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Sept. 11, 2017DES MOINES, Iowa |  By: Nienow

Iowa farmers return to sowing oats

Sowing one's oats has long been an expression used to describe youthful indiscretions, but increasingly Iowa farmers are discovering that the literal application of the practice yields economic and environmental benefits. Southwest Iowa farmer Eric Madsen says the state was once a national leader in oat production and used the crop for food, animal feed and bedding.

In an effort to diversify, improve soil and water conservation, and add a cost-efficient third crop, farmers such as Madsen have found oats to be the natural choice. The so-called "input costs" of planting oats are less than half of what it costs to plant corn. Oats also grow exceedingly well in Iowa's climate. Madsen is one of dozens of farmers who attended the "Rotationally Raised" Small Grains Conference hosted recently by Practical Farmers of Iowa. He notes that only two states in the nation - Iowa and Oregon - have increased harvested oat acres. For this particular part of the country, Madsen says, it's proved to be a good time to return to the historic crop.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reports harvested oat acres in the state recently have risen from 43,000 acres to 48,000 acres. Madsen says in a tough farm economy a diversified operation creates more income streams while protecting the environment