The recent warm weather has many farmers feeling the itch to get out on the land. Typically, one of the first crops to be planted is that of oats. Although oats harvested as grain is not the prominent crop that it once was, there are still many producers who grow the crop for a supplemental feed source and straw for bedding.
Because oats do not comprise a large agricultural retail market share, nearly all of the plant breeding and research efforts are carried-out by public universities rather than private industry. Badger state farmers are fortunate in that they benefit from a strong small grain research program at the University of Wisconsin.
The ideal planting date for oats in Fond du Lac County is April 15-30. Practically speaking, oats should be seeded in the spring just as soon as the soil is dry enough to till. Oat seed can germinate when soil temperatures are above 34 degrees F. With early planting dates, flowering and seed development can occur before the high temperature period of late June to early July.
In most years, we see a yield penalty for late planting of oats. A recent research effort by UW-Extension Agronomist, Ed Oplinger, revisits the planting date issue with some of our improved Wisconsin varieties.
The study was conducted at the Arlington research station beginning in 1992. Oat yields declined 0.5 bushels per acre per day when planting was delayed from April 18 to May 14. After May 14, yields decreased by 6 to 7 bushels per acre for each week planting was delayed. The early maturity variety, 'Dane', had less yield penalty for late planting than the medium maturity variety, 'Prairie', or the late maturing variety, 'Bay'. Maximum oat yields of 73 to 79 bushels per acre were produced by Prairie planted between April 18 and May 14.
Often times we see that oat plants are able to adjust to somewhat later planting dates by shortening the time it takes to head and mature. However, as planting date gets later, the risk for lodging also increases.
Oat forage yields were also measured in the Arlington trial. Yield of forage, harvested when plants were in the boot stage of growth, ranged 0.8 to 2.6 tons per acre of dry matter depending upon variety and planting date. In most situations, forage yields of small grains will not be as influenced by planting date as grain yields.
Where producers are forced to plant oats for grain later than desired, it's recommended to plant early maturing varieties and increase seeding rates by 25 to 30 percent to offset reduced plant tillering.For more information contact Mike Rankin