Effect of the timing of water deficit on growth, phenology and yield of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.) grown in Sahelian conditions uri icon

abstract

  • Several studies conducted under high input conditions have indicated little susceptibility of pearl millet to water deficit untill early grain filling, because the losses in main shoot production were fully compensated by increased tiller fertility. The present study assessed the impact of water deficits at three development stages: prior to flowering (S30), at the beginning of flowering (S45), and at the end of flowering (S60) in pearl millet grown in experimental conditions similar to Sahelian farming conditions. It included a control irrigation treatment simulating the natural distribution of rainfall throughout the cropping season. Both biomass production and grain yield were severely reduced by S30 and S45, while S60 had no effect. In S30 and S45, the flowering of tillers was delayed or totally inhibited. In both of these treatments, the low number of productive tillers did not compensate for damage to panicle initiation and flowering of the main shoot. All treatments maintained green leaves on the main shoot during the grain filling period, and in S30 leaf growth recovered from mid-season drought. These results illustrate how pearl millet mostly escapes drought by matching its phenology to the mean rainfall distribution in the Sahel. In the case of mid-season drought, some late productive tillers and the maintenance of green leaf biomass of the main shoots limited, but did not overcome, the yield losses. This study stresses the importance of agro-ecological conditions in control treatments, particularly the water regime and crop density, when assessing crop drought resistance

publication date

  • 1997
  • 1997