Evaluation of forage quality, feed value, and ensilability of Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) in Korea
Whole-plant corn (<italic>Zea may</italic> L.) and sorghum-sudangrass hybrid (<italic>Sorghum bicolor </italic>L.) are major summer crops that can be fed as direct-cut or silage. Proso millet is a short-season growing crop with distinct agronomic characteristics that can be productive in marginal lands. However, information is limited about the potential production, feed value, and ensilability of proso millet forage. We evaluated proso millet as a silage crop in comparison with conventional silage crops. Proso millet was sown on June 8 and harvested on September 5 at soft-dough stage. Corn and sorghum-sudangrass hybrid were planted on May 10 and harvested on September 10 at the half milk-line and soft-dough stages, respectively. The fermentation was evaluated at 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 45 days after ensiling. Although forage yield of proso millet was lower than corn and sorghum-sudangrass hybrid, its relative feed value was greater than sorghum-sudangrass hybrid. Concentrations of dry matter (DM), crude protein, and water-soluble carbohydrate decreased commonly in the ensiling forage crops. The DM loss was greater in proso millet than those in corn and sorghum-sudangrass hybrid. The <italic>in vitro</italic> dry matter digestibility declined in the forage crops as fermentation progressed. In the early stages of fermentation, pH dropped rapidly, which was stabilized in the later stages. Compared to corn and sorghum-sudangrass hybrid, the concentration of ammonia-nitrogen was greater in proso millet. The count of lactic acid bacteria reached the maximum level on day 10, with the values of 6.96, 7.77, and 6.95 log<sub>10</sub> cfu/g fresh weight for proso millet, corn, and sorghum-sudangrass hybrid, respectively. As ensiling progressed, the concentrations of lactic acid and acetic acid of the three crops increased and lactic acid proportion became higher in the order of sorghum-sudangrass hybrid, corn, and proso millet. Overall, the shorter, fast-growing proso millet comparing with corn and sorghum-sudangrass hybrid makes this forage crop an alternative option, particularly in areas where agricultural inputs are limited. However, additional research is needed to evaluate the efficacy of viable strategies such as chemical additives or microbial inoculants to minimize ammonia-nitrogen formation and DM loss during ensiling.