There are a number of relatively new alternatives in winter forages this season. In the quest to gain the most feed value from winter forages without sacrificing tonnage, many growers have gone to growing a forage wheat such as Dirkwin and harvesting in the late boot* to early heading stage. However, in wet years Dirkwin has shown a severe susceptibility to leaf rust and other rain-spread diseases, resulting in lowered yields.This season, there are several alternatives to Dirkwin for growers wishing to produce high quality silage
Because there is such a strong correlation between forage quality and maturity, cutting at an early stage is the easiest way to ensure high protein and fiber digestibility. Most of the common oat varieties such as Swan and Kanota produce unacceptably low tonnage when cut in the boot stage, so these are commonly cut in the flower stage. Forage mixes usually contain varieties like these and so are also usually cut in the flower stage. Alternatives to early oats and forage mixes are wheat, triticale and late oat varieties designed to be cut in the late boot Many of these are very high yielding. The highest yielding entry in the 1997 regional winter variety trial was an oat from Wisconsin cut in the late boot stage with a digestible equal to early flower stage Kanota oats but yielding 8 1/2tons more. In choosing a variety to cut in the boot stage, it is essential that it be late enough maturing to avoid inclement weather during harvest. Only a few varieties will be acceptable, so plant only varieties with a known track record.
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 20 trials in the San Joaquin Valley, Swan out-yielded Kanota by an average of nearly 3 tons of silage. Swan is 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 is somewhat more sensitive to cold temperatures than other commonly grown oats. Swans will flower a couple of days earlier than Swan is very susceptible to both crown rust and stem rust.
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 very susceptible to crown rust. Kanotas 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 oat is very early, a week or more earlier than Kanota. Montezuma seems to do best on heavy, fertile ground (loam, clay loam andclay), 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 are very susceptible to crown rust. Montezumas usually yield near the bottom of the UC winter forage trial.
Sierra oat has moderate stems, and flowers 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 moderately coarse stems. Yields have been variable, some years very good, some very poor. They are very susceptible to crown rust and susceptible to stem rust.
Cayuse oat is a public variety which is quite late, compared to the early oats such as Swan and Kanota. It is a common component of forage mixes, where it contributes to the tonnage if the early oats are harvested in the milk or dough stage. In this trial, it compared favorably with other boot stage forages. Digestibility at this stage was slightly better than Kanota oat and tonnage was over 4 tons/A better. It has coarse, stiff stems and dense moderate leaves. It is moderately susceptible to crown rust, and moderately resistant to barley yellow dwarf. It will be ready for harvest in the boot stage about the same or later than other boot stage type forages. Seed is usually inexpensive and might be a good choice for areas at risk of crop loss. It is not recommended that Cayuse be cut past the boot stage because its lateness will interfere with the subsequent crops, and the stems can become quite coarse. Making hay would be possible if some yield loss is acceptable from early cutting.
Pert is a new oat which has recently been released in California. It was originally bred in Australia. In most years it has been at the top of the regional oat forage trials. This oat is not suited for hay due to its coarse stems and wide leaves, but would perform well as a silage orin 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. It can be moderately susceptible to barley yellow dwarf.
Ogle is another high yielding, coarse stemmed oat, similar to Pert. It is medium maturing, 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. Digestibility can be acceptable if cut before fully headed out, but can be poor at later stages.
Bates 89 oat 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 looks 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
Cal Red oat 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 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.
Ensiler oat is a variety from Wisconsin bred for use in the dairy industry there. It is designed to be cut for silage in the late boot stage, which occurred on April 21 here last season. It has big stems and extremely wide, glossy leaves. Digestibility was very good at both harvest stages. The 1997 season was its first year of testing here so there is no local experience on disease resistance. Information from Wisconsin lists it as intermediate resistance to barley yellow dwarf virus, and intermediate lodging resistance.
Bay oat is also from Wisconsin. It is also designed to be harvested in the late boot stage. It has wide leaves and moderately coarse stems. Disease and lodging resistance seems to be adequate based on limited experience in the 1997 season. Digestibility was acceptable when cut at the appropriate stage.
Jud oat is a new oat from the midwest. Because it was just released this season it is unlikely that seed will be available until next season.It is a big, late oat with moderately fine stems and narrow leaves. Digestibility at the late boot stage was not as good as the Ensiler, Longhorn or 2700at the comparable maturity, however, the finer stems would make it a versatile oat, good for silage and an excellent candidate for making hay. It seems to have good disease and lodging resistance.
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 exceptionalquality and palatability when cut in the boot to early heading stage. Unfortunately,for the last few years leaf rust and other diseases have 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 five years, and has done very well in three of the five years. Like Dirkwin, it is a beardless wheat out of the Pacific Northwest. It has 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 isvery short and dense and may lodge if allowed to go past flower stage.It will tolerate lagoon water. For best performance, it is essential theGene wheat be planted early so it can get good growth before cold weather sets in. Because it is a true winter wheat which needs a certain amountof cold temperature before it will be triggered to flower. Gene can be high yielding if handled correctly, but very disappointing if planted too late, if the winter is too warm, weed control is inadequate, or it is cut too late.
Longhorn wheat is a proprietary variety from Agripro distributed in California by Lockwood Seeds. Like Dirkwin, it is fine stemmed with dense, narrow leaves.. Based on one observation in 1996 it has less susceptibly to leaf diseases than Dirkwin but is by no means completely resistant. Optimum harvest stage is late boot to very early heading. At this stage it had digestible comparable to early flower Kanota. Because it is beardless,
Trical 2700 triticale is a tall, high yielding cross between wheat and rye. It is designed to be harvested in the boot stage, which occurs a few days later than flower stage in Kanota oat. In the 1997 trial, yields were best when harvested at a very late boot stage. At this stage, digestibility was nearly comparable with early bloom stage Kanota oats, and yields were very good. Lodging and disease resistance cannot be adequately evaluated in a dry spring but are reputed to be good, based on information from the company. It is primarily a silage variety. Making hay would be difficult because it must be harvested before heading to avoid beards on the seed heads, and cutting hay this early often coincides with late spring rains in the northern San Joaquin Valley.
Forage Mixes Because many mixes change components from year to year, it is difficult to make specific comments about a particular mix.As a general rule, a mix with high yielding components will be higher yielding than one with low yielding components. Make sure that the components ofthe mix will be at compatible maturities at the time you intend to cut. Forage mixes do provide some insurance against unforeseen weather conditions, but they can be difficult to cut at an optimum time for best yield and quality. Varieties such as triticale which require careful timing of optimum cutting date to avoid loss of quality should not be put into mixes.
Belsford barley is often added to mixes. It is usually the firstcomponent of a mix to head out, with prominent light green or yellowishclub-shaped heads. In a mix comprised of 30% Swan, 25% Sierra, 25% Dirkwinand 20% Belsford barley, there was no significant difference in yield ateither cutting date from the mix with the barley and a mix of the same components without the barley. However, the mix with the barley and thebarley alone was badly lodged. Based on this data, putting Belsford barley in a mix is of questionable value.
November 5, 1999