Standing oats with windmill behind

Oats used to be grown throughout the Upper Midwest. Some members of the Practical Farmers of Iowa and others would like to see an acreage resurgence and are running oat-variety trials to fill an oat knowledge gap.

As a challenging row crop planting season  wraps up for 2019 in South Dakota, many producers are looking to plant cover crops on unplanted acres to provide forage, control weeds, reduce erosion and improve soil health.

One popular cool-season grass cover crop is oats. Most oats in South Dakota are grown as certified varieties and it is important to be aware of the legal ramifications behind purchasing oat seed for use as a cover crop.

The South Dakota State University Oat Breeding Program has released many successful commercially available varieties over the last several years including: Goliath, Hayden, Horsepower, Shelby 427 and Natty.

In order to continue the development of locally adapted varieties of oats and other small grains for years to come, royalties are associated with variety releases. Royalties provide funding for equipment, research and land usage and rental.

When a variety is released from SDSU through the South Dakota Crop Improvement Association, it is protected by Plant Variety Protection with Title V (PVP). This requires that the variety be sold as seed by the official variety name as a class of certified seed. Put simply, this means it is not legal for farmers or elevators to sell protected varieties as grain for seeding purposes (including cover crops) unless said variety was grown or purchased as a protected, named variety.

Farmers cannot sell ‘bin-run’ SDSU bred oats to one another because it is technically grain, not a protected, named seed variety. However, it is legal for a grower to plant his or her own bin-run grain as seed as long as it was grown on their farm.

In addition to following PVP regulations, purchasing quality seed is an important part of protecting South Dakota growers from the introduction of new weed and pest issues, according to SDSU Extension experts.

When purchasing any seed, check seed tags for weed seed levels, especially when working with cover crops. Growers should always be sure seed has been cleaned and tested for weed seed, disease and inert matter.

Palmer amaranth is one weed inadvertently introduced in South Dakota by producers purchasing and growing low-quality seed.

Variety infringement has been more readily enforced in South Dakota in an effort to protect both seed integrity and funding for SDSU breeding programs.

A Plant Variety Protection case was settled in Iowa for $2.975 million. The lawsuit involved SDSU oat varieties that were being illegally sold as part of a cover crop mixture.

Contact the crop improvement association at 605-688-4606 with any PVP-related questions.