Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for pearl millet production will vary depending on the operator’s production system preferences. The following discussion describes basic machinery and equipment needs for producing pearl millet, and it approximates costs incurred from operating machinery involved in the production process.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

Producers may grow pearl millet in a conventional system or a no-till system. The following table outlines basic machinery and equipment requirements for both production models. For the most part, pearl millet production needs are similar to those of sorghum production.

Conventional pearl millet production requires seedbed preparation and cultivation. An in-line ripper may be used for subsoiling every two to three years, and a field cultivator may fill secondary tillage needs. Planter choice will depend on the implement’s ability to adequately space seeds. Generally, air or vacuum planters are good options, but producers may also use a grain drill. Using a grain drill eliminates cultivation as an option, however, and few registered herbicides are available for grain-type pearl millet. For soils rich in clay or at risk for erosion, no-till production is a good option. No-till fields with a relatively firm seedbed may provide good control over planting depth. Too much field residue, however, may complicate achieving the relatively shallow seed depth necessary for pearl millet production.

Pearl millet can effectively be harvested with a platform head that is common for most Missouri farms. Varieties developed for grain production have been selected for their shorter height, which improves combining ease.To reduce grain loss, producers should adjust combine settings to account for harvesting the small pearl millet grains, which don’t easily separate from the head. Determining the optimal settings will involve trial and error. At first, try using settings for sorghum, and then make any necessary adjustments.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Pearl Millet Production

Conventional Production No-Till Production
Tractor X X
Subsoiling (In-ripper) X
Field cultivator X
Planter X
No-till planter X
Fertilizer spreader X X
Chemical sprayer X X
Combine X X
Grain cart X X
Grain truck X X
Owned and Operated Equipment or Custom Hire Services

When considering crop production machinery and equipment needs, producers have the option to use owned equipment or hire a custom service provider. The decision will depend on an operation’s current machinery and equipment inventory, time available for conducting machinery operations and the difference in cost. The following table compares projected costs for the two scenarios. In the first, a grower owns and operates equipment. In the second, a grower hires a custom service provider to carry out equipment-related work. The machinery costs are meant to represent total costs incurred for operating equipment used in pearl millet production.

Estimated Machinery Costs and Custom Rates, Per Acre Per Year

Machinery Cost Custom Rate
Subsoiling (V-ripper) $20.60 $17.06
Field cultivator $9.80 $15.20
Planter $12.70 $13.71
No-till planter $15.30 $15.34
Fertilizer spreader $7.62 $5.34
Chemical sprayer $3.70 $5.98
Combine $31.00 $27.89
Grain cart $9.65 $9.00
Grain truck* $14.54 $17.50
* Grain hauling rate will vary based on farm proximity to final market.

Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. 2012. Machinery Cost Estimates: Summary. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Urbana, IL 61801.

Lee, Dewey, Wayne Hanna, G. David Buntin, William Dozier, Patricia Timper and Jeffrey P. Wilson. 2012. Pearl Millet for Grain. University of Georgia Extension. Athens, GA 30602.

Marsalis, Mark A., Leonard M. Lauriault and Calvin Trostle. 2012. Millets for Forage and Grain in New Mexico and West Texas. New Mexico State University. Las Cruces, NW 88003.

Myers, Robert L. 2002. Pearl Millet, A New Grain Crop Option for Sandy Soils or Other Moisture-Limited Conditions. Jefferson Institute. Columbia, MO 65201.

Plain, Ronald L. and Joyce White. 2012. 2012 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri. University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO 65211.

Pullins, Emily E., Robert L. Myers and Harry C. Minor. 1997. Alternative Crops in Double-Crop Systems for Missouri. University of Missouri. Columbia, MO 65201.

Stiles, Scott and Terry Griffin.n.d. Estimating Farm Machinery Costs. University of Arkansas. Little Rock, AR 72204.