Some livestock producers are having difficulty producing adequate amounts of livestock bedding with small grains. One solution is to plant greater acreages to small grains, but if producers don~t have good uses for the grain this isn~t a viable alternative.
The Iowa State University Oat Test showed straw yields ranging from 1.9 to 2.5 tons per acre. These yields are probably higher than farm production because there are no losses; the biomass is weighed for each plot and the grain weights subtracted from these values to get the straw yields. Generally, the straw yields are greater for the late-maturing oat varieties, but they also have a greater tendency to lodge.
A good alternative for livestock producers is to plant reed canarygrass and harvest it for bedding. ISU reed canarygrass variety trials showed yields of 4.5 to 5.5 tons per acre with two harvests, early June and mid-to-late July. Nitrogen was applied in three equal applications, early spring and after each cutting. Planting rate is 8 to 10 pounds per acre. If planted in the spring, oat can be used as a companion crop, but the oat should be planted at less than the normal rate and removed early to reduce competition with the reed canarygrass.
Some of the advantages of reed canarygrass are:
It would not have to be established each year as do small grains.
Harvest date would not be as critical for fear of the crop lodging.
It would be a great area to spread livestock manure when the rest of the cropland is in row crops.
It would be an excellent utilizer of livestock manure.
The per-acre yield of bedding would be considerably greater than that of small grains.
When planted on highly erosive soils, erosion will be controlled. The obvious disadvantage is there is no grain produced.