Successful crop establishment results in the germination and emergence of a maximum number of plants, which grow and develop with strong seedling vigour. Healthy plants are better able to tolerate pathogens and insects, compete for space and nutrients with emerging weeds and will be more tolerant of applied herbicides.
Identify paddocks with the best potential to produce high yields with minimum cost. Knowledge of paddock history, soil type and occurrence of weeds, diseases and rotation, as well as use of management tools such as nutrient testing prior to sowing, will enable better identification of paddocks suitable for oat production. Select the best cropping paddock in terms of uniform soil type, soil fertility and crop rotation.
- Avoid paddocks prone to long periods of waterlogging. Oats tolerate waterlogging better than wheat and barley but long periods of perched water within 30 centimetres (cm) of the soil surface will reduce their yield potential.
- There are limited herbicide options for grass weed control in oats - choose paddocks with minimal weed burden, undergoing an integrated week management strategy and capable of a double knockdown before seeding. Crops intended for export quality hay must have low weed risk and there is zero tolerance of annual ryegrass toxicity (ARGT) in export hay so avoid growing hay in susceptible paddocks or where resistant ryegrass is a problem.
- Avoid paddocks with chemical problems such as very high acidity. Although oats are more tolerant of acidic soils than wheat or barley, paddocks with surface soil pH (calcium chloride) below 4.3 can impair plant growth.
- Nutritional imbalance should be addressed prior to sowing or monitored through the season and micronutrient deficiencies (particularly manganese) treated with fertiliser or foliar applications.
Rotation is important for disease management, potential weed burden, risk of herbicide residues and for increasing soil health. Grain oats are not received on the basis of protein level so the previous crop is not as critical as with wheat and barley.
- A good rotation for grain oats is following canola - this provides an opportunity to reduce grass weeds and minimise cereal diseases.
- Oats are sensitive to triazine residues - significant damage can occur on soil treated with 2.24 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) of triazine in the preceding year. Soil tests prior to sowing can confirm if the residues will harm the crop. Soil type may not have significant effect on amount of damage due to herbicide application.
- The suitability of oats after a legume pasture or crop depends on whether you are growing for grain or hay, and the straw strength of the variety you wish to grow. Dwarf oats are more suited to rotations with good nitrogen supply. Hay crops grown after legume crops may be less suitable for the export hay industry as they may be prone to low water soluble carbohydrates, high crude protein and increased fibre levels.