Since some varieties of oats may be hard to find this season, here are some descriptions of most of the alternative oats which may be available, along with information on some newer materials. Yield results from over 10 years of testing are also included for your reference, along with results of last season's University of California winter forage trial.
The most popular oat varieties grown in the Stanislaus/Merced area are Kanota, Swan and Montezuma. Each of these is in the earliest maturing category of oats. Of these, Swan is the highest yielding under practically all conditions. In 19 trials in the San Joaquin Valley, Swan out-yielded Kanota by an average of 3 tons of silage. Swan are not as fine stemmed as Kanota, and, although they are often used for hay, some people do not prefer them for this purpose. Swan will not lodge as readily as Kanota. They are a good grain producer. Swan are somewhat more sensitive to cold temperatures than other commonly grown oats. They will flower a couple of days earlier than Kanota.
Kanota oats have been the standard for the northern San Joaquin Valley for well over 50 years. The main reason for their popularity is their fine stems and ability to grow on dry, sandy soils where other oats cannot. Although they are listed as being susceptible to barley yellow dwarf virus, crop failures due to the disease are rare, even when planted in very early fall. They are among the lowest yielding oats commercially available, both for forage and seed, but they continue to be prized for the high quality of hay produced. They are notorious for lodging badly.
Montezuma oats are very early, a week or more earlier than Kanota. Montezuma seems to do best on heavy, fertile ground (loam, clay loam and clay), where they will grow tall, almost rank. However, they can be quite short on sandy, infertile ground. Stem size is moderate when growth is lush, finer when grown under stress. They will lodge without hesitation under the right conditions. They usually yield near the bottom of the UC winter forage trial.
Sierra oats have moderate stems, and mature just a day or two behind Swan. They have distinctive large green and white striped florets. They are popular in mixes but are rarely grown for hay because of the moderately coarse stems. Yields have been variable, some years very good, some very poor.
Pert is a new oat which has recently been released in California. It was originally bred in Australia, and tested here under the designation 75Q-36-ID. In most years it has been at the top of the regional oat foage trials. This oat is not suited for hay due to its coarse stems and wide leaves, but would perform well as a silage or in forage mixes. Under good conditions it can be very tall, with moderate lodging resistance. It is moderate maturing, flowering a week to 10 days after Kanota.
Ogle is another high yielding, coarse stemmed oat, similar to Pert. It is medium mattering, and flower stage will be about two weeks later than Kanota. It has yielded especially well in trials the past few years. It has moderate resistance to lodging. In good years it can be quite tall.
Bates 89, released by the University of California in 1993, is a reselection from the variety Bates, an older variety from Missouri which was released in 1977. It is a moderately late maturing oat and is capable of yielding very well if cutting is delayed until the flower stage, which can occur up to two weeks later than Kanota. The stems are very fine and make nice hay. Although not related, Bates 89 look almost identical to Cal Red oats, but do not have the severe disease problems of Cal Red. Bates 89 has the same fine stems as Kanota, and also the same tendency to lodge. However, Bates 89 has out-yielded Kanota in 9 flower stage cut trials by an average of 2 1/2 tons/A of silage.
Cal Red oats is a very old variety that is not grown in this area because of its extreme susceptibility to barley yellow dwarf virus. It has the potential for very high yields when not affected by the disease, which seldom happens. In years where it is affected it is not unusual for the crop to be severely stunted and fail to head out. The variety is 10 days to two weeks later than Kanota. It has fine stems, is tall and lodges. It makes very nice hay. Cal Red oats are most commonly grown on the coastal hills in Northern California where spring rains and cooler temperatures make a later hay variety desirable.
Dirkwin is a beardless wheat originally from the Pacific Northwest. It became popular here as a forage wheat because of its high tonnage, fine stems, lodging resistance, ability to withstand lagoon water and exceptional quality and palatability when cut in the boot to early heading stage. Unfortunately, for the last few years leaf rust has been a problem on Dirkwin, often causing considerable losses in yield. Late plantings, after the middle of November, can sometimes decrease the severity of the disease. Dirkwin has still done fairly well south of Merced where there is less spring rainfall.
Gene wheat has been in the winter forage test for the past four years, and has done very well in three of the four years. Like Dirkwin, it is a beardless wheat out of the Pacific Northwest. It has very fine stems and yields well when cut in very early heading stage. This occurs about the same time as flower stage in Dirkwin which is 7 to 10 days later than flower stage in Kanota oats. Gene makes very little growth in the winter, putting on most of its growth starting in March. The crop at harvest is very short and dense and may lodge if allowed to go past flower stage. It will tolerate lagoon water. It should not be planted past the middle of November because it is a true winter wheat which needs a certain amount of cold temperature before it will be triggered to flower. Based on the past four year's experience, the one low yield was in 1995, which was an exceptionally warm winter. Because Gene makes so little growth during the winter, special attention to weed control will be necessary.
Triticale is a cross between wheat and rye. There is a huge diversity in types of triticales that are available. Most are grain types. Although originally triticale was promoted as having exceptional grain quality and yield, just as in wheats, the grain quality and yield potential of triticale varies greatly with the variety.
In evaluating the usefulness of triticale for forage, the characteristics of each variety also have to be considered individually. For example, Juan is a grain triticale which was tested in local forage trials for several years. Feed quality was excellent when cut at the boot stage, however boot stage occurred during the middle of March, making timely harvest almost impossible. Allowing the crop to head out and flower increased yields, but feeding value was very poor by that time. Many other triticales bred in other places and/or for purposes other than forage will likely also be unadapted for forage production in this area. Recent work to breed forage triticales targeted specifically for the northern San Joaquin Valley have resulted in releases of triticale which are designed to have good yield high quality forage when in the boot stage, at a harvest time comparable to flower stage oats or Dirkwin wheat. These new forage triticales seem to have good potential and are currently being evaluated in the University of California winter forage trials.
November 5, 1999