Agronomist David Livingston screened 10,000 plants
from a cross of two hardy oat varieties using progressively lower temperatures
to find the toughest lines. Above, Livingston grows winter oat seedlings during
an earlier phase of testing. Click the image for more information about
Hardy Oats Stand the Cold
By Rosalie Marion
Bliss February 28, 2005
Two oat genotypes identified by Agricultural Research Service scientists
and cooperators were found to be more freeze-tolerant under controlled field
tests than any variety released during the past 65 years.
P. Livingston, with the
Plant Science Research Laboratory, and plant breeder Paul Murphy at
North Carolina State University--both in
Raleigh, N.C.--reported the findings in the journal Crop Science.
Among fall-sown grain crops, oats are much less winter hardy than
wheat, barley and rye. Sustained temperatures at or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit
usually result in yield losses.
The scientists screened lines produced from the cross of two historic
U.S. winter oats: Wintok, released in 1940, and Norline, released in 1960.
Starting with 10,000 plants from the two varieties, the researchers
used progressively lower temperatures to screen for the toughest lines. Two of
the new lines, WN1 and WN10, were more winter-hardy than either of the two
hardy cultivars from which they were crossed. Despite their superior freezing
tolerance, neither germplasm was late-flowering, a trait commonly linked to
The scientists suspect that each of the parent cultivars possessed
different alleles for freezing tolerance, and that those alleles were combined
into a single genotype. Alleles are natural variations of a particular gene
among members of the same species.
These germplasm lines have alleles that allow regenerative cells
within the plant crown to sufficiently resist ice and cold. The crown is the
area where a plant's root and stem meet, and it contains various compounds that
are critical to the plant's regrowth after winter.
Increased winter hardiness among oat varieties could allow farmers as
far north as Pennsylvania and Ohio to grow winter oats in the future. The
germplasm is being used by breeders to cross with high-yielding,
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.