Oats: variety selection

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Identifying the option that will lead to the greatest returns for a grower is a complex problem. Yield will be one of the key determinants of returns, but grain quality is also a consideration. Two recently released varieties for Western Australia; Bannister and Williams, have shown significant yield and disease resistance improvements over other varieties and should be considered by growers. Newly released variety Durack (tested as WA02Q302-9) is a shorter season variety which has excellent grain quality, suitable for the lower rainfall areas.

Yield will be the main determinant of returns but grain quality is also an important consideration.

The decision to grow oats for milling, feed or hay depends on the following factors.

  • The relative yields/gross margins of milling grade, feed grade and hay oat varieties.
  • The likelihood that the grain will be accepted for milling grade and the premium paid for that grade.
  • The quality parameters for a high yielding dual purpose or a high quality hay variety for the export market.
  • Agronomic and disease constraints of the different varieties.

Choose a range of two or more varieties to suit likely sowing opportunities in your area. Assess risk factors such as disease susceptibilities, herbicide sensitivities, dockages for downgraded samples, susceptibility to weather damage, coleoptile length, tolerance to acid soil and boron toxicity.

Traditionally, only tall oats were accepted for use in the milling industry in Western Australia as those carrying the dwarfing genes generally did not produce suitable grain. The National Oat Breeding Program has now released a number of dwarf varieties suitable for milling. In Western Australia these have been Kojonup and Bannister, with Mitika and Possum accepted for milling in South Australia. This means the benefits dwarf varieties offer growers in terms of higher grain yields, less lodging and less head loss are now widely available.

Yield

Bannister and Williams have excellent grain yields and are consistently the highest yielding lines in all AgZones of Western Australia. They are over 20% better yielding that Carrolup and have a more than 10% yield improvement over Wandering. Nationally, Williams is the highest yielding potential milling oat variety in National Variety Testing (NVT) trials.

Table 1 Average grain yield (t/ha) in Western Australia from 2010-2015. Data courtesy National Oat Breeding Program and NVT. Analysis by SAGI
Variety AgZone 2 Agzone 3 AgZone 4 AgZone 5 AgZone 6
Bannister 4.0 3.9 2.0 3.3 4.8
Carrolup 3.4 3.2 1.8 2.8 3.7
Durack 3.5 3.3 1.6 2.9 3.8
Kojonup 3.7 3.6 1.8 3.0 4.5
Mitika 3.7 3.4 1.8 3.0 4.6
Wandering 4.0 3.5 2.2 3.6 4.4
Williams 4.1 4.1 1.9 3.2 4.6
Yallara 3.5 3.4 1.7 2.9 3.4
No. trials 22 16 3 3 5

Quality

Milling oats are received on the basis of grain physical quality including hectolitre weight, free groats, screenings and moisture. Growers should check prices of particular varieties with potential buyers to determine the most profitable cropping options.

Table 2 Average physical grain quality characters of oat varieties, 2015. Hectolitre weight and screenings data courtesy National Variety Trials Program, analysis by Georgie Troup, DPIRD. 1000 grain weight data courtesy of the National Oat Breeding Program
Variety Hectolitre weight (kg/hl) 1000 grain weight (g) Screenings (% <2.0mm)
Bannister 54.0 33.4 8.8
Carrolup 54.9 32.7 12.0
Durack 58.5 34.3 6.2
Kojonup 54.0 32.7 6.6
Mitika 53.7 34.9 4.6
Wandering 53.7 33.4 6.1
Williams 52.4 31.2 14.9
Yallara 55.0 33.1 8.1
No. Trials 10 30 10

Many of the physical characteristics of milling and feed oats are similar, however large differences exist in some of the desired chemical characteristics. These are important with regard to suitability of varieties for milling or feed, where requirements for each industry may be significantly different. For example, milling requirements call for higher levels of B-glucans and lower oil percent, while oats for animal feed need lower levels of B-glucans and higher oil percent.

Table 3 Average chemical grain quality characters of oat varieties
Variety NIR protein (%) NIR oil (%) NIR groat (%) Grain brightness Estimated ME (MG/kg dm) B-Glucan (dry basis) Hull lignin
Bannister 11.1 7.1 75.1 59.1 12.0 4.3 (3) High
Williams 11.1 6.8 7.7 - - - -
Carrolup 13.1 5.5 75.6 60.0 11.7 4.7(3) High
Kojonup 13.4 5.6 78.4 60.2 12.0 5.4 (2) High
Mitika 12.6 6.5 75.6 58.8 12.6 5.5 (3) Low
Wandering 12.3 6.2 74.2 61.7 1.6 4.9 (3) High
Yallara 11.6 4.6 79.3 61.3 11.7 5.1 (3) High
No. Trials 48 42 40 34 15 - -

Disease resistance

The major diseases that affect oats are stem rust, leaf rust, barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) and Septoria avenae blotch, with the severity changing with seasons. BYDV, which occurs most commonly in southern high rainfall areas west of the Albany Highway, can cause significant losses. In the medium and low rainfall areas, diseases of oats are usually of reduced significance.

Bannister and Williams offer advantages in their rust resistance profiles over other varieties. Although still showing susceptibility to septoria the S and MS ratings these varieties carry should show visible improvements in the field over VS lines.

Table 4 Disease characteristics of oat varieties in WA, 2016. Data courtesy National Oat Breeding Program
Variety Stem rust Leaf rust BYDV Septoria Bacterial blight
Bannister MR-S R MS S MR-S
Carrolup MS S MS S-VS MR-S
Durack MR-MS R-S MS-S S-VS MR-S
Kojonup R-MS S MS S-VS MR-S
Mitika MR-S R S S-VS MR
Wandering MS VS MR-MS S-VS MR-S
Williams MR R MR-MS MS R
Yallara MR-MS R MR-S MS-S MR-MS

BYDV = barley yellow dwarf virus. R = resistant, MR = moderately resistant, MS = moderately susceptible, S = susceptible, VS = very susceptible. Rust reactions may vary in different regions depending on the prevailing pathotypes.

The National Oat Breeding Program

The National Oat Breeding Program is a partnership between:

Its mission is to release improved oat varieties for grain or hay production, adapted to Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales.

Acknowledgements

Some of this information has been based on Farmnotes and Bulletins produced by Kelly Winfield, Blakely Paynter, Raj Malik and Maurice Hall.

Contact information

Author

Georgina Troup