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Foxtail Millet Waves its Way Across ColoradoBy Don Comis
January 30, 1998
The face of Colorado wheat country is changing, thanks to farmers and ranchers who have been paying attention to agricultural research. Soil that used to lie bare during its every-other-year "rest period" from wheat is now apt to sport green cattail-like waves of a different grain: foxtail millet.
Wheat generally can't be grown every year in Colorado and other Great Plains states that average less than 17 inches of rain per year. In the "between" years, most wheat land grows only weeds--or nothing at all.
But in 1994, Randy L. Anderson of the Agricultural Research Service and livestock specialist Dave Schutz of Colorado State University began exploring use of foxtail millet as an alternative to fallow, which means planting--and earning--nothing. The scientists' experimental plots were living proof that foxtail millet and certain other crops could thrive and still leave enough moisture in the ground to grow wheat the following year.
According to Anderson, several ranchers who toured the plots on research field days over the past few years have started growing millet. A weed scientist, Anderson is based at ARS' Central Plains Research Station in Akron, Colo.
Growers cut the crop for hay and leave it in mile-long, 2-foot-high piles called windrows. Cattle eat from the piles through the fall and winter, eliminating the cost of baling and hauling hay. And for some reason, cattle don't trample the piles as they do bales of hay, according to the researchers.
An article about foxtail millet appears in the January issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine. The article also is on the World Wide Web at: