Published May 14, 2015

Small Grains Production Resources

By Nick Ohde

Cereal rye grown at Green Iron Farms by Tim Sieren in Washington County.

Do you have a question about growing small grains? There’s a good chance that you can find an answer on our website. Iowa was once a nationwide leader in small grain production, especially oats, but many farm families haven’t grown them for a generation. Now that more and more members have become interested in growing small grains, Practical Farmers of Iowa’s staff and members have been busy compiling information about how to plant, harvest, store, and sell small grains. See some highlights of farminars, videos, and articles we’ve been working on this year:


Setting Up Fall and Spring Small Grain Production for Success

Members Bill Frederick and Dustin Farnsworth share their experiences with growing small grains as part of the rotation on their Iowa farms. Small grains researcher and PFI member David Weisberger shares his experience talking with organic oat producers across the state. This farminar is a good resource for practical aspects of successful small grains: field preparation, plant populations and planter settings, stand assessment and harvest tactics.

“In the 1940s, we had 6.5 million acres in oats production.  At this point, in 2013, we had about 65,000 acres. That’s about a hundred-fold decrease.  We haven’t just lost acres, we’ve lost a lot of wisdom, and a lot of basic knowledge as well. We need to get that back.” – David Weisberger

Oats for Iowa: Variety Selection and Agronomic Production Tips

In this farminar, Bruce Roskens, director of crop sciences for Grain Millers, INC along with PFI member Darren Fehr share information about what oat varieties to select – including new varieties that are available – improved production methods, and agronomic decisions to ensure the best yields and quality.

“You can’t go to a seed company and get a guide or a recipe for profitable oat production like you can for hybrid corn. A lot of the information is handed down from other farmers.” – Bruce Roskens

Cereal Rye: Stand Evaluation and Seed Selection 

In this farminar, learn management tactics critical to success with cereal rye. Greg Roth of Penn State University discusses his experiences and research with rye, including new hybrid rye originally developed in Europe that is yielding well in U.S. trials. PFI member Tim Sieren shares some of his experiences – both good and bad – growing cereal rye for seed. He also discusses some of the equipment he uses for seeding, harvesting, storage and seed cleaning.

“It does take some time commitment. If you want a good stand and good results, you have to put a little time and a little effort into it, just like you would your corn and beans. You can’t just go out there and scatter it and expect it to grow.” – Tim Sieren


Practical Tips for Small Grains Success – Oats

Bruce Roskens of Grain Millers, Inc shares some tips for successful oat production.

“Regardless of what you think or you knew about oats 10 years ago or 15 years ago, these really are not your father’s oats.” – Bruce Roskens

Practical Tips for Small Grains Success

PFI member Scott Shriver shares his experience growing wheat and oats.

“If you just dollar it up, it doesn’t dollar up as well as corn and soybeans. It’s some of the intangible things that you don’t put dollars to that are the reasons we left it in our rotation.” – Scott Shriver


Cereal Rye Goes to Seed” – Wallaces Farmer – May 2015

PFI members Mark Peterson and Tim Sieren are featured in this article about growing rye for seed.  Mark and Tim share tips on planting, harvest, cleaning, and storage.

“I made a little unexpected income, was able to help my neighbor get some quality forage at a time of year when there wasn’t much available and got a few extra nutrients from the cattle manure on some land that needed it badly. It was a win-win-win for us.” – Mark Peterson on the cover crop mix he was able to grow after harvesting the rye for seed.

3-year Rotation Improves Soil” – Wallaces Farmer – February 2015

PFI members Tim Sieren and Matt Liebman are featured in this article about the ability to incorporate a green manure crop with small grains and reduce the amount of commercial nitrogen applied.

“Nitrogen from biological sources is more like a slow burn than a flash in the pan” – Matt Liebman.

Small grains in crop rotation offer many benefits” – Organic Broadcaster – January/February 2015

PFI member Tom Frantzen is featured in this article about small grains production and his experience feeding small grains to his pigs.

“If you took the small grains out of our farm, I wouldn’t know how to make it work” – Tom Frantzen.

Please contact us with your questions and ideas about small grains, and look out for more information coming in the future!