Promoting Canadian Oats

Oat varieties developed in an oat growing region will be well adapted to that region. Breeding stations at Lacombe, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Brandon etc., across the western Canadian prairies, tend to produce successful varieties for their specific areas. AC Morgan from Lacombe for 4 oat variety map mininstance is a very successful oat variety with broad uptake in Alberta. Derby and CDC Dancer contribute excellent grain quality and were bred in Saskatchewan. Leggett is an oat variety with strong disease resistance and adaptation for Manitoba.

Still, extending from the locations of breeding, a good number of oat varieties do find appeal and value into new areas. The appeal of AC Morgan resulted in this oat variety being grown in a very wide area, far from its original breeding geography.

Generally, cultivated oats (Avena sativa) grow well in the dark brown to black to grey and dark grey areas of the prairies. They grow best with cool temperatures and are less drought tolerant than barley or wheat.

Choosing which varieties of oats to grow on the farm should be an informed choice with influence from important sources such as:


1920 From the historical section earlier in this manual, the order of use and ``market`` for oats was heavily focused on feed.

  1. A concentrate for horses and other stock,
  2. a hay crop for all classes of stock,
  3. an ensilage crop and
  4. as human food.

“In Manitoba oats occupy over one-third of the grain acreage, in Saskatchewan about on-quarter and in Alberta nearly on-half.”

With the percentage of the farm dedicated to oat production vastly smaller now compared to 1920, the priorities for the oat crop have shifted. As an example of acreage changes, acreage numbers from Saskatchewan are given in the chart below for the years between 1921 and 2004.

Table 2. Area of Major Crops Grown in Saskatchewan, 1921 to 2004, in throusand acres
YearSpring wheatDurum wheatOatBarleyRyeFlaxCanolaSpecial CropsTame hay
1921 13,557 - 5,682 498 1,208 427 - - 288
1931 15,026 - 4,295 1,375 528 509 - - 174
1941 12,120 75 4,026 1,659 527 725 - - 430
1951 15,163 472 3,815 2,449 710 296 7 - 572
1961 14,504 1,578 1,492 1,839 239 941 374 - 1,052
1971 11,034 1,889 1,966 5,571 528 925 2,737 246 1,646
1981 15,850 3,450 1,100 3,700 500 350 1,350 327 1,700
1991 17,253 3,925 510 3,100 225 545 3,359 1,083 2,432
2001 10,550 4,150 1,300 4,250 105 1,165 4,650 6,125 3,050
2004 9,880 4,600 2,100 4,800 170 1,400 6,150 6,175 -
Source: Agriculture Statistics

Today approximately one quarter to one third of oat production in western Canada is destined for human consumption.

There remains steady use oats for forage purposes, (cover crop mixes and grazing, hay, swath grazing, yellow feed, silage etc.) but a larger component of oat acres is destined for the grain market (horses, as a component in stock feeds, human consumption).

Regarding human consumption of oats, the quality and requirements needed from the oat grain have greatly increased over the past 100 years. When considering what variety of oats to grow and if a milling oat is your goal, consideration of oat millers’ preferred oat variety lists is essential.

Oat millers employ a complex stream of machine operations to process the oat crop. A good mill yield, the resulting quantity and value of products exiting the mill in relation to the grain that came in, is essential to a miller’s existence.
From a grain perspective, milling profitability is not only dependant on the seasonal quality of the oat crop but also on the milling characteristics of the oat varieties coming through the mill. So with new varieties coming through the Western Cooperative Oat Registration Trials (WCORT) each year or two, and then onto full registration and into seed growers hands, milling evaluation of new varieties has now become essential.
Look to Millers’ preferred oat lists, available at grain terminals and milling locations, for guidance on the oat varieties that suit them, and that will grow well in your area.


How an oat variety performs will be influenced by the weather of the season of course, but the way it grows will probably be more reflective of the farming practices on the farm where it was grown.

Sources of information on varieties will not match comparisons that you can achieve on your farm by growing two oat or more oat varieties on the same field.

“Head to head” in field comparisons of oat varieties are a great way to introduce yourself to new oat varieties.

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