Promoting Canadian Oats

Annual Progress Report Summary

Project title: Continuing studies on intercropping for increasing yield and quality of grain and forage crops, and improving soil quality, by Fernandez et al.

Reporting period: April 1, 2021- March 31, 2022

Intercropping of legumes with competitive grain crops is expected to result in cumulating benefits from both crop types.  Legumes would provide N to the system, while crops with higher competitive ability would provide weed suppression and disease reduction in the legumes, in addition to other benefits.  Two field studies were initiated in 2021 at Swift Current, Saskatchewan on organically managed land, to test this hypothesis in a grain legume intercropping system and a living mulch cropping system.  In the intercropping trial, three grain legume-competitive grain crop combinations (field pea  + oat, lentil + barley, chickling vetch + yellow mustard) were planted in mixed and/or alternate rows at various rates.  In the living mulch trial, crimson clover and subterranean clover were planted with bread wheat or oat at various rates.  Treatments in both studies were compared to monocrops of each grain crop.

Results thus far suggest that the non-legume crops are more competitive in intercrops than legumes and can compensate for lower seeding rates.  This was reflected in the higher than expected crop biomass and grain yield of the non-legumes, compared to the lower than expected values in the legumes.  Additionally, intercrops produced enhanced vegetative growth but not grain yield under the drought conditions experienced in 2021.  While reducing seeding rates of the intercrop and living mulch combinations might enhance grain yield under drought conditions, high seeding rates are required under organic management to provide weed control.  Intercrops planted in alternate rows were observed to have improved weed control and did not experience increased root rot severity compared to some of the mixed row treatments.  However, field pea intercropped with oat in alternate rows had lower grain yields which were likely due, at least partly, to increased lodging compared to mixed rows.  In the latter, oat provided support to the field pea plants.  Overall, the combinations of legumes and competitive grain crops observed in 2021 showed potential for synergistic benefits in weed control, disease suppression, and vegetative growth, however, the ongoing drought conditions appeared to limit their grain yield potential.  The soil nutrient analysis on the samples collected after harvest are still not finalized.  

In 2022, plots in both studies will be sown to durum wheat to investigate the effects of intercropping and living mulch treatments on a subsequent grain crop.  Both studies will also be conducted again in 2022 in an adjacent organically-managed land with some minor modifications.

Most of the results from the 2021 intercrop trial were the subject of a virtual presentation on intercropping given at an Intercropping Webinar, organized by SK Ag on March 22, 2022.  This presentation is available upon request.

2021 POGA Milling Oats Trial

This study is a continuous effort to collect data on 11 milling variety oats in Central and Northern Alberta. The goal was to determine how variety and growing location will influence the yield and functional property attributes linked to beta-glucan levels of the oats. Similar to what’s been recorded, there were noticeable varietal differences between the two locations for the yields as well as beta-glucan content. Year 2021, was comparatively very dry year for both location in Alberta. The two weeks of excessive heat period was too detrimental for the oats. Therefore, overall yield were lower compared to previous years.

Revising the Crop Nutrient Uptake and Removal Guidelines for Western Canada

Project Summary: The objective of this research is to develop new estimates for crop nutrient uptake and removal, based on grain and biomass samples collected from commercial fields and from existing literature. Results from the 2020 growing season suggest that although a limited number of existing nutrient uptake guideline estimates of nutrient removal (e.g., CFI Nutrient Uptake and Removal Guidelines for Western Canada, 2001) are aligned with removal assessed in 2020 (particularly for N), for the most part existing removal guidelines either over- or underestimate macro nutrient removal. Importantly, the existing ranges for nutrient removal do not capture the full extent of the observed variability in nutrient uptake and removal. Existing nutrient removal guidelines do not include micronutrient estimates, and thus data from 2020 represents a source of new information.

Improved Integrated Disease Management for Oats (Avena sativa L.) in Saskatchewan

Growers across Saskatchewan have identified a need for further investigation into integrated disease management in oats. To preserve the effectiveness of genetic and fungicidal disease control measures, fungicides should only be applied if they provide agronomic and economic benefits. This requires a better understanding of how various management tools interact and can be integrated together for disease management in oats. This study assessed the integration of genetic disease resistance, seeding rates, and fungicide application timing for disease control in oats.

Stimulating Germination and Emergence of Wild Oat (Avena fatua), Volunteer Oat (Avena sativa), Barley (Hordeum vulgare), and Wheat (Triticum aestivum) with Pyroligneous Acid and Potassium Nitrate

Understanding the efficacy of stimulants for wild oat and volunteer cereal emergence at more desirable times such as pre-seeding to utilize broad-spectrum herbicides or post-harvest to utilize a killing frost. The study objective was to evaluate the suitability of applying potassium nitrate and pyroligneous acid for promoting germination and emergence of wild oat and volunteer wheat, barley, and oats.

Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster

A significant amount of information, over a broad agricultural landscape, is required to produce risk maps, forecast maps, and bio-climate/phenology models used to predict insect pest outbreaks, but these tools are an important cornerstone of integrated pest management (IPM; Dent 2000) and of biovigilance. To support insect pest monitoring activities, the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN) was established over 20 years ago. It provides a framework for collaboration and multidisciplinary research efforts across the Prairies Ecozone.

Breeding, Genomics, and Agronomy Research to Improve Oat Yield and Quality

Oat is an important, multi-purpose cereal in Canada that is grown for grain, straw, forage, or land cover. Oat grain is regarded as a healthy human food, largely due to the presence of betaglucan (BGL) and other soluble fibers in the oat groat, which have been implicated in reduced risk of heart disease, lowered blood pressure, and lowered risk of type-II diabetes. Grain yield, groat content (i.e., milling yield), and BGL content are key targets for improvement. Protein, test weight, and kernel weight are considered secondary targets for improvement. Additionally, oat millers require a groat oil content of less than 8% to meet the FDA healthy food labeling requirements. To achieve high and stable yield and quality, lodging resistance is required under high-yielding environments, and resistance to crown rust is required in some production regions.

Development of Markers Linked to Oat Crown Rust Resistance to Help Breed Improved Varieties for Saskatchewan Producers

The largest on-going threat to oat production in Canada (and worldwide) is the fungal pathogen Puccinia coronata Corda f. sp. avenae Eriks which causes oat crown rust.  In Canada, yield losses averaged 5.1% from 2001 to 2005 (Chong et al. 2008) with the highest loss reported at 11.2% (McCallum et al. 2007).