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Can a late summer oat crop help farmers struggling in a drought?

Cornell Cooperative Extension
The late planted summer oats project is funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program that serves the six-county region with research and technical assistance.

Scientists with the Cornell Cooperative Extension are experimenting with a late-summer oat crop.  They say it may help farmers during a drought like the one parts of New York state are experiencing now. The oats could give farmers one last chance to stock up on feed for their livestock.

This summer’s dry weather means farmers across the North Country won’t harvest as much corn and hay this fall as they hoped.

Kitty O’Neil, with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, said lots of farmers are still feeding their cows leftover corn and hay from last year’s harvest. But she said for some, the low yields are really bad news.

“Also combined with low milk prices it’s going to be very stressful on some farms.”

O’Neil said this year's drought may force some farmers to leave the business. That’s why O’Neil and other crop experts, with funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, are considering if an emergency oat crop can help.

“On a farm, even if you’re behind on forage production, there is kind of a mindset that even if you know it's dry you still have to try and produce something because if you don’t you’re in trouble.”

In order for the crop to be considered successful, the oats should be able to grow quickly without much fertilizer. Last August, O’Neil planted two varieties of oats in three fields across the North Country. O’Neil and her team are repeating the experiment this year to determine which variety would work best.

If the crop grows, O'Neil said they plan to educate farmers on which oats to plant the next time weather doesn't cooperate.