Ohio farmers who didn’t get all of their corn and soybeans planted because of this spring’s record rainfall may want to plant oats for a fall forage harvest on unplanted fields, says Stan Smith, an Ohio State University Extension agent in Fairfield County.

Prevented planting provisions of many federal crop insurance programs permit planting a forage to be utilized as feed after Nov. 1, Smith points out.

“Based on our experience in Fairfield County with oats planted after wheat harvest each of the past nine years, if you can utilize a forage for grazing, hay or silage late this fall, oats appear to be the most productive, highest-quality, least-cost option available to Ohio livestock producers,” he says. “In fact, if planted most any time in July or August, there's an opportunity to 'create', on a dry matter basis, anywhere from 2 to 5 tons of forage while investing little more than the cost of 80-100 lbs of oats and 40 lbs of nitrogen.”

Based on their experiences with summer-planted oats, Smith and Curt Stivison, Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District engineering technician, offer these suggestions:

  • The optimum planting date for oats from the perspective of yield is not until the first of August. Early August plantings also have resulted in the highest total amount of TDN produced per acre. Later plantings will be slightly higher in quality, but typically not enough to offset the yield advantage of early August planting. While being more conducive to a mechanical harvest in early fall, planting in early July reduces both yield and quality. The earlier oat plantings also have exhibited more susceptibility to rust.
  • Regardless of the planting date or variety, no-tilled seeding rates of from 80 to 100 lbs of oats have consistently resulted in optimum forage yields.
  • The optimum nitrogen application rate has been 40-50 lbs per acre. It not only produces the highest yields, but at current nitrogen values, it's also the most cost-effective rate. Higher rates of nitrogen may actually depress yields.
  • Bin-run oats originating in Canada have outperformed certified Armor oats and provided similar quality at harvest.
  • The optimum combination of productivity and quality of August-planted oats arrives 60-75 days after planting. Oats planted in July mature more quickly and thus rapidly decline in quality beginning 50-60 days after planting.
  • Oats harvested 50-60 days after planting and still in the boot stage of maturity might produce some regrowth that may be grazed.
  • A weed-control application of glyphosate is a necessary and cost-effective practice prior to oat planting.