BLACK OATS HAVE earned their place as the No. 1 cover crop on millions of no-tilled soybean acres in Brazil, and these rapidly growing, tall oats that prevent erosion and conserve soil moisture have captured the attention of U.S. researchers and growers.
“Black oats are a different species than common oats — they’re a diploid, with only one-third as many chromosomes. They’re used all over the world as a conservation tool to some extent,” says Stephen Harrison, a wheat and oat breeder at Louisiana State University.
In fragile, subtropical soils of Brazil, black oats and winter legumes have helped secure germination of spring-planted crops like soybeans and corn by providing adequate residue cover in the spring to protect the soil from the crusting impact of heavy rainfall.
In the U.S., the SoilSaver black oat cultivar is most common. SoilSaver is a collaboration between Auburn University and the Institute of Agronomy of Paraná, Brazil. The SoilSaver cultivar is more cold hardy than traditional black oats, suitable for growth in zones 8 to 10 in the southern U.S.
“SoilSaver black oats have several advantages as a cover crop,” says D.W. Reeves, research leader at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service office in Watkinsville, Ga. “It tillers well, producing good soil coverage in relation to total biomass produced. It suppresses broadleaf weeds extremely well.”
In one study, weed control in reduced-tillage cotton averaged 34% with black oats compared to 26% for cereal rye, 19% for wheat and 16% with no cover crop…