Monday, August 22, 2011

Triggering Finger Millet to Flower

By Tiffanie Stone, CTI Intern

Now that summer is coming to a close weeding has become less of a priority. Most of the crops are already setting seed. However, there is still one plant that has not even begun to flower. Finger millet has been at about the same height and state for quite a few weeks now. For a while Tom Frantz and I thought that the plants had begun to flower. What we were seeing turned out to be none other than our good friend barnyard grass. Barnyard grass and assorted other weeds grew within the rows and within the bunches of plants themselves. In our plot we are growing two varieties of finger millet. One variety was brought back from Malawi with Steve Clarke. The other variety was from Dr. P.V.V. Prasad who grew it at Kansas State. After we realized that none of the finger millet had begun to flower we were briefly puzzled until we remembered something that came up many months before. 

Whilst planning for this project we read that a few of the plants may have photoperiod sensitivity. This means that if the plant is exposed to too much light it will not begin to flower. Steve Clarke went back to the Lost Crops of Africa book which confirmed that finger millet is a short-day plant with 12-hours being the optimum amount of sun exposure for most varieties. We decided to start our trial immediately. We figured that we may be able to trigger the finger millet flowering in 7 to 10 days. Paul Porter had access to a large tarp and Dick Wenkel found 6 large tubs that were not being used right on campus. Tom Frantz and I with assistance from Bert Rivers, Steve Clarke and Paul Porter have been setting up the coverings for the plants at 8 pm. We have been uncovering them by 8:30 am. This insures the plants get the full 12 hours of darkness. We started the trial on the night of Thursday the 11th. We have seen a few plants of the Kansas variety begin to flower thus far. We continued to cover the same section for the full 10 day trial. On Monday the 22nd we moved the tarp and will try to trigger flowering on another section of plants.

I would like to say a special thank you to Tom Frantz who has been a huge help with this project from the moment he heard about it. He a new volunteer at CTI and has put in countless hours weeding. He has been instrumental in this trial. This whole project has been a learning experience. Thus far, the project has been going well but we will continue to improve our methods for even more success next year.

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