3. Most of the on-going research on millet in the provinces at present is conducted under irrigation, whereas, for grain production, these crops are grown mainly on lands depending on rains directly or in the form of hill torrents. It is, recomm-ended that the target areas in each province be specified clearly and that the research programmes be oriented towards developing improved technologies suitable for specific target areas. This may require establishment of new experiment stations, substations or just more testing sites to serve the main production areas.

 4. Although priorities in the breeding programme may differ from one area to another, the main aspects that deserve special attention include:

 a) Dual-purpose varieties: in view of the importance of millet stover for animal feeding in Pakistan, breeding of dual-purpose (grain-cum-fodder) varieties should be considered a priority area in the breeding programme. Thus, besides grain yield and quality, forage yield as well as quality in terms of leafiness, and ability to tiller, production of fine stems should be among the criteria for selection.

 b) Early maturity: there is a need for early-maturing varieties that fit in cropping sequences and that permit crop intensification and better utilization of the available land and water resources. Productivity should be viewed as yield per unit area per unit time rather than yield per unit area only.

 5. Suitable production practices must be developed in order to realize the high-yield potential of the new varieties. It is, therefore, recommended that the research effort in development of improved production technology be augmented and reoriented to have a farming system perspective so that the developed technology will have a high probability of being adopted by farmers.

 6. In Pakistan tractor use is increasing but there is no corresponding expansion in the use of specialized implements. In order to modernize millet production and render it a competitive enterprise there is need to encourage mechanization to reduce cost of production and to raise productivity through timely and efficient cultural operations.

 7. One of the main shortcomings of the millet improvement workin Pakistan that warrants immediate attention is the non-existence or weakness of research activities on farmers’ fields. Because conditions on farmers’ fields are different from those existing at research stations, on-farm research with a farming system perspective is considered an essential stepin the development of effective technology.

 8. The private sector, which is more efficient than the public sector in seed production and distribution, finds it more attractive to invest in hybrid seed production than in open-pollinated varieties because of the closed parentage and the need to purchase hybrid seed each year. The private sector may be encouraged.

 9. The seed production and multiplication programme is almost non existent for this crop. Provincial Seed Corporations and other Organizations should make it mandatory to produce seed of this crop. Emphasis be made on hybrid seed production for millet crop.

 10. A National Coarse Grain Crops Research Institute may be established under the auspices of Pakistan Agrl. Res. Council.

 11. The Existing Research Institutes in the provinces and Coordinated Research Programmes are proposed to be strengthened.

 12. Pests and disease management, cultural practices and package of technology may be developed by research institutes and disseminated to the growers.

 13. Measures be taken to rectify marketing imperfections for this commodity.


Most of the millet produced is consumed on the farm. As there is no proper procurement system and no established markets for millet grain, the farmer has every reason to question the capacity of the market to absorb the surplus produce at a price that assures him an economic return. consequently he has no incentive to increase his production much beyond his own requirements.


Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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