The Australian millet industry commissioned this project to determine whether a crop improvement program would be capable of reducing the industry's current instability. The principal problems were identified by the industry as poor seedling emergence, especially amongst the Setaria italica cultivars and poor grain quality in the current Panicum miliaceum cultivar.
Laboratory experiments proved that seed weight alone significantly (and positively) influences mesocotyl + coleoptile length of both species of millet at the three tested temperatures.
Field trials over six seasons have demonstrated very poor seedling establishment among the birdseed millet cultivars currently grown in Australia and a wider range of seedling establishment within a large collection of imported lines. However, there was no evidence of a relationship between seedling establishment and subsequent yield. Yields from both species of millet are able to compensate for differing plant populations.
Likely ideotype components (contributing to a final description of the ideal plant type for South-east Queensland) have been established for Panicum miliaceum as yield, grain quality, an absence of lodging, an optimum 50 % flowering time of approximately 41 days after sowing and resistance to Acidavorax avenae subsp avenae. The Setaria italica ideotype components have been established as yield, grain quality, thick stems, longer flag leaves, an absence of lodging and shattering and an optimum 50 % flowering time of approximately 49 days after sowing. However, although taller plants often yield better, they will also be more likely to lodge. Early flowering was often associated with lower yield but later flowering millet would diminish the principal current advantage of millet in rotations, which is its short season.
The poor quality of the current Panicum miliaceum cultivar arose from grain colour contamination. This has been overcome by selection and an improved cultivar was released to the industry in the 2001102 season.
As a result of the findings of the present study, the Australian millet industry, in collaboration with the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the University of Queensland Gatton, funded an Australian Millet Breeding Program in Australia from July 2001 (GRDC, 2001).