SWFC’s Tom Tolputt is growing a number of crops at Lesquite Organics this year–including 6.8ha of organic naked oats
Naked oats are different from standard oat varieties, as they naturally thresh free from the husk when combining. They still have the high oil content found in standard oats (the oil in the grain means naked oats have more energy than wheat) but without the fibrous husk and are therefore a valuable livestock feed.
Naked oats are often cited as a good crop for poultry nutrition, with a much better amino acid profile than wheat, and some research suggests naked oats could at least in part replace maize and soya in UK poultry diets. This makes naked oats particularly relevant with the recent push to reduce reliance on organic feed imports and to grow and source as much organic feed as we can here in the UK.
Data from Feedipedia: www.feedipedia.org
This year, we’re growing 17 acres (6.8ha) of ‘Oliver’ spring naked oats on a buy-back contract with Cope Seeds. The crop was sown on 10 April at 130kg/ha after fodder beet, following two passes with a Vaderstad Carrier.
Drilling naked oats at Lesquite Organics (no plough)
We prefer spring oats because they fit well in our organic system and help to minimise the risk of fungal disease, which is often an issue with winter-sown crops in the Southwest. Naked oats are generally very competitive against weeds because they tiller well and require little intervention: it’s a matter of ‘sow, hoe and grow.’
Naked oats also perform well in relatively low fertility situations and are exceptional nutrient scavengers, making them ideal for organic systems and a good second or third cereal, where appropriate. Because of their acidic root exudates, oats are normally very good at mobilising soil-bound phosphorous. Ideally, you want a pH of around 6 and a pre-application of FYM if indices are at reasonable levels. In our case, we also applied Limex at one tonne/acre, which will provide some sulphur and about 10kg/acre of phosphorous.
As a livestock nutritionist, I am particularly interested in this high-protein, high-energy crop and its potential role in sustainable feed formulations. Although we are moving away from feeding cereals to our cattle here at Lesquite Organics, my hope is that I can keep back a tonne or two of the naked oats to have a play with different diet formulations. We’ll do a full analysis of the crop after harvest and will share details on how they perform.
Credit for feature photo of naked oats: CC BY-SA 3.0