Oat research to lift options for low rainfall areas

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Key points

  • Oats make up about one per cent of land use in Western Australia’s eastern wheatbelt
  • Most are used as opportunity hay crops or for stockfeed
  • There is a lack of agronomic research into growing oats in these lower-rainfall areas – but they offer diversification and profit potential 
Photo of man with hat kneeling in paddock

DAFWA research officer Dr Raj Malik is involved in the new GRDC-funded oat agronomy research project in WA’s lower-rainfall areas.

New oat agronomy research aims to expand plantings of this crop in the lower-rainfall parts of the Western Australian wheatbelt for grain and hay production, and to help manage frost risk and keep weed burdens low.

It is part of the Department of Agriculture and Food, WA’s (DAFWA) GRDC-funded ‘Tactical break crop agronomy for the western region’ project, led by senior research officer Mark Seymour.

He says the aim of oat R&D in this five-year project is to ensure WA’s valuable oat grain and hay industries are provided with the latest variety, agronomy and management information.

GRDC Western Panel deputy chair Dr Mike Ewing says the GRDC recognises the importance of generating this information for lower-rainfall areas.

He says oats are also an important frost-management tool and an export hay crop in medium to high-rainfall areas of the central wheatbelt and Great Southern.

“Investment is being expanded into improved disease resistance and agronomic management for these regions and the aim is to also extend these results to lower-rainfall growers,” he says.

In lower-rainfall areas of the eastern wheatbelt the research focus is on growing higher-yielding and better-performing oat varieties.

DAFWA research officer Dr Raj Malik started trials at Cunderdin, Merredin and Holt Rock in 2014 to examine the dual-purpose use of new oat varieties.

“There is growing interest in expanding oat production in these lower-rainfall areas to diversify rotations and help manage seasonal rainfall variation, declining grain prices, higher input costs, frost risk in susceptible paddocks and increasing weed burdens,” he says.

“However, there is a lack of information about how this can be done profitably, particularly when growers are using varieties such as Swan and Winjardie that were released more than 30 years ago.”

In the trial program DAFWA is assessing:

  • new milling varieties Bannister and Williams;
  • dual-purpose Carrolup (control) and Yallara;
  • the unreleased dual-purpose WA02Q302-9; and
  • the lower-rainfall hay variety 04192-2.

These varieties have a range of maturity and end uses and have been out-yielding Carrolup in WA’s medium and high-rainfall zones.

There may be opportunities for some varieties to produce export-quality oaten hay in the eastern wheatbelt, according to DAFWA’s new Northam-based oats research officer Georgina Troup.

“We are looking particularly at how the new Bannister and Williams oats stack up against Carrolup for hay production,” she says.

Stem thickness is an important trait for export hay markets and previous DAFWA research has shown that using high seeding rates can reduce stem diameter, with minimal effect on other quality parameters.

The recommended seeding rate in medium and high-rainfall areas for grain oats is 240 plants per square metre and for hay it is 320 plants/m2.

Dr Malik says these rates will be tested in combination with nitrogen application in the eastern wheatbelt trials this year.

He says the 2015 lower-rainfall oat variety trials will also further investigate agronomic response (yield and quality) of new oat varieties to management – particularly time of sowing – for dual-purpose use.

This research is being carried out in collaboration with the National Oat Breeding Program, the Grain Industry Association of WA Oat Council, the Australian Fodder Industry Association, the Australian Exporters Company, the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre, ConsultAg, National Variety Trials and the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Networks.

More information:

Dr Raj Malik,
08 9821 3247,



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GRDC Project Code DAW00277

Region West