THE INTENT of this volume was to assemble the most pertinent available information on oats. Up to the present, apparently only three books devoted exclusively to oats have ever been printed, and only one is in English. The latter was published more than a third of a century ago. As a world crop, oats are exceeded in acreage and importance only by wheat, corn, rice, and cotton. Each of these other crops has received more attention from publishers than oats.
Oats are grown on every continent, but they are many times more important in the Northern than in the Southern Hemisphere. The area of greatest production is the north central United States and adjacent provinces in Canada. The second major area includes the countries of northwest Europe, the British Isles, and western Russia. Although oats are both spring and fall sown, only about one-fifth of the crop is fall sown. The greatest fall-sown oat area in the world is in the southern United States. The importance and extensive culture of oats as a world crop make them of wide interest.
The time and place of origin of oats, as of wheat and barley, are shrouded in mystery, but they apparently are of more recent origin than emmer and barley and are believed to have originated in Asia Minor and to have been spread over Europe and Asia as weed-like mixtures in the more ancient cereals.
References to oats appeared in writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans prior to and shortly after the dawn of the Christian era. North Europeans were apparently first to grow oats alone for food, although their use in times of scarcity was known in ancient times in Asia Minor, Ethiopia, and possibly China. Oats were first brought to the New World about 1600 and were probably fall sown first in America by George Washington at Mt. Vernon. During the past 360 years tremendous advancements in agriculture have taken place, and the expansion in knowledge and improvement of oats has kept pace. The greatest advance has occurred within the past 50 years.
The American Society of Agronomy has supplied a stimulating, enlightened leadership in this improvement. Some of the pioneer oat breeders were also leaders in the Society. It is in keeping with the progressive policies of the Society that this publication has been prepared under its sponsorship.
The Monograph Committee proposed the length for each chapter at the time the assignments were accepted by the contributors. Some did not use all space assigned, whereas others exceeded their allotments. In any product of multiple authorship, it is extremely difficult to obtain a uniform treatment of diverse subjects. This shortcoming is evident in the present publication.
This monograph covers the fields of origin, history, morphologic development, taxonomy, cytogenetics, and the genetics of morphologic characters and of disease resistance. The techniques employed in oat breeding are described, and the improvements resulting therefrom have been appraised. In addition, the climatic and physiologic influences, culture, seed production, diseases and insect enemies, and the industrial utilization of oats have been discussed.
The editor wishes to express his sincere appreciation to the authors of the several chapters, who prepared their contributions while engaged in other full-time assignments. He also wishes to express his appreciation to those reviewing manuscript chapters, including John H. Martin, Katherine Esau, H. H. Love, S. C. Salmon, C. S. Garrison and others: to Ivan Bespalow, David J. Griffiths, Helen Boyd, Henry Edmunds and others for their efforts in making available information from many sources not readily accessible; and to John H. Martin and Virginia B. McCalmont for their tireless efforts in assisting in the editorial assignment.
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M. D. S
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