Helping You Become a More Successful Gardener
Peggy Greb, USDA/ARS
Oats once fueled ancient agricultural endeavors as essential forage for livestock, but in today’s world they are a key grain for cereals and breads. Modern oats (Avena sativa) are annual grasses thought to have originated from southeastern Europe and first cultivated around 1,000 B.C. They are believed to be the hybrid progeny of wild oats (Avena fatua) and wild red oats (Avena sterilis). Historically, they were considered less than desirable weeds that infested fields of wheat, rye and barley crops, but over time oats gained acceptance as forage and then food.
A narrowly upright, tufted grass, the oat plant has long, light green to grey-green blades which produce pendulous grassy floral plumes in summer. Wind pollinates the tiny yellow flowers and large, drooping seed grains follow. The seed is protected by two small leaf-like glumes that turn tan with age. Farmers harvest plants partially dry and slightly green to keep the tender seed kernels from shattering.
Like all grain crops, oats need full sun all day long. They grow best in somewhat fertile, loamy soil with a neutral pH. Seeds are sown in late-winter or mid-spring and harvested in summer shortly after seed set. Numerous farm grade cultivars exist with variable grain output, maturation rates and tolerance to cool temperatures.
Oats are surprisingly rich in iron, protein and healthy fats. Their stems create high quality straw used for livestock bedding material, roughage and light mulch for newly sown grass seed.
10 - 1
1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m
4"-6" / 10.2cm - 15.2cm
Late Spring, Early Summer
Hybrid Origin, Europe
Light Green, Gray Green
Light Green, Yellow Green, Gold
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