Why we are planting millet in our wetlands instead of corn

We get it.  Corn is king…if you want to kill a billion ducks, plant corn.  We have done it, and we will do it again…maybe even next year.  But this year, we are opting for Japanese Millet. Japanese millet is essentially a warm season grass that produces a ton of small seeds that all sorts of ducks seem to love.  See close up of seed below…

millet seed

It can produce up to 1500 lbs / seed per acre! This year we have decided to plant the entire wetland in millet instead of corn.  Here are the reasons why…

1) It is incredibly cheaper.  I cant recall what the current input costs are for corn but I would assume they are up in the $350/range if you have to pay someone to plant them.  Japanese millet is only $20 for a 50lb bag. You can fertilize it, but it seems to do adequately without it.  At a broadcast rate of 25 lbs/acre, you are looking at $10/acre in seed cost for millet. So even if you pay someone to disc up your field, planting millet is cheap! So if you don’t plan on hunting a lot, or simply don’t want to invest a lot, millet is a great option.  My wife is pregnant with a due date of Nov 13th. Its fair to say I wont be hunting a ton this year.  So I am planting mainly for my buddies…sorry dudes, not spending the money to plant corn for you.   You get millet.

2) Climate Pattern here in Illinois.  So there is no question that corn is king.  This is not a slam on corn.  I will 100% be planting corn again in the future.  Maybe even next year. However, corn really takes off when the weather gets colder…when the temps drop below freezing the ducks really seem to want that starchy seed.  Before that though, they don’t seem to favor corn over small seed…in fact, we have seen them choose small seed over corn when the weather is still warm.  The problem in planting corn here in Illinois is the gap between cold weather and freeze out seems to be later and shorter every year.  Our season here in central is hovers in that mid/late october through mid/late december.  Last year, for example, didn’t get to consistent freezing temps until after the season.  The year before saw freezing temps in december, but it happened so quick and consistently that everything was froze solid within a week or so.  So if you didn’t have aerators, your corn was ice.

3) Shorter Maturity Length.  We know, there are short season corns…anywhere from 70-90 days or so.  We just havent had much experience with them.  Japanese Millet takes around 60 days to mature.  So if you are going to flood your wetlands for teal season september 15th, you need to have your millet planted by the middle of july or so, which is a couple months later than most people are planting corn.  This is beneficial for two reasons.  1) It allows you to work on your wetlands.  You drain them after the northern spring migration and you still have a month to 6 weeks to let them dry and get any needed work done.  2) You avoid most of those gigantic spring rains…or heavy weeks (months) of rain.  If your wetland is gravity, and sits low anyways, these rains can be catastrophic.  We had all of our wetlands in corn last year…then it rained 30 inches in May and we were under water for 2 weeks…bye bye corn.  By waiting until July, you most likely have avoided flooding in lower fields.

4) Physical Attributes of Wetlands.  Our wetlands sit wet…they just do.  They are gravity fed from a lake that sits about 3′ over top level of our wetland.  They are consistently the wettest part of our farm.  They are sloped to a drainage ditch but they are not tiled.  Plain and simple, millet is the safer bet on really wet soil.  Again, we will plant corn again but with the understanding that much of it may not make it.  The best corn wetlands I have seen are fully tiled and/or sit high on the property.  We havent invested that money in our wetlands so millet is the safer bet.

5) Its easy. If you can get some seed to dirt contact with Japanese Millet, you are going to get a stand…its as easy as that.  Even if all you do is hand throw some millet into the wet areas of a field, it will grow.  So if you are super busy or dont have a farmer who can plant corn for you, millet is an easy alternative that anyone could get to grow.

Thats why we are planting millet over corn this year.  Thoughts? Comments? Are we crazy?

UPDATE: AUGUST 8 / 2016

Here is a pic of the growing millet! Coming in great!

LandCo Japanese Millet

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2 Comments on "Why we are planting millet in our wetlands instead of corn"

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Roger Cox
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Millet is a great food source, easy to manage and very friendly to the pocket book! It sounds like your hunting season will be busy with more important things than your buddies hunting success…congrats to you and your family! I have had many seasons of all corn and some (as recent as last year) with mostly or all millet. I have found a combination of both makes for ideal hunting conditions, giving birds options early and late season. Putting all of your eggs in one basket can be tricky for a multitude of reasons from planting, growing and maintenance to… Read more »