The oat plant belongs to the grass family. It is a hardy plant and,
under good conditions, a vigorous grower. It stands cold and wet better
than any other cereal except possibly rye. Oats like a cool, moist
climate. In warm climates, oats do best when they are sowed in the fall.
In cooler sections, spring seeding is more generally practiced.
There are a great many varieties of oats. No one variety is best adapted
to all sections, but many varieties make fine crops in many sections.
Any variety is desirable which has these qualities: power to resist
disease and insect enemies, heavy grains, thin hulls, good color, and
suitability to local surroundings.
As oats and rye make a better yield on poor land than any other cereals,
some farmers usually plant these crops on their poorest lands. However,
no land is too good to be used for so valuable a crop as oats. Oats
require a great deal of moisture; hence light, sandy soils are not so
well adapted to this crop as are the sandy loams and fine clay loams
with their closer and heavier texture.
If oats are to be planted in the spring, the ground should be broken in
the fall, winter, or early spring so that no delay may occur at
seeding-time. But to have a thoroughly settled, compact seed-bed the
breaking of the land should be done at least a month before the seeding,
and it will help greatly to run over the land with a disk harrow
immediately after the breaking.
Common oats at left; side oats at right]
Oats may be planted by scattering them broadcast or by means of a drill.
The drill is better, because the grains are more uniformly distributed
and the depth of planting is better regulated. The seeds should be
covered from one and a half to two inches deep. In a very dry season
three inches may not be too deep. The amount of seed needed to the acre
varies considerably, but generally the seeding is from two to three
bushels an acre. On poor lands two bushels will be a fair average
seeding; on good lands as much as three bushels should be used.
This crop fits in well, over wide areas, with various rotations. As the
purpose of all rotation is to keep the soil productive, oats should
alternate every few years with one of the nitrogen-gathering crops. In
the South, cowpeas, soy beans, clovers, and vetches may be used in this
rotation. In the North and West the clovers mixed with timothy hay make
a useful combination for this purpose.
Spring-sowed oats, since they have a short growing season, need their
nitrogenous plant food in a form which can be quickly used. To supply
this nitrogen a top-dressing of nitrate of soda or sulphate of lime is
helpful. The plant can gather its food quickly from either of these
two. As fall-sowed oats have of course a longer growing season, the
nitrogen can be supplied by well-rotted manure, blood, tankage, or
fish-scrap. Use barnyard manure carefully. Do not apply too much just
before seeding, and use only thoroughly rotted manure. It is always
desirable to have a bountiful supply of humus in land on which oats are
to be planted.
The time of harvesting will vary with the use which is to be made of the
oats. If the crop is to be threshed, the harvesting should be done when
the kernels have passed out of the milk into the hard dough state. The
lower leaves of the stalks will at this time have turned yellow, and the
kernels will be plump and full. Do not, however, wait too long, for if
you do the grain will shatter and the straw lose in feeding value.
On the other hand, if the oats are to be cut for hay it is best to cut
them while the grains are still in the milk stage. At this stage the
leaves are still green and the plants are rich in protein.
Oats should be cured quickly. It is very important that threshed oats
should be dry before they are stored. Should they on being stored still
contain moisture, they will be likely to heat and to discolor. Any
discoloring will reduce their value. Nor should oats ever be allowed to
remain long in the fields, no matter how well they may seem to be
shocked. The dew and the rain will injure their value by discoloring
them more or less.
Oats are muscle-builders rather than fat-formers. Hence they are a
valuable ration for work animals, dairy cows, and breeding-stock.
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