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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