Oats Biodiversity Selection 

Work Package 2: Biodiversity selection for adaptation to climate change


Lead partner: Dr Catherine Howarth, Aberystwyth University 

Collaborating partners: University College Dublin and Teagasc


We are faced by an increasing population relying on a limited area of arable land, a more erratic climate and crop losses due to plant diseases. To meet the grand societal challenges, we need a sustainable intensification of agricultural production, improving both yield and quality. To increase the resilience and value of cropping systems to rural communities in the Irish-Welsh region, we need to assess oats varieties that can grow well in 1) the wettest parts of Wales and Ireland and 2) in low and high input agricultural systems. This assessment will help to select optimal varieties for resilience to abiotic and biotic stresses as well as for grain quality to enable release of added value products for farmers and stakeholders.



Specific tasks

Task 2.1. Controlled Environment assessment for resilience

Using the automated high throughput platforms at the National Plant Phenomics Centre, varieties will be assessed for their tolerance to likely stress conditions at 2 distinct stages of the life cycle, seedling emergence and panicle emergence. 

Task 2.2. Germplasm assessment and selection – nutritional qualities

The lipid, protein and β-glucan profile of all genotypes showing good yield and stress tolerance from task 4.1 will be assessed, as will their broader macro and micronutritional balance. Varieties with the highest yield, β-glucan content and most balanced nutritional profiles will be selected for field trials.  Where appropriate, we will liaise with farmer-stakeholders to produce bulk quantities of specific varieties. 


Task 2.3. Field selection in multiple environments

In this task, a sub-set of lines with the highest climate change resilience characteristics combined with the highest health and nutritional characteristics from task 2.1 and task 2.2 will be grown under field conditions in a range of environments across Ireland and Wales over a two-year period in replicated trials. The purpose of this task will be to test these lines to ensure that their beneficial characteristics are still evident when grown in the field but also to ensure that these lines are also resistant to the stresses which crops encounter when they are grown in the field (e.g. fungal diseases, lodging). The oat lines will be scored for a range of characteristics including frost tolerance, disease incidence, incidence of lodging, plant senescence and duration of grain filling. The grain yield of all the lines will be determined at harvest and grain samples will be taken for quality analysis. 


Task 2.4. Performance under low vs high input systems

In this task, a subset of the lines selected for Task 4.3 will be grown under both low and high input regimes. With an increasing emphasis on lowering inputs to meet environmental sustainability objectives, the task will also test the effect on grain quality characteristics to see if the health and nutritional characteristics of oat grains can be altered or enhanced by input level. This will provide information for performance in a number of different agro-ecosystems and provide information for organic agricultural systems.