Oats - Food and fiber
Oats offer an excellent rotation even though like wheat, it is a cool season grass. The reason they work well in rotation with wheat is they do not carry any of the same susceptibility to common wheat diseases. Most rotation studies suggest 2 years if not more between crop types meaning you may raise two cool season grass crops before you go to broadleaf crop and vice versa. One way of diversifying within a crop type is to use a warm season in combination with a cool season and another way is to seek a crop within the same type that does not perpetuate the cycles of disease or pest. Oats also provide a great amount of post-harvest residue, reminding me of one of my favorite quotes from Carlos Crovetto, “The grain is for the farmer, the residue is for the land”.
Crovetto’s book Stubble Over The Soil was one of my first reads on no-till. The subtitle is “The Vital Role of Plant Residues in Soil Management to Improve Soil Quality”. Residue levels are a key part of a good soil management system. The goal is to increase residue up to the point that it becomes un-manageable. Conventional systems have evolved to emphasize residue reduction and elimination, removing organic matter, carbon, and other nutrients from the system, creating imbalance. In my no-till system I was always looking for more residue. Oats can fit that need..