With hay inventories on May 1 in Ohio down 55% compared to the same time last year and at their lowest point since 1950, producers looking to add a crop after wheat harvest can consider adding oats, which can produce high yields with one cutting.
"Oats are a good way to add extra forages during a time when hay inventories are down and grain values are high, a forage," says Stan Smith, an Ohio State University Extension program assistant in agriculture and natural resources.
Since wheat in Ohio traditionally comes off around July 4 and sometimes as late as July 20, growers would have plenty of time to meet the recommended planting date of Aug. 1 for oats, Smith says.
"Not only does an Aug. 1 planting date seem to offer more yield and higher quality oats (than planting them earlier), but it also allows growers and producers ample time to harvest straw which is in short supply, haul manure and control any perennial weeds and volunteer wheat that might be present," he says. "And unlike double-cropping soybeans, growers don't have to rush to get oats planted as soon as they harvest wheat.
"In fact, planting oats in early August results in greater yield and quality and oats are more likely to remain vegetative until extremely cold temperatures shut them down in December."
What's even more appealing, Smith says, is that Ohio oats commonly yield 3 tons of dry matter per acre, which is as productive as many traditional forages but only require one cutting. In fact, regardless the planting date or variety, no-tilled seeding rates from 80 to 100 pounds of oats have consistently resulted in optimum forage yields, he said.
"We can grow oats as a second harvest after wheat and grow what's equivalent to yields that we're getting from traditional mixed hay fields," Smith says. "We can achieve that in a short time, 75 days plus or minus, doing it in one cutting so you can save time and money by not using multiple harvesting operations."