The first new oat variety from the LSU AgCenter since 1998 is available now for planting this fall, according to Steve Harrison, an LSU AgCenter small grains breeder who developed the new variety.

Harrison said the new oat is well-suited for forage for livestock and wildlife. It also rated highest in yields in two-year and three-year LSU AgCenter performance trials of all commercial oats in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

The variety is marketed as Plot Spike LA9339 by Ragan and Massey Seed Co. of Ponchatoula, the exclusive distributor, Harrison said.

The LSU AgCenter will file for plant variety protection on LA9339. The federal Plant Variety Protection Act provides developers of new plants patent-like rights that prohibit the reproduction of their varieties.

The variety has been tested extensively for forage as well as for grain and is being released as a dual-purpose oat, Harrison said.

“It's a tall, medium-late oat with excellent insect resistance, excellent grain yield and excellent forage yield,” he added.

Although Louisiana grows 10,000 to 15,000 acres of oats for grain each year, farmers, ranchers and others also plant oats for winter grazing, Harrison said.

“Lots of oats are used for pasture or mixed with ryegrass for pasture,” Harrison said, explaining the plant provides excellent winter grazing for cattle, including dairy cattle, as well as for wildlife. “We see a tremendous amount of acres planted by deer hunters and others.”

As a winter forage, oats offer several advantages, including the ability to produce early growth compared with ryegrass. “And, most animals prefer oats to ryegrass or wheat,” Harrison added.

Harrison said LA9339 also provides very good grain quality and is adapted to southern growing conditions.

Most oats for grain in Louisiana are grown for local consumption — mostly for horses, Harrison said, adding that the plants are also used as a cover crop to prevent soil erosion in winter.