Art McElroy, research co-ordinator at PhytoGene Resources, delves into how growers can boost oat yields by filling more kernels. Although this research is based in Canada, there may be lots for all of us to learn.

Art asks the important questions on “What yield parameters were changing? What stresses could be causing these differences? Was there genetic variability for stress resistance”. This all in the aim to understand why oat yields of one variety can be so vastly differently in two different locations.

A key finding was the relationship between number of kernels and kernel fullness. With the number kernels set being the most determining factor to increase yield. This shouldn’t bring too many surprises to many seasoned growers, however, what is surprising is that some plants that had the most number of kernels also had the largest kernels. With of course large filled kernels delivering those higher oat yields.

There was a trait noted that seems to have been ignored for some time and that is the presence of unfilled kernels. Usually dismissed as kernels that the plant just can’t fill due to stress, these types of kernels were found throughout the panicle and determined to not be due to stress factors.

Further complicating the story was that when kernels didn’t fill, the other kernels that were present on the same panicle didn’t seem to compensate.

Art’s results did show a link to early-season drought and heat stress effecting kernel fill. However, quite interestingly the effect was very early on in the season when the panicle was still being formed. With some lines being more resistant than others.

This should seriously impact oat breeding moving forward, as breeders are constantly striving to produce higher yields and better kernel content.

For the complete story please read further at Top Crop Manager