The disease development and population structure of Puccinia graminis f. sp. avenae, which causes stem rust on oats, were studied to investigate if sexual reproduction plays an important role in the epidemiology of the disease. The genetic population structure of P. graminis f. sp. avenae in Sweden was investigated by sampling 10 oat fields in July and August 2008 and seven fields during the same period in 2009. Nine single-pustule isolates were first used to test simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers developed for P. graminis f. sp. tritici. Eleven of the 68 tested SSR markers were useful for genotyping P. graminis f. sp. avenae. For the main study, DNA from single uredinia was extracted and the SSR markers were used to genotype 472 samples. Both allelic and genotypic diversity were high in all fields, indicating that P. graminis f. sp. avenae undergoes regular sexual reproduction in Sweden. No significant relationship between genetic and geographic distances was found. Disease development was studied on two farms during 2008 and 2009. The apparent infection rates ranged between 0·17 and 0·55, indicating the potential for rapid disease development within fields. The incidence of oat stem rust has increased recently in Sweden. One possible explanation is a resurgence of its alternate host, barberry (Berberis spp.), after the repeal of the barberry eradication law in 1994. Barberry is present in several grain-producing areas in Sweden, which supports the conclusion that P. graminis f. sp. avenae undergoes regular sexual reproduction there.