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Keywords:

  • critical nitrogen supply;
  • hulless oat;
  • nitrogen-15 labeling;
  • nitrogen-use efficiency;
  • Avena sativa L.

Abstract

Human diets containing oat (Avena sativa L.) grain offer health benefits resulting in an emerging interest in oat improvement. Information on nitrogen (N) uptake, distribution, and use efficiency (NUE) in oat is limited. A greenhouse study using a 15N-labeling technique was conducted to determine the responses of two contrasting oat genotypes to timing and level of N deficiency. Hulled oat cv. Prescott and hulless cv. AC Gehl were grown in soil-mix pot culture with five N treatments applied through modified Hoagland solutions. Differences in 15N accumulation, 15N distribution, plant N originating from the labeled source, and NUE between the contrasting cultivars, were examined for each N strategy. Level of N deficiency and timing of N supply of 15NH415NO3 greatly affected 15N distribution, the origins of plant N, and the amount of 15N recovered in the plant. When N was supplied from seedling emergence to maturity (T1), AC Gehl accumulated 61% more 15N in the shoots, but 46% less 15N in the grain than Prescott (0.43 vs. 0.80 mg plant–1), indicating that AC Gehl was less effective in producing grain yield than Prescott as AC Gehl produced greater total dry matter (DM). Withholding N supply until flag-leaf stage (FL) increased 15N in the grain of both cultivars by 29.6%, resulting in the highest NUE. In most cases, there were larger portions of plant N derived from the labeled source for AC Gehl than for Prescott. Our results suggest that greater NUE in the newly released AC Gehl was associated with N accumulation in the vegetative tissues. It is concluded that genotype improvement of hulless oat should be focused on enhancing N-translocation efficiency.