MELVILLE, Sask. — A higher seeding rate can pay dividends for oat growers managing wild oat populations, says an Agriculture Canada crop management agronomist.
“It’s like replacing a wild oat herbicide that you would have in other crops,” Bill May said.
“I know it’s more costly, but in-creasing the competitiveness of the tame oat crop is beneficial in reducing the losses from wild oats and the production of seed by the wild oats. So it has management benefits down the road in the next crops that follow oats.”
May told a recent Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation sponsored seminar in Melville that growers who know that wild oats are in their fields should use up to 350 seeds per sq. metre.
“There are still recommendations out there by some groups that are on the lower side of what I consider the best recommendations. If you don’t have very many wild oats, 300 plants per sq. metre is lots. You could even get away with 250. The problem with 250 is if you get much below that and you have an error or something, you have no backstop behind you,” he said in an interview.
“If you are at 300, you’ve got good uniformity. If you have higher field mortality coming out of the ground than expected, you still have a nice uniform stand for those oats. If you’re down at 250 and anything goes wrong, you just don’t have the buffering capacity that I want to see.”
A strong selection of cultivars with favourable traits and high yield potential make oats worth considering, he said.
He told growers they can achieve the highest yields with as little as 54 pounds per acre of applied nitrogen with few other input costs.
“Economic returns vary on the yield potential that the grower is able to achieve, so if you’re getting the provincial average, yeah, you’re not making very much money,” he said.
“But oats thrive under no till, and the more successful growers who are growing it consistently are getting 100 bushels per acre.”
The Prairie Oat Growers Association has organized a number of initiatives to rebuild declining markets and boost exports.
Prairie oat acres are forecasted to decline again this year.
“Canola is very beneficial, but it’s very input intensive,” said May.
“So I think it’s wise for growers to have other crops that can be just as profitable but are less input intensive so their risks are balanced off — and they need the rotation as well.”