I continue to see and hear problems from farmers who are growing Oats this winter. Oats are the most susceptible to cold injury of the small grains we grow in the area and a series of nights with temperatures below freezing are have showed the results. The low temperature of 22 F on January 7th is the coldest temperature we have recorded in January. I spoke with a dairyman in the area who reported this has been the most challenging crop of oats he has grown, and by far looks worse than any he has seen. I also spoke with Rome Ethredge, University of Georgia Extension Agent in Seminole County Georgia about the conditions of the crop in Georgia, and his area is seeing challenging conditions as well. Mr. Ethredge indicated seeing patterns of cold injury related to compaction and insufficient nutrients. Specifically, less vigorous plants are being injured by the cold.
We do not expect permanent damage to the oats, as the growing point is below ground during the tillering stage until jointing. Research has shown that Oat cultivars vary in their tolerance to cold temperatures. Oats are primarily planted in North Florida for grazing, hay, and silage. Damaged oats may require an additional fertilizer application especially where the patterns appear to be related to low vigor as a result of insufficient fertilizer. However, I have observed moisture stress on nonirrigated fields leading to the same conditions. Review the status of the fertilization program and rainfall received before making additional fertilizer applications.
The attached picture is from a farm in Columbia County where oats were planted for winter grazing. The repeating streaky pattern of cold injury on this farm appears related to spreader patterns of poultry litter applied before planting.