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  • Condensed by Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Unconventional Ag Media

Father and Son Team Develop New Millet Variety That Can Make Midwest Ag More Resilient & Profitable

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has labeled 2023 as the “International Year of Millets”, and Dryland Genetics, an Iowa-based company co-founded by father and son duo Patrick and James Schnable, is onboard.

Although millet is widely unfamiliar to many Midwest farmers, Dryland Genetics have developed a new variety of millet called proso millet (Panicum milaceum) that they state has the potential to make agriculture in the region more resilient and profitable.

Proso millet is a hardy cereal grain that is cultivated much like corn, but requires about half the water corn needs on a per-bushel of grain produced basis. The same equipment is used to plant and harvest the crop as are used for corn or beans, and its short growing season and late planting date make it work well with rotations that include a winter annual crop such as winter canola, camelina, or winter peas.

Patrick Schnable is the Iowa Corn Endowed Chair in Genetics and director of the Plant Sciences Institute at Iowa State University, and James is the Charles O. Gardner Professor of Agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The pair started Dryland Genetics in 2013 when James was experimenting with a dozen grains. Once the experiments concluded, the plants were left forgotten in the greenhouse. All died except the millet, showing how the crop can thrive even in neglectful conditions.


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