Genetic material is being sourced from around the world for a new project to develop new and improved milling oat varieties that will pave the way for increased production in Western Australia.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development research, with co-investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation, will lay the foundations for the adoption of high performance varieties suited to WA conditions.
Department research officer Georgie Troup said new milling oat varieties with high yields, good grain size and milling quality would add value to growers’ cropping programs.
“Oats have a unique fit in the WA farming system, with the option to sow early, diversify crop rotations, and manage frost risk better than other cereals,” Ms Troup said.
The two-year project will involve pre-breeding research and evaluate a range of international milling oat germplasm (plant material), which could be adapted to WA conditions.
The research team has selected varieties that have a broader range of maturities than are currently grown in WA to support a shift towards earlier sowing.
Germplasm is being accessed from the Australian Grains Genebank and the National Oat Breeding Program.
“We are using a technique that enables researchers to efficiently evaluate the potential of the germplasm,” Ms Troup said.
“This involves planting a small amount of seed from a large number of varieties in replicated trials under controlled conditions, using irrigation to aid establishment.
“Each plot at the department’s Northam and Katanning Research Facilities is spaced 50 centimetres apart and sown with 12 seeds, so we can assess the plants’ response to variations in temperature, photoperiod (the amount of light plants receive) and vernalisation (cold temperatures accelerating flowering).”
The project will also evaluate breeding lines soon to be released by the National Oat Breeding Program and recently released varieties that could be suited to early sowing under various nutrition scenarios, to determine the best agronomic approach to improve grain quality and yield.
Ms Troup said the research was designed to assist WA growers to meet new Oat2 specifications, by combining the most suitable varieties with best-bet agronomy to achieve good yields that meet market milling quality requirements.
The 2019-20 harvest will see the introduction of tightened grain receival specifications for Oat2 milling oats, including a maximum screenings allowance of 15 per cent through a two millimetre sieve and a maximum of 72 oat groats per standard measure.
“The current, high yielding Oat1 varieties have either a risk of grain staining or a narrower grain shape, which can make it challenging for them to meet Oat2 receival standards,” Ms Troup said.
“This project seeks to address these issues by examining the potential for sowing winter and late spring milling oat varieties earlier, in April, to avoid the risk of small grain size, and high screenings.”
Small plot trials have been established at Walebing, Nunile and Highbury in 2019 to help develop agronomic systems to assist growers to satisfy the new Oat2 classification requirements.
Jodie Thomson/Megan Broad, media liaison
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