Winter Trials Update - Oats
Oat Varieties

This season our on-farm cultivar evaluation network has been looking at Winter Winter through LiveWheat Legacy, funded by Organic Arable and Winter Oats, funded through the White's research levy. The latest results on how the varieties have faired over the wet, mild winter through assessment of post winter ground cover and early vigour. These agroecological traits are extremely important for Organic farming since they govern weed suppression and lay the foundation for crop performance for the rest of the season. We have even found a strong link between early groundcover and grain yield.


Early Crop Vigour

Oats are often considered the most weed suppressive of the winter crops and good early vigour can certainly help with this agroecological trait. The vigour scoring is essentially a subjective visual assessment of biomass. The statistics paint a slightly confusing picture but essentally show that Cromwell (a) has a higher vigour than Husky (bc), Eagle (c) and home saved Mascani (c). The subjective grouping of high and low vigour varieties is more helpful and shows Cromwell and Mascani are leading the way, with a blend of all varieties also showing good vigour, although White's prefer not to use blends in the mill. Coming out of winter, good early vigour sets the crop up for a strong overall performance for the season, particularly where weed suppression is concerned. It has been felt that Mascani hasn't been showing high enough vigour over the last couple of seasons but a very interesting result showing the difference in vigour between new and home saved Mascani seed may help explain why. It poses a very intriguing question; Is home saving seed a false economy?

Husky is a spring oat grown in Winter in Northern Ireland for milling and it was felt it could perform well here, particulalry with a similar climate, with winter 2023/24 being wet and mild. Despite strong vigour in the first two months, it has struggled since the turn of the year and despite being taller, has produced a thin crop. Eagle is a German variety that shows low vigour over winter as it is adapted to German winters where being too fast to develop, making it frost susceptible, would be a disadvantage, 

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Early Ground Cover

Early ground cover can be considered one of, if not the most, important trait for a winter cereal. As with vigour, Cromwell (a) is again ranked number one for this trait, and is statistically higher in ground cover than Eagle (bc) and Husky (c). Husky was quite vigourous in the first couple of months, but has struggled through the winter and grown tall, and produced a rather thin crop with low ground cover. The Mascani from new seed is also showing a relatively strong performance as would be expected from this long established and prefered variety. The indications at this stage are that Cromwell may out perform Mascani in the field, but equally important will be the comparison of grain quality, with Mascani consistently giving good quality prized by the mills.

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