In much of the Texas High Plains wheat pasture conditions are poor. There is likely a substantial shortfall in the grazing and hay from wheat. In previous years, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has suggested farmers consider planting medium to long maturity oats, particularly for hay, to recapture needed forage for livestock.
At some point in the Texas High Plains, there is substantial potential that any late-planted winter wheat will not receive the needed hours/days of cold weather, the chilling requirement, to ensure the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth. With reproductive growth you receive the strong upright growth habit that greatly increases forage production.
Fig. 1. Oat variety trial near Plainview, TX.
Oats can germinate in soils near 45° F though 50° F is better. This corresponds to late winter conditions in the Texas High Plains from early February in the lower South Plains (Lamesa/Big Spring) to late February in the northern Texas Panhandle.
Suggested planting of these varieties for hay in the Texas High Plains ranges from the first week of February in the lower South Plains to near the end of February in the top of the Texas Panhandle.
Oats are generally regarded as more tender than wheat thus they don’t tolerate grazing as well. Seed costs are higher than for other small grains (one bushel = 32 lbs.). Thus, seed costs can drive growers back to wheat even if late. But the oat forage potential is better.
Testing for oat forage yield in the High Plains in 2001-2002 demonstrated that medium and medium-long maturity oats were much better for hay production than early and medium-early oat varieties. But the earlier varieties produced more grain.
Some of these good forage oats from the early 2000s are still available, especially Monida and Walken, which is an extra-long maturity. Also, possibly Charisma, Troy, Magnum. AgriLife suggests other longer maturity spring oats (don’t plant these in the fall!) that should have good forage potential include Hytest, Goliath, EverLeaf 126, and Harrison. TAMO 606 is a winter oat from Texas A&M AgriLife that grows well for forage in Central and Northeast Texas.
For additional suggestions for Texas High Plains oat production for hay see the 2021 oat hay document newly posted at http://lubbock.tamu.edu/wheat AgriLife is planning a new oat forage trial at two sites for 2021 in the High Plains.
Central & North Texas
The forage production issue the Texas High Plains faces is less pronounced in central and north Texas. Oats in this region of Texas is mostly for grain. Texas A&M AgriLife has an active oat breeding and variety testing program in the College Station and Commerce areas. For oat forage questions in Texas there, contact oat breeder Mr. Bryan Simoneaux, College Station, email@example.com, (979) 845-6498, or Mr. Russell Sutton, Commerce, (903) 468-6015, firstname.lastname@example.org
For recent oat grain trial reports and in the past oat forage results for central and north Texas are online at http://varietytesting.tamu.edu/wheat then scroll down the page.
Dr. Calvin Trostle, Professor & Extension Agronomist, TAMU Dept. of Soil & Crop Sciences, Lubbock, (806) 746-6101, email@example.com