Building the genetic, agronomic and economic foundations for expansion of oat cultivation in western Washington
Winkler, Louisa Rosemarie
MetadataShow full item record
Oats (Avena sativa L.) are a versatile crop with diverse genetic resources. A study of population structure in a collection of oat genotypes relatively unaffected by recent breeding activity identified an under-utilized area of genetic diversity which could be a source of novel alleles for agronomic traits and disease resistance. Association mapping in the collection generates the first molecular evidence for genetic architecture of traits including awn frequency and hull color. The history of oats in western Washington reveals an evolution away from regional self-sufficiency and towards greater integration with national and global markets. Recently, growth of interest in and demand for local and regional agriculture are fostering a more purposeful approach to regionality, and will be integral to reinvented roles for oats in western Washington. One opportunity for oats is the milling (food) oat market. To address a lack of regionally specific information on production practices and variety choice, two years of oat variety tests were carried out on organic and conventional farms in four counties. Estimated revenues based on agronomic and grain quality data suggest that milling oats are economically competitive with other small grain options. Hulless oats could be an alternative to corn and wheat for organic poultry producers seeking locally grown feeds. Three varieties of locally grown hulless oats were supplemented for corn and wheat in a feeding trial of Hy-Line Brown laying hens. The oats had no negative effects on hen health and productivity, and were economically competitive with commercially sourced organic corn and wheat. Oat variety showed no influence on feed value. Eggs from the feeding trial were used in a consumer evaluation. While there was evidence that feeding hulless oats changed the sensory properties of eggs by reducing yolk proportion, effect sizes were small. Overall, results support existing evidence that hulless oats can be fed to poultry at a moderate proportion of the diet with no negative effect on consumer acceptability of eggs. These projects rebuild a regional knowledge base for the adaptation and utilization of oats, which offer promising opportunities to diversify rotations and strengthen local food systems in western Washington.