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Ohio State University Extension


Japanese Millet as a Cover Crop in Ohio

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Sarah Noggle; Educator; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran; Extension Associate, Water Quality; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County

Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use Japanese millet as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: up of cone-shaped structure at top of plant consisting of reddish clusters of flowers.


  • Thick stems and a coarser appearance than other millets
  • Coarse and hairless leaves; 4–20 inches long
  • Brown to purple inflorescences

Cultural Traits

  • Summer annual
  • Minimum germination temperature: 65 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reliable establishment window (state average): May 20–Sept. 6
  • Upright growth habit: 2–4 feet
  • Preferred soil pH: 5.5–7.5
Table 1. Rating the traits of cover crop Japanese millet.
Heat tolerance Excellent
Drought tolerance Excellent
Low fertility tolerance Very good
Winter survival Winter-killed; sensitive to frost


  • Drilled at ½–¾ inch
    • 12–15 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast with shallow incorporation
    • 14–17 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast without incorporation is not recommended

Additional planting information:

  • 142,900 seeds per lb.
  • When planting on slopes or using for forage/grazing, increase seeding rate.

Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools:


  • Dry matter = 1,500–3,500 lb. per acre, per year
    • Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.

Additional performance information:

  • Under certain conditions, nitrate poisoning is possible.
  • Cut forage more than 6 inches to avoid nitrate toxicity.
  • Mid-season cutting increases root penetration.
  • Japanese millet tolerates wet soils, flooding, and ponding.
  • Japanese millet does not tolerate shade.
Table 2. Rating the attributes of cover crop Japanese millet.
Nitrogen scavenger Very good
Soil builder Very good
Erosion fighter Very good
Weed fighter Very good
Grazing Excellent
Quick growth Excellent
Lasting residue Very good
Mechanical forage harvest Excellent


  • Tillage
    • If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
  • Chemical
  • Winterkill

Additional termination information:

  • Mowing Japanese millet after heading may terminate it.
  • Japanese millet can produce a lot of seed if it is allowed to reach maturity.
  • Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Table 3. Potential advantages of cover crop Japanese millet.
Soil Impacts
Frees phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) Good
Nematodes Good
Disease Very good
Allelopathic (produces biochemicals that inhibit weeds) Very good
Chokes weeds Excellent
Bears traffic Very good
Short windows Excellent

Potential Disadvantages

Increased weed potential: could be a minor problem

Increased insects/nematodes: occasionally a minor problem

Hinders crops: occasionally a minor problem

Mature incorporation challenges: could be a moderate problem


This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool ( It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at

The Midwest Cover Crops Council ( aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.

Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Red square with white lettering spelling McKnight Foundation.


Originally posted Mar 30, 2023.