Nitrogen and sulphur fertiliser management for yield and quality in winter and spring oats


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 August 2018 - 31 May 2022
AHDB sector cost:
Total project value:
£616,560 (mainly in-kind contributions by project partners)
Project leader:
ADAS (Other partners: IBERS Aberystwyth University, Teagasc (Ireland), Seges (Denmark), PepsiCo, Richardsons Milling, BOBMA, Saaten Union, Senova, KWS, RAGT Seeds, Camgrain, Golett Grain, Frontier, CF Fertilisers, Omex, Chadacre Agricultural Trust, Felix Thornley Cobbold Agricultural Trust)


21140039 annual project report 2019

About this project

The challenge 

The 2017 revision of the AHDB Nutrient management guide was based largely on an AHDB-funded review of nutrient management recommendations.

One of the reviews conclusions was that robust nitrogen (N) rate recommendations for winter oats could not be made due to insufficient data. The data analysed as part of the RB209 review, however, suggested the recommendations in the 2010 edition were too low, so an increase of 40kg N/ha for all SNS indices and soil types was applied in the 2017 revision. Further research, however, is required to improve recommendations further for both winter and spring oats.

UK oat production has increased substantially over the past 20 years. The increase in production is largely due to the increased demand for milling quality oats for human consumption, which has doubled in that time period and continues to grow. At present, however, RB209 recommendations for oats do not consider the effect of nitrogen on milling quality.

In addition to the lack of information on nitrogen rates for oats, there is also no data concerning N timing. At present, recommendations for time of application follow the advice for wheat but the specifications for milling oats are different.

Sulphur (S) is another essential element to maintain cereal yields. S deposition has decreased in the UK over the last few decades. At present, RB209 recommends applications of 25 to 50kg SO3/ha are made in the spring to crops at risk of deficiency. However, the research carried out to reach this recommendation was not conducted in oats. Although it is reasonable to assume that oats have a similar requirement to other cereals, evidence is required to confirm this assumption.

The project

This project will develop advice on the most appropriate nitrogen (rates and timings) and sulphur applications to optimise yield and milling quality of winter and spring oats. The work will:

1. Collate and analyse recent data on the effect of nitrogen (rates and timings) and sulphur on winter and spring oats yield and quality

2. Evaluate optimal nitrogen (rates and timings) and sulphur applications on the yield of winter oats

3. Evaluate optimal nitrogen (rates and timings) and sulphur applications on the yield of spring oats

4. Evaluate the impact of nitrogen and sulphur on the milling quality of oats. Specifically, specific weight, screenings, kernel content and hullability

5. Produce guidelines and promote conclusions through AHDB and industry channels

The benefits

The research will provide a better understanding of how N rates, N timings and S rate should be managed to meet grain specifications for milling oats. 

The outputs from this project will inform future revisions of the AHDB Nutrient Management Guide and other relevant guidance documents or systems.

Improved recommendations will help farmers target markets better (including export markets) and get a premium price for their crops. More efficient production also has environmental benefits.


Watch project lead, Sarah Clarke, introduce the project (video)

Watch Sarah provide a project update (2021 webinar)

Watch Sarah provide a project update (2022 webinar)