New oat ticks all boxes

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

A new shorter season milling grade oat variety, suitable for medium and lower rainfall areas, is set to be available for commercial release as early as 2017.

With oat and hay prices competitive with all other grain crops, many farmers are considering the benefits of oats as part of their cropping rotation.

But lower rainfall districts have traditionally struggled with achieving viable yields from existing oat varieties.

According to the South Australian Research and Development Institute's National Oat Program principal plant breeder Pamela Zwer, so far, the new variety is ticking all the boxes for yield and disease resistance in trial sites in the central Wheatbelt.

Dr Zwer said the stage three, four and five trials at Cunderdin, all funded by GRDC, were showing the variety was flowering 10-12 days earlier than Carrolup, and up to 18 days earlier than Bannister.

"This is significant and it offers growers more options," she said.

"If the lower rainfall areas don't receive a break to the season, growers can sow this variety a bit later and still do reasonably well, or if they sow in the normal period, it could escape those sharp finishes."

But Dr Zwer cautioned that the earlier flowering attributes may mean greater susceptibility to frost. "In areas where frost is an issue, that needs to be taken into account," she said.

"It's certainly not as susceptible to frost as wheat and barley; oats generally tend to be more frost tolerant, but the earlier flowering characteristic does put it more at risk.

"Growers need to have a go with it and see how it works for them."

The new shorter season variety, known only as WA02Q302-9, is yielding at similar levels to Carrolup and slightly higher than Yallara.

But the variety may not be suitable for higher rainfall areas, with yield results coming in at least half a tonne lower than Bannister.

"Bannister and Williams have set a new benchmark for yields, but of the two varieties, Williams is not that suitable to lower rainfall regions," Dr Zwer said.

"The really good thing about WA02Q302-9, is that it has good hectolitre weight and low screenings, and so the opportunity to grow a milling grade in the lower rainfall areas is higher than with most varieties."

Dr Zwer said so far, WA02Q302-9 was showing strong resistance to leaf rust and cereal cyst nematode, but as with Bannister and Carrolup, it was susceptible to septoria.

"But septoria wouldn't be as much of an issue in lower rainfall areas," she said.

While the WA02Q302-9 will be released as a milling variety, trials results show it will also be acceptable in terms of hay quality if managed as a hay crop.

"We have tested it in hay trials, and we do have information about hay yield and quality," she said.

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