By Paige Smart
Between frigid winter weather and the dry fall, winter annual forages have taken a hit this year. If you have evaluated your fields and confirmed that the majority of the plants are dead or have decayed, your best chance at a ready-to-harvest forage in 45-55 days is a spring oat. These wide-leafed winter annuals have prolific growth, are highly digestible, and will fit this window of production perfectly. Three varieties of oats are recommended for spring plantings: Forage Maker 50, Niagara, and Everleaf 126. These varieties all have supreme rust resistance and varying maturities. Forage Maker 50 is the earliest heading of the three, which works well for those in search of a heavy, early harvest that won’t delay summer annual plantings. Niagara is a mid-season heading variety with greater potential for multiple cuts, but also won’t delay summer annual plantings. Everleaf 126 is a late heading variety with the greatest production window that can extend well into the summer. This fits for those double cropping with forage sorghum or other large seeded summer annuals. The ideal planting dates across the Southeastern region are mid-February to mid-March, and should be drilled to 0.5” depth. Spring peas or brassicas can be added as a complement to the oats for increased diversity and energy!