Taing Aung
Cereal Research Center, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 195 Dafoe Road, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3T 2M9

Various doubled haploid production procedures such as several wide crossing methods and anther culture techniques have been developed and these methods have provided opportunities in establishing doubled haploid lines and highly homozygous breeding populations for rice, barley, and wheat. Hitherto, there has been no report on the development of an efficient procedure to generate a large population of doubled haploids in oat (Avena sativa L) . Since the development of the method based on the utilization of maize pollen to generate haploid and doubled haploid plants in wheat, the procedures have been applied by many wheat geneticists and breeders in producing doubled haploid lines. Successful production of haploid (H) and doubled haploid (DH) oat through the use of maize pollen has been reported by Rines and Dahleen in 1990. An oat doubled haploid program was initiated at Cereal Research Center (CRC) in the fall of 1996 following the successful completion of the establishment of the wheat doubled haploid production system. Application of maize pollen to fertilize oat female gametophytes and subsequent treatment with 2,4-D, a method very similar to the one we used in our wheat doubled haploid program, has resulted in the production of 213 haploid plants from nine oat cultivars.
Nine genotypes of cultivated oat ( AC Marie, AC Preakness, Calibre, Dal, Derby, Dumont, Riel, Robert and SunII ) were used in our project. A dwarf genotype of maize (1-1.2 m. tall) that can be grown under normal growth cabinet conditions was developed at from the F3 generation of a triple cross involving Seneca 60, Manitoba-Dwarf/Sweet and Indian Flint corn and the synthetic maize genotype so produced was designated as SDF 1. The oat genotypes were hand-emasculated and were pollinated with freshly shed pollen of the synthetic maize genotype SDF 1. The pollinated florets were sprayed with 2,4-D (1mg/L) solution, embryos were dissected from 15-day old caryopses and the embryo rescue producers were performed in Gamborg5 media. Haploid plantlets developed from the embryos were transferred to12.7cm pots and the plants at three-tiller stage were treated with colchicine. Approximately 30 % of the plants were treated with colchicine to induce chromosome doubling. Mitotic chromosome counts and chromosome pairing analysis at meiosis were carried out. The haploid plants of AC Preakness, Dumont and SunII were used as the pistillate parent and hybridized to their respective hexaploid cultivars as pollen parents with the aim to generate aneuploid plants.
A total of 319 haploid seedlings with fully developed leaves and that did not express abnormal morphological features were generated and transferred to soil in 12.7cm pots, out of which 213 (67 %) developed into normal plants. Out of 213 normal haploid plants 63 plants were treated with colchicine at three-tiller-stage and 54 mixoploid {a plant with a mixture of chromosome doubled tillers and non-doubled tillers} plants were generated (86% of the plants survived the colchicine treatment). Of the remaining non-treated 150 haploid plants, 144 (96 %) reached full maturity with normal morphological features. All144 haploid plants were small, about 50% the size of their respective hexaploid parents but the haploid plants tillered profusely (over 50 tillers were recorded at the time of harvest in about 40% of the plants). The mixoploid plants (54 plants) produced less tillers than the haploids, but several colchicine-doubled tillers produced large fertile florets.
Record on fertility of 139 mixoploid and haploid plants of four cultivars (68 plants of AC Preakness, 37 plants of Dumont, 22 plants of Derby and 12 plants of Dal ) is presented in this paper. Out of the 35 colchicine treated haploid plants 32 plants (91%) produced 3-13 fertile tillers and produced more than 30 seeds per plant, two plants (6%) produced less than 30 seeds, and one plant (3%) had no seed. Among the non-treated 104 haploid plants, only 14 (13%) produced more than 30 seeds, 34 (33%) produced less than 30 seeds and 56 (54%) had no seed. Seeds harvested from the fully fertile tillers of the mixoploid plants were as large as those produced on normal hexaploid plants, and the plants generated from these seeds were normal, vigorous and all the tillers were fully fertile with 42 chromosomes, indicating that doubled haploid (DH) plants were generated. A total of 10 haploid plants and 11 DH plants were involved in mitotic and meiotic analyses. Mitotic chromosome counts revealed that two maize chromosomes were detected in the regular haploid chromosome complements (2n=21+ 2 maize) in two of the ten haploid plants, the remaining eight were haploids with regular 21 chromosomes with no indication of the presence of maize chromosome. Somatic chromosome number of all the 11 DH plants was 42, with no discernable irregular chromosomes and no maize chromosomes were detected. At the metaphase stage of meiosis in eight haploid plants 21 univalents were formed and no chiasmate association was observed.. Chromosome pairing at meiosis in all the DH plants was normal with 21 bivalents. A total of 13 hybrid seeds were generated from crosses involving haploid plants (2n=21) and euploid plants (2n=42) plants of AC Preakness, Dumont and SunII. Two plants of SunII were hypoaneuploids with 41 chromosomes and one plant was a euploid (2n=42). One hypoaneuploid was isolated from five plants developed from seeds harvested from SunII haploid plants.

Fritz Matzk in1996 also had reported the production of oat doubled haploid plants through the application of maize, pearl millet and eastern gamagrass pollen, and 4 haploid plants were generated from 21823 florets of oat pollinated (0.018% success). Matzk concluded from his results along with those reported by Rines and Dahleen in 1990, that the oat x maize system or other crosses cannot be used effectively for haploid or doubled haploid production in oat. The efficiency of our method in oat doubled haploid production (fully developed haploid plants per 100 pollinated florets) for nine oat cultivars was on average 1.2%. AC Preakness appears to be the best genotype for producing oat doubled haploids ( 2.6 %). Riel performed poorly with less than 0.2%, showing that different oat genotypes exhibit different response to the maize pollen-mediated double haploid production procedure. Spontaneous chromosome doubling in oat haploid plants was reported by Rines et al. in 1996, and seeds were harvested from these plants. Our data indicated that most oat haploid plants are basically sterile and when seeds were produced, the number of seeds produced was very low in most plants (33% produced <30 seeds/plant and 54% did not produce any seed). Treating the haploid plants with colchicine to induce chromosome doubling is an essential step in oat double haploid program since 86 % of the haploid plants survived the treatment and 91 % of the plants that survived produced sufficient amount of seeds (>30 seeds/plant). In comparison, only 13 % of the non-treated haploid plants produced sufficient amount of seeds (>30 seeds/plant) which was probably due to spontaneous chromosome doubling in some tillers.


1. In certain oat genotypes an appreciable number of doubled haploid (300+ ) can be produced in 12 months time by one full time technician using two growth cabinets.
2. There is still room for improvement in our oat doubled haploid production system.
3. For some oat genotypes maize pollen mediated double haploid production system can be used in breeding programs.
The author thanks Drs. Scott Duguid and Douglas Brown for their valuable advice and also for sharing their resources. Funding support for this project from all the members of The Oat Consortium, Canada, is gratefully acknowledged.

P. D. Brown and S.D. Duguid
Cereal Research Centre, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, 195 Dafoe Road
Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3T 2M9

Oat has been a valued crop for hundreds of years. Initially, the seed, eaten as a gruel, was a major component of the human diet. It evolved to an animal feed and was particularly important during the era when horse power was used for transportation and industry. Oat straw, oat forage and the fact that oat fits into the crop rotation has also given value to the oat crop. In recent years, however, the popularity of oat as a component in human diets has increased. It is likely that within the next 10-25 years oat will continue to have increased value in the human diet.

To continue to be grown, oat must be economically competitive relative to other crops. The question that must be asked is "what should we do to keep oat competitive?" In most cases, the foundation of a good oat already exists - all that remains is to make small but important improvements in the plant type, kernel type or chemical composition of the seed.

Several agronomic improvements would increase the value of oat. Increases in yield potential should continue. In areas where the growing season is short, the numbers of days from planting to maturity should be decreased, ideally with no sacrifice in yield. Lodging resistance must be improved; it is likely that in areas where the oat straw is of limited value, semidwarf oat will be released and grown. Ongoing improvements to the disease resistance of the oat plant will also maintain its competitiveness.

Several changes to the oat kernel morphology would also be desirable. A short plump kernel would improve seed density, test weight, and increase transportation efficiencies. For industrial processing, a uniform kernel shape of all primary and secondary kernels would improve efficiency and, hence, value. Unless a valuable use for the hulls could be found, it would be desirable to reduce the hull content. Because value is a perception, a bright white coloured hull would be desirable. In some markets, a naked oat, especially a hairless naked oat, will be in demand.

The chemical composition of the oat kernel, including factors such as the amount and quality of the oil, protein, starch and beta glucan will also be altered in different breeding programs. These components will influence the manufacturing characteristics of the oat kernel to add value to the oat crop.

To speculate about future oat types without having wild dreams would be an injustice. It would be good to develop oat varieties with increased drought tolerance or increased moisture tolerance or reduced fertilizer dependency. Perhaps a perennial oat could be developed. Discovering new end uses for the oat plant or oat seed would increase its demand and value. An exciting new food could markedly increase demand. Could oat be used as a crude oil substitute, or could it be used in the housing industry? Oat is already being used in the fashion/cosmetic industry but with some collaborative research, additional novel uses in this area might be found.

To develop these new oat types 10 years from now requires that the crosses be made immediately. To develop new types in 25 years requires that the germplasm for these changes now be identified for incorporation into breeding programs.

Douglas C. Doehlert
USDA-ARS Wheat Quality Laboratory, Harris Hall, North Dakota State University
Fargo, ND 58105 USA
Oat quality is defined by its end use. Different end uses dictate different quality specifications. Overall, oat quality is measured from the test weight, groat percentage, whole kernel characteristics (size, color, uniformity), and groat characteristics (size, hardness, uniformity, composition). Test weight is by far the most commonly used oat quality parameter. The ease and simplicity of the test weight measurement, along with its correlation with groat percentage, make it an important test for oat quality evaluation. Although it is designed to test the density of an oat kernel, the shape of the kernel also affects test weight in a way not related to quality parameters. Image analysis is developing as an alternative to test weight, where digitized images of oat kernels, along with their mass can provide kernel density measurements highly correlated with groat percentage and test weight. Although many other types of information can be derived from image analysis, it requires more capital equipment and time to process and is unlikely to replace test weight in the near future. Groat percentage represents the economic yield from a given sample of oat, but its value is strongly affected by the method used to measure it. Errors in groat percentage can occur from hulls remaining after dehulling, over aspiration to remove hulls, or from excessive breakage of groats during dehulling. Oat whole kernel size can be evaluated from thousand kernel weights, sieving on slotted sieves, or by image analysis. An advantage of image analysis is that uniformity of kernel size is also evaluated. Hull color is of relatively little importance, except in some specialty markets, and is evaluated visually. Groat size can be measured by thousand kernel weight, image analysis, or by an automated kernel analyzer. Both the automatic kernel analyzer and image analysis provide uniformity information, although in different units. Resistance to groat breakage during dehulling is defined as groat hardness and is a relatively new quality factor. Groat hardness can be measured directly from breakage after dehulling, by an automated kernel analyzer, or by bran yield. Because kernel hardness controls particle size in flour after grinding, higher bran yields indicate harder groats. Economically important components of groat composition include starch, protein, oil, and beta-glucans. Oat protein is nutritionally complete, and higher concentrations of protein are frequently considered desirable. Lower oil concentrations are usually desired for milling because of the perception that this may provide better shelf life for products. Higher oil oat products may have improved flavor and have fatty acid profiles more desirable for stability. Beta-glucan is responsible for the cholesterol lowering effect in oat and higher concentrations are frequently desired for food applications. Each chemical component can be determined by a variety of specific chemical means. Near Infrared Reflectance (NIR) is frequently used as a fast means to estimate many chemical components simultaneously. Care needs to be taken with NIR analyses to check some results by independent means to assure reliability of calibrations. Any quality measurement will vary from laboratory to laboratory. Measurements on new material should be compared relative to cultivars of known character for improved reliability.
Martin H. Entz
Associate Professor, Department of Plant Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2
Renewed interest in oat production in the eastern Canadian prairies has increased demand for technical information. One question regards the suitability of oats to zero-tillage production systems. This paper reviews oat productivity under zero-tillage and explores how the zero-tillage soil environment affects growth and development of oat plants. Oat grain yields under zero-tillage are comparable with those in tilled systems. In one Manitoba study, oat yields averaged 4334 kg/ha under zero-tillage vs. 4288 kg/ha in a tilled system. The yield advantage of zero-tillage increases as water becomes more limiting. The success of zero-tillage oat production appears to be limited more by indirect factors such as weeds (especially wild oats) and high levels of oat crop residue, rather than by physiological responses of oats to zero-tillage per se. Studies in western Canada and elsewhere have shown that weeds are strongly influenced by crop rotation; crop rotation is often more important than tillage system in determining wild oat infestations. The influence of various annual crop rotations on wild oat and other weeds will be discussed. Forage leys provide excellent wild oat control, especially when used in conjunction with zero-tillage. The role of perennial and annual forages in oat rotations will be reviewed. Oats produce more non-grain residue than most other small grain cereal crops. In one Manitoba study, straw residue (not including chaff) averaged 5750 kg/ha for oats, 4540 kg/ha for wheat and 3900 kg/ha for barley. Under dry conditions, this residue helps conserve soil moisture and thereby increases productivity of the system. However under wetter conditions, this residue can cause problems for crop seeding the following year, especially under zero-tillage. Semidwarf lines included in the study produced straw residue levels similar to the tall genotypes, and therefore did not provide a solution to the residue problem. Management approaches for dealing with oat residues in zero-tillage systems include straw baling, straw burning, or seeding a residue "tolerant" crop such as field pea or fababean after oats.
D.G. Goslin
The Quaker Oats Company of Canada Limited
All of us are in sales whether we sell goods such as cars, oatmeal, seed or services such as scientific research, computer services or access to government services. If what we sell meets the needs of our customer/consumer we will be successful, and will be adequately compensated for the goods or services we provide.
The oat processor has many customers including the consumer, the retailer and also the shareholders of the Company. Each of these client groups has a specific set of needs which must be met in order that your business may grow and prosper. The consumer wants a product that is competitively priced, has an appealing flavour/texture, is safe to consume, and meets their nutrition and health needs. The retailer wants a product that is competitively priced, meets their customer's needs and therefore generates volume through their stores, and one that is supported with effective marketing programs. The shareholder must achieve an adequate return on their investment, and in recent years they are becoming much more interested in corporate philosophy and a company's record on social and environmental issues.
As the major input for all oat processors, the oat has a major impact on how successful we are in meeting the needs of our customers. The processor can control some of the factors which impact on customer satisfaction, but the balance required to meet the needs of all our customers and be successful requires that all of the factors be under control. Many of these factors are outside the direct control of the processor, and that is where the "cooperative approaches to -----" will allow us all to be successful in meeting the needs of our customers.
D. E. Harder
Cereal Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 195 Dafoe Road, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2M9
One could list about 75 specific maladies affecting oat, ranging from symptoms caused by infectious diseases to environmental/nutritional or physiological factors. Any of these, although they may be rare, could seriously affect oat production given the appropriate circumstances. This paper will highlight some of the more common problems that may occur in North America, the current status of some of the more important diseases where there is on-going research, and efforts to provide solutions.
While some projects in oat pathology research are still carried out at various institutions in North America, research involving oat diseases generally has declined along with the decrease in oat production. Most research currently involves crown rust, stem rust and barley yellow dwarf, with some presence retained in the smuts and powdery mildew. Almost all of this effort involves disease resistance - searches for new and more effective or more durable sources of resistance, molecular markers, and/or evaluation of resistance in breeding programs.
One of the more pressing problems at present is crown rust. The causal fungus has shown enormous variability in virulence, and this variability appears to be increasing. In some years recently a different pathotype has been identified for each of about two field collections (125 pathotypes from 260 collections in 1995). A large number of resistance genes have been isolated from wild Avena sp. since the mid 1960s, but virulence to all of these genes has been detected. In many cases virulence was detected before the genes were knowingly deployed. This raises some questions as to the origin of virulence in this and probably other rusts. The alternate sexual host for crown rust, Rhamnus cathartica, is widespread in the Great Plains region, and most likely contributes to "stirring the pot" of virulence in this fungus. The result has been a rapid loss of resistance, and when combined with high disease levels in some years recently, there have been serious concerns about potential losses in yield and quality. Previous optimism that a large pool of resistance genes was available into the future has been short lived. Numerous Iberian wild oat accessions have shown resistance in greenhouse tests, and there may be useful untapped resistance available in this collection. Much of this resistance, however, occurs in the lower ploidy species, thus it is more difficult to access. The other approach which is attracting attention is to look for more durable resistance, such as adult plant resistance or the "slow rusting" phenomenon. Neither of these approaches has yet had a practical benefit in oat breeding, but efforts are being made to better characterize these resistances. Molecular techniques involving tracking genes in complex crosses, quantitative trait analysis, and doubled haploids may assist in ultimately improving the durability of crown rust resistance.
The stem rust situation is in sharp contrast to that of crown rust. The Great Plains stem rust population has been very stable for over thirty years, with only a few pathotypes predominating. Currently used resistance sources, primarily gene Pg13, have remained effective in the prairie region. This gene, however, is not useful in eastern regions. The effectiveness of Pg13 may be protected by continued use of gene Pg2. The gene Pga complex occurs quite extensively in Mexican germplasm, and virulence to this gene has been detected in collections from the prairie region in each of the past four years. This could cause a problem if gene Pga should become more widely deployed. Should Pg13 fail, there is excellent resistance available in Pg16 and Pg10. Gene Pg16, however, with its apparent adherent A. barbata chromatin, is associated with some yield problems Gene Pg10 has shown moderate resistance in seedling tests, and has shown adequate resistance in field tests. There is no known virulence to this gene in North America. This gene also appears to enhance the effectiveness of other Pg genes, and should be a useful addition to the resistance pool.
Barley yellow dwarf (BYD) may be more serious than is often recognized. This disease is widespread virtually everywhere that oat is grown. Although moderately to severely infected plants are obvious to the informed observer, infections are often missed, or may be attributed to other causes under field conditions. Although foliar symptoms may not always be clearly apparent, infection by the causal virus may have profound effects on root mass. This exacerbates the effects of the disease, particularly under stressed conditions, such as drought. The only practical means to reduce the effects of BYD virus infection is to provide cultivars with increased tolerance. True resistance appears to play only a minor role. Tolerance, where plants are able to function better under disease conditions, varies considerably among various oat cultivars or germplasm lines. Improved performance through increased tolerance under BYD stress has been the result of an incremental process, involving several interacting genetic factors. Further incremental improvements continue to be made. One of the constraints to breeding for improved performance has been the availability of reliable small scale indoor tests for use on earlier generation material. By equalizing and optimizing the physical environment and using high disease pressure, it has been shown that plant height and panicle mass are reliable predictors of field performance. By applying these techniques at the F2 stage, plants that performed better than either of the selected tolerant parents have been identified, indicating transgressive segregation. A further benefit is that the improved performance in plants selected by this test is not BYD specific, but is a more generalized phenomenon, thus these selections should show improved yields in response to other disease or environmental stresses.
David M. Peterson
Cereal Crops Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Madison, Wisconsin USA, and Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Oat is recognized as a nutritious cereal for humans and livestock. Oat has a high percentage of relatively well balanced protein and is high in oil and dietary fiber. It is a good source of certain vitamins and minerals, although for prepared breakfast cereals, fortification is usually practiced.
The soluble fiber (b-glucan) of oat is known to reduce cholesterol in humans, but also can cause some problems as a livestock feed, especially for young poultry. Plant breeders are working to manipulate the b-glucan levels of oat to create special purpose cultivars.
The high oil concentration in oat, averaging about 6%, is a source of high energy but can lead to flavor problems in processed oat. Breeders have succeeded in almost tripling oil levels, and these high-oil genotypes could be developed into adapted cultivars if a demand for their use develops.
Entries in the National Small Grains Collection, maintained at Aberdeen, Idaho, are being evaluated for their concentrations of protein, oil, and b-glucan. The data are entered into the GRIN database.

The current interest in dietary antioxidants has led to research characterizing the antioxidant activity and the spectrum of antioxidant compounds in oat, including phenolics and tocols. The potential for increasing antioxidant activity is yet to be explored.
The development of new, higher yielding hulless cultivars may lead to new uses for oat as food and feed. Hulless oat has higher energy for livestock feed. The potential of a high-oil, hulless oat for aquiculture should be investigated. Exploratory work has addressed the feasibility of malting hulless oat for a food malt product.
Possible new developments that might add nutritional value to oat are the introduction of genes for low phytic acid or waxy starch. This will be more difficult to accomplish in hexaploid oat than in diploid cereals.

Trevor Pizzey
Can-Oat Milling, Portage-La-Prairie, Manitoba
Human consumption and oat processing has seen rapid growth in Western Canada since 1980. A number of market factors have contributed to this concentration of value-added processing on the Prairies:

* a shifting raw material production region
* declining processing costs relative to traditional processing areas
* an evolving processed goods market
* increasing regional byproduct value
* changes to North American transportation fundamentals

Although economic factors will continue to change, the current global trade environment is such that the concentration of human consumption oat processing on the Prairies can be expected to continue.

Mark J. Redmond
Ceapro Inc., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
After centuries of oat milling, the basic concept of dry milling is being challenged by new and innovative separation technologies. New technologies have introduced new products and oat extracts have found applications in new and non-traditional markets. These markets include functional foods, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and consumer health products.
For the last twenty years, developments have been led by three teams based in the United States, Finland, and Canada. Team members in each case represented members of federally funded institutions, academia, and industry. Process patents have been issued protecting the core of each activity and will be presented in overview and compared (1,2,3).
The new fractionation processes have been employed with various degrees of success and oat extracts have entered the marketplace. As with all new products, the adoption of the oat extracts is following the typical product life cycle, and early stage sales have been slow. However, the potential for strong growth is now apparent, and the need for further advanced processing facilities is under review in Europe. The presentation will highlight the technological and business advances in oat processing.
1. Bell et al (1976) U.S. Patent 4,089,848
2. Collins and Paton (1992) U.S. Patent 5,169,660
3. Lehtomäki (1992) 5,106,640
Deon Stuthman
Dept. of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
As we approach entering the next century, it is appropriate and indeed prudent to reflect upon what we have observed and learned from almost a century of oat production, and oat improvement research. Since shortly after the middle of this century, we have observed a decline in area in the US devoted to the production of oat grain. Some people attribute much of that decline to the elimination of literal horse power by the tractor. However, I believe we have more horses in the US today than ever before.
Another major change in oat production is that 50 years ago, most oats were grown with a minimum of preplant tillage. Today most are planted with a drill into a nearly ideal seed bed. A half century ago the oat crop did not have the assistance of broad-leaf herbicides to battle those weeds.
What have we learned about oat variety improvement since it was begun in earnest some 80 years ago? Why do we still have rust resistant genotypes succumb to new virulences of the pathogen, sometimes very soon after the new variety is released? Yes, we have made some major gains in grain quality and lodging resistance (if the soil fertility is modest), but we have also done a lot of "reinventing the wheel", especially for crown rust resistance. We have increased grain yield dramatically when measured in experimental plots on Experiment Stations, but what about on many farmer fields? Has the "state/province average oat grain yield" kept pace with the yield increases measured on Experiment Stations? If not, why not? Have we really asked the proper research questions to elicit answers useful to commercial oat producers?
Do any of these observations have anything to do with my being frequently asked, "Why don't oats of today yield like they used to"? Have we in the process of conducting breeding yield trials in a garden with many of the weeds eliminated, lost some useful seedling/vegetative vigor? Have we sacrificed some ecological fitness along the way?
I have been asked to give a breeder's view on ways to new and better varieties. Because the two speakers following me will address contemporary technologies, most of my comments will be directed to different varieties which are better suited to current and anticipated situations and how we might develop them. I would also preface my remarks by a comment made in this very city little more than one year ago at the AOA annual meeting. A major Canadian oat producer who some of you know quite well said, "Oats is a poor man's crop". The validity of that statement is illustrated with a quote for an early spring crop report from one of our county educators in Northwest Minnesota (Pennington County).
"We will be backing away from wheat and barley this year on a fairly large scale. Those folks who have operating money are switching to soybeans and canola. Those folks who don't, are planting oats and flax. They won't use fertilizer and very little chemical and that will keep the cost to a minimum."
Now that I have your attention, but perhaps not your agreement, I am going to ask you to join me in some futuristic plant breeding thinking. Martin Apple, Executive Director of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, compared what I am asking you to do to watching Channel 3 on his TV setup. Channel 1 on his TV deals with the next year, channel 2 looks ahead 5 years and channel 3 addresses 30-50 years from now. Given the time it takes after a cross is made to produce a new variety when all goes well, some channel 3 thinking about new kinds of oat varieties and about new methodologies to develop them is certainly in order.
As I was revising my five year research plan two years ago, I adopted several quite novel breeding objectives. First the variety development component of my project is now focused on oat varieties that will fit into a more ecologically sound cropping system. That means among other things that my selections should perform better in the rotations used by the growers I am serving and with less purchased inputs thereby reducing cost of production, but without lowering production.
Specifically, I am looking for more durable disease (especially crown rust) resistance, for genotypes which are more competitive with weeds (especially grassy weeds), and for genotypes which will establish adequate stands when planted with no pre-plant tillage.
We are well on our way toward durable crown rust resistance--you will see some evidence later this week. Although few if any North American oat growers actually expend resources to protect their oat crop from rust, they experience indirect increased costs because of rust in terms of reduced gains in grain yield because of the continued efforts required for traditional types of rust resistance.
We have made a few crosses between putative competitive and non-competitive plants, enough to know that achieving quicker and more dense canopy cover through selection is feasible. We have also seeded one of our on-farm yield trials with a no-till drill. So far, some years no-till planting works better than others, but several Brazilian oat breeding programs seed all of their nurseries no-till because that is how Brazilian farmers grow oats, quite successfully I might add.
Regarding crop rotations, the Brazilian situation offers us another lesson about oat production possibilities. Much of the oats grown for grain there is part of a double cropping system. Oats have the dual advantage relative to wheat of being resistant to both aluminum toxicity and take-all disease and being earlier. Thus, now that there are oat varieties available which are earlier and also tolerate well no-till planting (which also saves time between crops), oats are used in front of soybeans instead of wheat. Anecdotally, oats (compared to wheat) also reduce the herbicide requirements for the soybean crop when the soybeans are planted no-till, yet another illustration of the usefulness of a holistic analysis of how to improve the oat crop instead of looking at it as an isolated enterprise.
Now I want to shift to increasing the value of the oat products that we do produce. Perhaps the greatest value of oats in the next century will continue to be as a food ingredient. For that end use, the value of the grain can be increased in one of at least two ways. First, the oat grain will increase in value when it is more efficiently milled or processed. For oats, dehulling efficiency is principally a physical consideration and of particular importance is uniformity of grain size and perhaps shape. All else being equal, grain of uniform size will dehull more efficiently than grain of varying size and thus have higher milling yield. One big contributor to uneven size is tertiary kernels.
The second way to increase the value of oat as a human food ingredient is to increase the desired components (e.g. soluble fiber) and decrease the "junk", i.e., fat. Both of these considerations should be obvious. In addition, lowering the fat content also has the possible advantage of extending product shelf-life. Much has been made about the benefits of soluble fiber in oat relative to heart health; however, there are likely other more subtle but equally valuable constituents which at the moment are not well defined. Therefore, given the health consciousness of consumers, we probably should be joining forces with the medical research community to identify and then increase such constituents. There may also be yet undefined, but highly valuable industrial uses for oat byproducts.
In summary, regarding breeding objectives, my suggestions are two-fold: first, reduce the cost of production by lowering the need for purchased inputs while holding productivity constant, and second, increase the value of what is produced by making the grain a more useful food ingredient.
Now a few examples of how we are attempting to achieve two of these objectives which should contribute to reduced cost of production. We are pursuing three approaches to incorporate more effective rate-reducing crown rust resistance (likely more durable) into our potential varieties. We are utilizing our recurrent selection (RS) methodologies on our RS population improved for grain yield to also increase its rate-reducing rust resistance. The poster at these meetings by Castell et al. describes the effort to date. We are also crossing selected parents from that RS effort with lines which are evaluated in our yield trials and which have been selected (after crown rust inoculation at heading) because they lack an effective major resistance gene, but do have noticeably less rust at maturity. We sometimes refer to this kind of effort with our RS germ plasm as "mainstreaming". Progeny from these kinds of crosses exposed to natural crown rust infection at Palmerston North, New Zealand last winter had significantly less rust than fully susceptible types.
Because these rate-reducing resistance genes are difficult to transfer from one genotype to another, we are using two different approaches to mark them molecularly to facilitate transfer. One approach will be to use the model of DeKoeyer et al. and measure change in marker gene frequency following cycles of RS for resistance and then test those markers whose frequency changes form a pattern similar to the pattern of increase of rate-reducing resistance.
A second approach is described in a poster by Chen et al. at these meetings. Briefly, a set of recombinant inbred lines (RILs) from a cross between 'Noble', a susceptible variety, and MN 841801, a line with a high level of rate-reducing resistance, were inoculated in the field and the greenhouse and then evaluated for rust development. These results will be used to map the rate-reducing rust resistance genes in this population.
Regarding the increased competitiveness-with-weeds objective, we selected contrasting sibs from several crosses growing in our field nurseries this summer. These pairs will be crossed and progeny (beginning in the F2 generation and ultimately RILs) will be evaluated for plant architecture that will more quickly produce a closed canopy. These results will be used to identify putative markers which, if actually linked to desired genes which produce more competitive ability, can be used to select plants with the desired phenotypes. Contrastingly, less competitive genotypes will also be selected because they are useful as companion crops when attempting to establish forage stands.
Eventually we may also cross the more competitive genotypes with some from Brazil which appear to have some kind of allelopathic effects, at least when grown preceding soybeans. Because of the subtleties of these two traits, molecular markers may well be a necessity to make reasonable progress.
In summary, oat breeders, geneticists and others who are interested in advancing the oat crop should remain open to various possibilities of increasing the fortunes of the crop. Thank you.
S. H. Weaver
The Quaker Oats Company, 617 West Main Street, Barrington, IL USA 60010
Farmers grow oats for money. The revenue that they gain may come in a number of different ways. Oats may be grown as a cash crop for feed or milling purposes or they may be grown as forage for livestock. In either case, the oats have to generate sufficient returns or farmers will not grow them. Farmers like to spread their risks and work loads by planting several different crops. Oats are sometimes used in rotations and risk management plans. Oats are also useful to break disease cycles in other grains, such as take-all in wheat. Recently, oats have served as an alternative in areas where scab is a problem in wheat and barley. Occasionally, the situation is such that operating money is tight and farmers can and will grow oats because they are perceived to be a low input crop. Low inputs usually result in low income.
World oat production declined by 24% during the past ten years. The decline was caused by lack of demand, low net returns per hectare, and government programs. Relative to other feed grains, oats are expensive and do not have the same feeding value. The demand for oats as food increased slightly for the same period. The increase in food demand does not replace the decrease in feed demand. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), the European Economic Community and the Mercosur have affected world oat production and trade. Government subsidies for raw commodities and transportation will decrease over the next several years and that will be beneficial to oats in the short term. However, the decline in oat production will continue into the future until an economic equilibrium is met.
Assuming that oat prices remain constant or at least constant, relative to other grains, how are cash farmers going to improve their net return per hectare? They have to be more efficient and improve grain yields. At constant prices, higher yields per hectare equate to higher net returns. Consequently, oat breeders are working very hard to deliver higher yielding, disease resistant varieties to farmers. From 1987 to 1997, the area planted to oats in the US has declined by 70%. Government programs unfavorable to oats, competition from other crops, Canadian rail subsidies, declining feed demand, and diseases, especially crown rust, have contributed to the sharp reduction in area planted to oats. During the same period, oat production in the US has declined by almost 50%. The continual release of new, high yielding varieties buffered the production decline in the US. Some of the same forces that have caused sharp declines in the US are at work in Argentina.
Canadian oat production has increased slightly to feed the demand and loss of production of oats in the US and South America. Transportation subsidies and government controlled wheat prices have given Canadian producers the incentive required to grow more oats. The 1997 North American oat production was estimated at 6.2 million metric tons. Projections for 1998 are 6.3 million metric tons. Price stability may indicate that the supply is remaining much higher than the demand. When the supply and demand come closer together, more price volatility might be expected.


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