Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use oats as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: midwestcovercrops.org/selector-tool/.
- Hollow, straight stems
- No auricles
- Waxy leaves that are narrow and tapered
- Leaves that are smooth at the base and become rougher near the tip
- Rounded and finely toothed ligule
- May have a bluish tint
- Fibrous roots
- Cool-season annual
- Winter oats require vernalization to produce seed.
- Minimum germination temperature: 38 degrees Fahrenheit
- Reliable establishment window (state average): July 2–Oct. 19
- Upright growth habit: 2–5 feet
- Preferred soil pH: 6.0–7.0
|Heat tolerance||Very good|
|Shade tolerance||Very good|
|Low fertility tolerance||Good|
- Drilled at ¾–1½ inches
- 30–60 lb./acre (pure live seed)
- Broadcast with shallow incorporation
- 33–60 lb./acre (pure live seed)
- broadcast without incorporation
- 36–60 lb./acre (pure live seed)
Additional planting information:
- 19,600 seeds per lb.
- Broadcasting without incorporation is usually less dependable than drilling or broadcasting with incorporation.
- Use a nitrogen (N) starter fertilizer when planting corn after oats to reduce negative rotation effects.
- If grazing, increase seeding rate.
- Tend toward the high end of planting range if overwintering is not expected.
Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools: efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/#/state/OH/documents/section=4&folder=-6.
- Dry matter = 1,000–4,000 lb. per acre, per year
- Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.
Additional performance information:
- Oats are good for early interseeding.
- Good biomass production and feed value make oats suitable for grazing.
- Oats are highly mycorrhizal.
- Oats are a non-host for root knot nematode, soybean cyst nematode, and sugar beet cyst nematode.
|Nitrogen scavenger||Very good|
|Soil builder||Very good|
|Erosion fighter||Very good|
|Weed fighter||Very good|
|Lasting residue||Very good|
|Mechanical forage harvest||Very good|
|Grain seed harvest||Very good|
|Cash crop interseed||Excellent|
- if terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
- Winterkill (common)
Additional termination information:
- Terminate at least 14 days before planting corn or when cover crop reaches 6–8 inches.
- Mowing after heading may terminate.
- Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
|Frees phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)||Very good|
|Allelopathic (produces biochemicals that inhibit weeds)||Very good|
|Bears traffic||Very good when drilled|
Increased insects/nematodes: could be a moderate problem
- Host for penetrans root lesion nematode.
Hinders crops: could be a major problem
Mature incorporation challenges: could be a minor problem
- Oats are slow to release nitrogen to the following crop unless the oats' growth is terminated in mid-vegetative state (12–18 inches).
This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool (midwestcovercrops.org/selector-tool/). It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at midwestcovercrops.org/statesprovince/ohio/.
The Midwest Cover Crops Council (midwestcovercrops.org) aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.
Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.