Oats: harvesting, swathing and grain storage

Page last updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2018 - 1:39pm

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Lodging of oats is a problem, particularly in tall varieties. The heavy mat of stems that is formed in a lodged crop can result in delayed ripening due to reduced airflow, increased shading and higher soil moisture.

Lodged crops should be harvested panicles first (one direction only) to ensure maximum pickup. Excessive dehulling needs to be avoided as dehulled oats are more likely to become rancid and delivery specifications limit the number of dehulled oats in a sample. Ensuring correct speed and clearance is important to avoid excessive dehulling.

Storage of oats

Correct storage of oats is particularly important when destined for human consumption. Buyers of milling oats will generally require growers to have a quality management program in place. Before harvest - clean all grain handling equipment - harvester, truck, silos and augers need to have residues removed. Grain stores need to be maintained and kept water tight as water can cause mould and sprouting of grain which is unacceptable if delivered. There are a number of important factors to consider when maintaining oat grain quality in storage.

Grain moisture

Keeping grain dry and free from fungal growth is the most important requirement for safe storage. The maximum moisture content at which oats can be safely stored is 12.5% unless the temperature is reduced below 15°C. Above the safe limit, fungi may develop and cause grain spoilage.

Insect pest control

Stored grain needs to be protected from insect infestation.

  • Serious infestation will occur within three months, even in situations where risk is minimised by cleaning harvesting equipment, grain store and the surrounding area.
  • With poor hygiene, this interval is reduced to 6-8 weeks, and there is a greater risk of secondary effects such as moisture problems and fungal growth.

Fumigants are eradicants that clean up infested grain. They can also be regarded as a protectant in a sealed silo. The only approved fumigant for oats is phosphine. When applying a phosphine releasing fumigant, the silo must be sealed otherwise the success of the treatment will be limited.

Duration of storage

Storing oats at a temperature below 20°C and a moisture content of less than 12.5% should provide a shelf-life of at least 12 months.

  • The initial moisture content should be lower for longer periods of storage.
  • Aeration is considered necessary for long term storage of oats to preserve the quality by keeping an even,cool temperature within the storage vessel. It is also a valuable tool for reducing the loss in grain quality caused by moisture, grain insects and mould.


This information is based on Farmnotes and Bulletins produced by Kelly Winfield, Blakely Paynter, Raj Malik and Jennifer Garlinge.

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Georgina Troup

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