Avena sativa

Also known as: spring oats

Cool season annual cereal


  • Low cost biomass/organic matter source (dry matter: 2,000-10,000 lbs/ac/yr)
  • Companion crop
  • Smother crop for weed suppression
  • Nurse crop in combination with slow-establishing legumes
  • Nutrient catch crop (excess N, some P and K)
  • Winter cover crop
  • Hay, straw, forage or grain crop
  • Fast erosion control

Plant Highlights

  • EXCELLENT for suppressing weeds, for quick growth and establishment
  • VERY GOOD for taking up and storing excess N, for providing erosion control
  • GOOD for increasing organic matter and improving soil structure, for animal grazing (production, nutritional quality & palatability), for providing lasting residue

Cultural Traits

  • Fair heat tolerance
  • Fair drought tolerance
  • Fair shade tolerance
  • Good flood tolerance
  • Good tolerance to low fertility
  • pH range 5.5-7.0 (NRCS), prefers 4.5-6.5 (SAN)


Planting depth: 1/2 - 2 inches (Shallow seeding in moist soil provides rapid emergence and reduces root rot disease)

Seeding Method

  • Drilled: Seed at 80-110 lb./A (2.5-3.5 bu/A)
  • Broadcast: Seed at 110-140 lb./A (3.5-4.5 bu/A)

Seed Cost: .10-.20 $/lb.

Seed Availability: Readily available


  • Cultivars commonly recommended by the Hawai`i Natural Resources Conservation Service include: 'Newdak', 'Steele', 'Swan', 'Valley'.
  • 'Coker 234' is rust resistant and has been used successfully on Lanai on abandoned pineapple fields.
  • Work by Evensen, Osgood, and El-Swaify suggests that the 'Walken' and 'Coker' cultivars are suitable for cover crops in Hawai`i.


with clover, pea, vetch or other legumes

Soil Improvements

  • Poor for loosening subsoil
  • Fair at releasing P and K
  • Very good at loosening topsoil

Pest Control

  • Root knot nematode susceptible (NRCS)
  • Good disease suppression
  • Very good allelopathic properties
  • Excellent weed suppression
  • Poor for attracting beneficial insects

Management Attributes

  • Good trafficability
  • Rapid establishment and growth ideal for short windows


  • Oats contain allelopathic compounds in their roots which can hinder weed growth for a few weeks. Minimize this by waiting three weeks after oat incorporation before seeding a susceptible crop (lettuce, cress, timothy, rice, wheat, peas, cotton).
  • Resistant oat cultivars can minimize rusts, smuts and blights.
  • Oats are prone to lodging in N rich soil.


Uses in the Pacific Region

No information is available in this database on this topic.

Uses in Hawai`i

The Hawai`i Natural Resources Conservation Service Technical Guide includes common Oats (cv. 'Newdak', 'Steele', 'Swan', 'Valley'). Their specification describes common Oats as:

  • Tolerates acid/low fertility soils;
  • Minimum broadcast seeding rates of 70 lbs. pure live seed/acre;
  • pH range from 5.5-7.0;
  • Approximate growing time 60 days;
  • Approximate dry matter yield 2 tons/acre;
  • Approximate N content 16 lbs./T dry matter;
  • Add 20 lbs. of nitrogen/ton dry matter at plow down;
  • Optimum planting period year round;
  • Elevation range from 0-4000 ft.

There is a NRCS specification supplement for Sugar Cane which includes optimal seeding dates by field office (ranging between 9/15 and 5/1), row widths, and management recommendations.

Evensen, Osgood and El-Swaify conducted five years of research with small grains as cover crops on sugarcane plantations for erosion and weed control. Variety trials for 51 cultivars of oat, barley, wheat, ryegrass and rye grain on Hawai`i, Molokai, and Lanai were compared. Of the oat trials, varieties 'Walken' and 'Coker' were the most promising (in terms of vigorous growth, rapid soil cover, weed suppression, low plant height, and lack of flowering). This information has applications for pineapple, coffee and tropical fruit tree orchards.

A. Arakaki, UH Cooperative Extension Service, reports using rust resistant cultivar 'Coker 234' successfully on abandoned pineapple plantations on Lanai.

For More Information


Evensen, C.I., Osgood, R.V., & El-Swaify, S.A. Small grain cover crops in Hawaii for erosion and weed control. A poster paper presented at the conference on "Cover Crops, Soil Quality and Ecosystems", March 12-14,1997.

1998. Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 2nd ed. Sustainable Agriculture Network, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, USA. pp. 212.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Hawai`i Field Office Technical Guide, Section IV, Code 340 "Cover and Green Manure Crop" May 1992. Pacific Islands Area Field Office Technical Guide (eFOTG) - East Area

Text last updated on 8/10/2007

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These webpages were originally generated under a grant program from Western SARE entitled "Covering New Ground: Tropical Cover Crops for Improving Soil Quality" EW98-012 (1998-2002).