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Managing Oats for Maximum Yield Potential and Profitability

Over the winter months there has been a quite a bit of discussion around spring cereal yields in Ontario and oat yields in particular. Trendlines for oat yields in Ontario compared to western Canada (Figure 1 and 2) show that while Ontario yields continue to increase, the increase is smaller than for our friends in western Canada. While there may have been greater investment in variety development in western Canada, the current Ontario variety performance trial data shows that yield potential in Ontario is strong. The Ontario Cereal Crop Committee (OCCC) performance data shows a 5-year average of 1.52 t/ac in Area 2, 1.64 t/ac in Area 3 and 2.05 t/ac in Area 5 (Table 1). While we do have our challenges with the growing season, oat yields that are in line with western Canada or better are possible in Ontario. What it really comes down to is management!
Ontario growers have been able to push oat yields and ultimately improve the profitability of the crop by focusing on management. Just like wheat, oats are responsive to planting date and the earlier you can plant the better. By planting early and even frost seeding if conditions will allow, it is more likely that hot and dry periods during pollination and grain fill will be avoided. In southern Ontario the target date for normal seeding is April 10th, April 15th for central and eastern Ontario and May 10th for northern Ontario.
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