Oat breeding program



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The University of Minnesota has bred and studied oats for over 100 years. In 2014, the oat breeding program was rebooted after a six year pause to support MN farmers and industries. The program focuses on variety development using classical breeding techniques supported by trait discovery through the use of phenotypic and genomic tools.

Phenotypic data is critical information used in all stages of a plant breeding program and fundamental research. Unfortunately, phenotyping methods have not substantially changed over the past 100 years. Our lab provides opportunities for development of new phenotyping technology as well training and education in the areas of technology, automation, data analysis, and artificial intelligence will be critical to understanding and improving complex plant traits. 


Our lab’s primary goal is to provide producers and processors with improved oat varieties. The key agronomic traits we focus on are yield, disease resistance, and lodging resistance. We also screen potential lines for nutritional traits such as protein and oil content. To meet these goals we use both molecular and traditional breeding methods. Below is a list of a few of our more common varieties releases.

Line releases: 

Gopher - 1929

Sesqui - 2008

Deon - 2014 (link to variety release?)

MN-Pearl - 2018 (link to variety release)



Lodging is a complex trait in which both external and internal forces contribute to overall change in a plant’s structural integrity. Lodging can decrease yield and change grain quality traits. With collaborations between engineers and biologists, our lab has been investigating this complex trait through the use of environmental sensors to phenotype traditional and new lodging related traits to develop structural models. These models are validated with field based trials. These models will then guide decisions on ideal ideotypes for lodging resistance. This project has produced new plant phenotyping tools (camera track, Stalker, IMUs) and environmental sensors (Aeolus). The schematics for these tools are available via open source.



Enhancing and securing nutritional quality is a major breeding objective in oat. We are working to characterize the metabolome of both diverse germplasm and elite lines to better understand the basis of nutritional properties and other grain quality traits.


Diseases of Oat

Resistance to disease is an important characteristic that growers seek when choosing a crop cultivar. Oats are susceptible to several diseases including crown rust, loose smut, barley yellow dwarf, and root rots. Some effort is given to improving resistance to each of these diseases, but by far the most effort is given to improving crown rust resistance.

Loose smut: Loose smut destroys the oat panicle and produces fungal spores where the grain should be found.

Crown rust: Crown rust destroys the photosynthetic surfaces of the oat plant resulting in a decrease in the quantity and quality of oat grain.

High throughput phenotyping:


Other research efforts

Oat has many unique physiological and historic characteristics. Many of the questions related to these characteristics have been investigated in small side studies. The results of these types of studies contribute to larger breeding goals.

Link to horse study

Link to Speed breeding study