Oat is one of the most important cereal fodder crops of rabi season in North, Central and West Zone of the country. It provides soft and palatable fodder rich in crude protein (10-12%). The chemical composition of green fodder varies with the stage of harvest. Oat is also used as straw, hay or silage. Its grain makes a good feed, particularly for horses, sheep, and poultry.
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Oats are well adapted to the cooler environment. Its optimum growth is attained in sites with 15-25°C temperature in winter with moist conditions. Although, it can tolerate frost up to some extent its fodder yield and quality is reduced due to hot and dry conditions.
Oat grows the best in loam to clay loam soil with adequate drainage. They produce satisfactory yields on heavy or light soils with proper moisture. It can be grown under moderately acidic or saline conditions also.
Seed rate and sowing
A seed rate of 60-70 kg/ha is recommended for uniform stand in oats. Low tiller varieties should be sown with 20-25 cm row spacing while higher tiller type should be sown 30 cm apart. Sowing of seed should preferably be done in line with seed drill or pore behind the plow. Sowing time varies from one location to another.
Normally, oat sowing should be started in early October to end of November in North-West to East Zone of the country. For a regular supply of fodder from December to March, scattered sowing is also advocated.
Manures and fertilizers
The requirement of oats for manures and fertilizers is less as compared to other rabi cereals. It depends upon a number of cuts taken. In general, if you are following Natural farming practices then apply Jeevamrutham as per schedule else follow adding of 20-25 tonnes of farmyard manure (FYM) before 10-15 days of sowing with the application of 80 kg N, 40 kg P2O5/ha to single cut and a dose of 120 kg N, 40kg K2O/ha to multi-cut varieties attains good crop growth. In double and multi-cut varieties, top-dressing of 40 kg N/ha after the first cut and two equal split doses of 40 kg N/ha after first and second cut should be done respectively.
Oats require 4 to 5 irrigation including the pre-sowing irrigation. If soil is dry, first irrigation is given before preparing the seedbed. Subsequent irrigation is given at intervals of about one month mostly after each cut. Timely irrigation improves the tiller remarkably, which contributes to higher forage yield.
Oat is infested with winter season grassy and broad-leaved weeds mostly found as in wheat. Effective control of weeds in oats can be obtained with weeder cum mulcher at 4-week crop stage.
Proper stage of harvesting determines the herbage yield and quality of Oat. The harvesting of single cut oat varieties is done at 50% flowering (about 50-55 days of sowing). In double cut varieties, first cut should be taken at 60 days followed by the second cut at 50% flowering stage. However, in multi-cut varieties, the first cut is recommended at 60 days, the second cut at 105 days and third cut at 50% flowering. For seed production, the crop should be left for seed after the first cutting, which should be taken 50-55 days after sowing. For good re-growth, the first cut should be taken 8-10 cm above the soil surface.
The average green fodder yield from single, double and multi-cut varieties of oat ranges from 30-45, 40-55 and 45-60 tonnes/ha respectively. If the crop is left for seed, 25 tonnes/ha green fodder from the first cut and 2.0-2.5 tonnes/ha seed and 2.5-3.0 tonnes/ha straw is obtained.