Promoting Canadian Oats

Oat variety choice impacts grain marketing, grain yield and quality, and the management practices required to optimize performance in a particular soil and moisture regimes. Variety selection establishes the potential of the oat crop and deserves considerable attention.

Fit for Purpose

Variety selection should first consider the specific market being targeted.

In the Western Canadian prairie variety guides, oat varieties are listed according to their intended purpose, including:

  • General purpose
  • Milling
  • Feed
  • Forage oat
  • Hulless oat

Additionally, local or specialty oat buyers may have varietal preferences. Growers pursuing a particular market should consult with buyers prior to variety selection.

A good place to locate a buyer is to use the POGA Oat Buyers List, which includes the contact information for potential buyers. For milling oat, “Preferred” or “Approved” variety lists are available from many oat millers.

Many oat buyers have variety preferences. Communicate with the buyer before selecting a variety.

Regional Suitability

Different varieties are suited to different regions (Table 2.1). Alberta growers favor AC Morgan while Saskatchewan and Manitoba growers prefer CS Camden and Summit, likely because of the overall performance of these varieties.

Generally, oat grows well in the dark brown to black to grey and dark grey soil regions of the prairies. They grow best under cool temperatures and are less drought tolerant than barley or wheat (Drought management fact sheet: BC Ministry of Agriculture).

Table 2.1. Varieties grown in the Prairie Provinces in 2019. (Source: Canadian Grains Commission)
  % of Total Area Seeded with Milling Oats in Western Canada in 2019
Milling Oat Cultivars Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Western Canada
CS Camden 2.25 17.81 15.44 35.50
AC Morgan 11.71 9.05 0.60 21.36
Summit 0.06 4.82 14.37 19.25
Souris 0.00 1.59 2.69 4.29
Triactor 0.01 3.68 0.08 3.77
CDC Ruffian 0.41 2.42 0.03 2.86
Derby 1.32 0.65 0.00 1.97
CDC Dancer 0.02 1.49 0.23 1.73
Pinnacle 0.00 0.53 0.93 1.46
ORe3542M 0.20 0.24 0.85 1.29
CDC Minstrel 0.03 1.03 0.01 1.07
Leggett 0.00 0.69 0.34 1.03
CDC Orrin 0.03 0.79 0.00 0.82
CDC Morrison 0.01 0.51 0.17 0.69
ORe3541M 0.00 0.05 0.59 0.64
Furlong 0.00 0.00 0.33 0.33
Triple Crown 0.00 0.00 0.25 0.25
Ronald 0.00 0.00 0.22 0.22
CDC Big Brown 0.03 0.00 0.17 0.20
Stride 0.01 0.08 0.07 0.16
CDC Weaver 0.00 0.11 0.00 0.11
AC Assiniboia 0.00 0.00 0.11 0.11
CDC Arborg 0.03 0.05 0.02 0.10
CDC Norseman 0.06 0.00 0.03 0.09
Other 0.15 0.06 0.09 0.30
Total Milling 16.34 46.04 37.62 100

Regions differ in precipitation, disease pressure, growing degree days, and soil type, all of which affect the yield potential of oat varieties. To determine regional suitability, variety performance is assessed in replicated, multi-year regional field trials conducted across the prairies. Grain yield, test weight, % hull, % plump seed, maturity, height and resistance to lodging, stem and crown rust and smut are tested relative to a check variety, at time of writing, AC Dancer, or Summit were check varieties in different tests. Varieties can only be directly compared to the check grown in that trial, and indirectly relative to the check variety. This is because all varieties are not necessarily grown every year in every trial.

After four to five years of trials, provincial regional variety testing provides relevant data on the performance of oat varieties suitable for a particular area. While results from regional variety testing are available in all provincial seed guides, regional comparisons differ between provinces.

In Manitoba, yield results are summarized by the location of the variety trials (see example below). Growers should choose a location with similar climate to their own (Seed Manitoba Variety Selection Tool).

In Saskatchewan, yields and quality parameters are averaged over areas 1&2, and 3&4 (see example below). Growers should choose the area they are located in for variety comparisons (SaskSeed 2020).

In Alberta, relative yield and quality comparisons are made on the basis of high yielding vs lower yielding environments (Alberta Seed Guide Spring 2020) (see example below). The location of high and low yielding sites can vary year by year.

Agronomic Traits and Disease Resistance

Yield is an important factor to consider when selecting a variety as indirectly it suggest the regional fit of the variety. 

Depending on the region, limiting factors such as days to maturity or lack resistance to crown rust or lodging should also be considered in the final selection of an oat varieties. For example, northern Alberta growers may be more concerned with days to maturity, while Manitoba growers may be more affected by crown rust. 

Additional variety descriptions are often available from seed companies. Table 2.1 provides links to recently registered varieties

Is AC Morgan too good of a variety in  Alberta?

In Alberta, AC Morgan is seeded on over 80% of the oat acres (Table 2.1). It is high yielding with lodging resistance. It is not favored in areas with higher disease pressure because it has limited crown rust or stem rust resistance. 

It is not a preferred milling variety as it fails to meet the minimum 4% β-glucan required for millers to be able to label their products with the Heart Healthy label?

AC Morgan has been hard to displace from its position as the number one variety in Alberta, despite the limited marketing options. The following research conducted in Alberta suggests some newer varieties have similar yields and increased marketability. 


Research report - Alberta variety trials

Increase the Oat Acres in Alberta by Finding a High Yielding Oat Variety that Maximizes Producer Income and Meets the Demands of the Millers. 2018 and 2019. Research reports submitted to POGA.

Alberta has been fortunate to have reliable, high yielding and lodging resistant varieties that has been widely grown. AC Morgan, released in 1999 has had superior agronomic traits, compared to other varieties. Unfortunately, it has had low ß glucan levels and has not been favored by millers. ß-glucan levels are strongly associated with variety, and not strongly influenced by location or agronomic practices.

“Oat production has been in decline in Alberta due to lack of markets and non-competitive pricing with other crops” (Note: oat acres in Alberta have trended upwards since 2017).

“Many major millers will not accept oat from Alberta or look to Alberta only after Manitoba and Saskatchewan’s supply is gone, because the main two oat varieties grown in Alberta, Morgan and Derby contain low amounts of Beta-Glucan (ß-glucan). A minimum of 4% ß-glucan is required for millers to be able to label their products with the Heart Healthy Claim and both Morgan and Derby are consistently below that amount”

Research conducted in Peace River and Westlock, Alberta showed that some recently released varieties have equaled or surpassed Morgan in yield, without sacrificing milling quality ß-glucan levels. Seabiscuit performed very well at both locations in 2016 staying in the top 3 varieties for yield and averaged above 4.5% of ß-glucan content. Ruffian was continuously the highest yielding variety in the Peace region in 2016 and 2017 and in Westlock in 2017 too. However, Ruffian has the lowest levels of ß-glucan at both location in year 2016 as well as 2017. In 2018 OT3087 was added to the trials and had high yield and high ß-glucan and high test weight. In 2019 in Peace River, CS Camden, AC Arborg and CDC Seabiscuit yielded higher than AC Morgan, while in Westlock, AC Summit yielded similar to AC Morgan and OT3087 had higher yields.

Summary: Newer varieties have the potential to yield equal to or greater than AC Morgan, with ß-glucan content suitable for milling.


Value of Field Demonstrations

Figure 2.1. Field trials with varieties growing side by side in your area are a great way to assess new varieties under regional growing conditions (photo courtesy of L. Hall).

Being able to see varieties growing in the field, especially under local conditions is an excellent way to confirm your decision to purchase a variety (Figure 2.1). Side by side comparisons of varieties, along with conversations with other growers, agents and extension personnel could be very useful to understand the merits of each variety. In addition, agronomists will be able to assist growers to understand the most important agronomic traits for oat in that region.

To find a trial or demonstration in your area:

  • contact a seed company agent and arrange to attend a field day or demonstration,
  • contact a local seed grower or
  • attend local field days and producer meetings.

The Prairie Oat Growers Association works with local breeders who host field days and tours of research farms. The POGA Oat Scoop is an excellent resource for summer tour locations.

 

Table 2.2. Newly registered varieties, year of release and links to further information as of 2019.
Variety Experimental Number Year of Registration Seed Company Further Information
CS Camden SW090317 2014 Canterra Seed Technical Bulletin
AAC Oravena# OT8003 2014 Fedoruk Seeds Fedoruk Seed
CDC Norseman OT3066, SA091413 2015 SeCan Technical Bulletin
ORe3541M OT6008 2017 SeCan Technical Bulletin
ORe3542M OT6009 2017 SeCan Technical Bulletin
ORe6251M OT6007 2017   Oat Advantage
CDC Arborg OT3085, SA112243 2017 FP Genetics Info Sheet
AAC Banner OA1367-3 2017 SeCan Technical Bulletin
CDC Endure OT3087, SA120157 2019 Alliance Seed Alliance Seeds
CDC Skye OT3091, SA131995 2019    
# Organic production

Where to Find a Certified Seed Grower

Seed growers are listed in provincial seed guides. 

Certified seed

After a new variety is developed by breeders, and the variety is registered with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), seed of that variety is multiplied, promoted and distributed by the seed company to commercial farmers. Seed is grown following the standards set by the Canadian Seed Growers Association and requirements in the Seeds Act, and approved by CFIA.

Purchase of certified seed guarantees the purest genetics, meaning the seed is assured to be the named variety, with a known germination rate, and free of noxious weed seeds.

Plant breeders rights (PBR)

As of February, 2015, all new PBR-designated varieties are protected under the new PBR legislation (UPOV91).

Authorization is required to produce, reproduce, sell, clean/condition, stock, import or export all seed of UPOV91 PBR-protected varieties. Proof of legitimately acquiring the seed of a protected variety is required for all subsequent utilization or processing of the variety. Everyone in the processing chain in Canada is now accountable under UPOV91.

In the provincial seed guides, varieties protected under UPOV78 have the following symbol:

while varieties protected under UPOV91 have the symbol.

The use of symbols such as▲ or μ in the seed guides indicates that an application for PBR has been accepted and the variety has provisional protection.

For more information on Plant Breeders’ Rights, please see: https://pbrfacts.ca/.

The decision to grow a new oat variety

The decision to grow or trial a new oat variety is a major one and there are several factors that should be addressed (Figure 2.2):

  • Determine if a new variety increases yield stability, changes market potential or increases yield potential.
  • Determine the target market. Often specific markets prefer specific varieties.
  • Determine which variety will have the best yield and agronomic package. The level of disease and lodging resistance needed will depending on conditions in your particular region.
  • Finally, it is a good idea to see the variety grown in the field in your region – either in a field demonstration or neighbouring farm.
Figure 2.2. The decision to purchase a new oat variety is significant. It should be based on a good understanding of the preferences of the market, the potential for yield, yield stability and the ability to avoid crop losses due to disease, late maturity or lodging. This decision tree suggests one method for determining if a variety change would be useful and the sequence to select a new variety.

Comparison of Location Specific Variety Recommendations for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Figure 2.3. Yield comparisons from Seed Manitoba, 2019. The Seed Variety Tool Report allows the grower to compare variety yield, agronomic properties and disease resistance separately.
Table 2.3. An example of a disease resistance variety comparison table produced by the Seed Variety Tool Report for Manitoba. Data is available for most but not all varieties, for example, see CDC Arborg below.
Variety Site Years Tested Predicted Yield (% of check)
(LSD Yield: 5.5 %)
Lodging resistance rating Maturity in days Test weight in lb/bu Height in inches Crown rust Barley yellow dwarf virus Stem rust Smut
Summit   100 G 96 40 32 I I I R
Akina 8 105.3 G -4 0.1 1 R     R
CDC Arborg 7 106.3                
CDC Big Brown 18 95.8 G -1 -1 2 R MS MS R
CDC Dancer 7 93.2 G -3 0 6 I MS I R
CDC Endure 3 105.4                
CDC Minstrel 35 97.8 VG 0 -1 4 MS MS I R
CDC Morrison 5 91.1 VG -2 -2 0 MS I I R
CFA1502 3 104.6                
Furlong 6 91.7 G -1 0 9 S MR I R
HiFi 4 97.8 G -3 -1 7 I MR I MS
Jordan 4 98.7 VG 2 -3 4 I MR I R
Kara 8 104 G -3 0.9 0 MR     MR
Leggett 38 96.3 G 0 -1 1 R MS I R
ORe3541M 7 96.2                
ORe3542M 7 98.3                
Souris 26 95.3 G -4 0 1 MS MS MR R
Stride 14 95.6 VG -2 0 6 R I MS R
Triactor 26 108.5 VG -1 -2 4 MR MS S I
Figure 2.4. An example of the variety comparisons in the SaskSeed 2020.
Figure 2.5. An example of variety comparisons for Alberta using yield categories, (Varieties of Cereal and Oilseed Crops for Alberta). The grower chooses the growing conditions (low, medium and high, based on expected yield) rather than the region.

The Alberta Seed Guide states “Yield rankings among varieties can change substantially due to growing conditions. To reflect these differences, results from a test site that produced high yield in a particular year are placed into the database for ‘high’ yielding environments. The same site may contribute to the ‘low’ yield category in a different year, when yields are low. Consistent performance over all Yield Test Categories indicates that a variety has environmental responses similar to the check and may have good yield stability over a wide range of environments.

Scientific studies conducted on variety performance in Western Canada have shown that Yield Test Category analysis provides a more reliable indication of yield performance than results organized by geographic region.

The yield comparison tables have several features:

  • Overall actual yield of the check variety or varieties (bushels/acre) based on all data available to the testing program is provided along with the number of station years of testing.
  • The range in yield for each Yield Test Category is defined.
  • Actual yield of the check variety or varieties in each Yield Test Category is reported.
  • For varieties with sufficient data, the Overall Yield and Performance in each Yield Test Category is expressed relative to the check.

To make effective use of the yield comparison tables, producers should set a realistic yield target for the season and determine where it fits within the Low, Medium, High or Very High Yield Test Categories. This approach facilitates matching of variety choice to expected productivity levels and is similar to that used when making decisions on other levels of inputs. Please note that the actual yield levels are based on small plot trials, which may be 15 to 20 per cent higher than yields expected under commercial production.” Alberta Seed Guide Spring 2019.