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There were significant differences in dry matter yield among five forage oat varieties tested at ten environments during 1970–75. The correlation coefficients between annual rainfall and DM yield varied with variety from 0·69 to 0·88, late varieties tending to give higher yields. Lateness, and high varietal response to annual rainfall and improved environmental conditions, can be used as selection criteria in semi-arid regions. Late varieties had higher DM and lower crude protein contents, and forage produced under lower rainfall conditions tended to have more DM and crude protein.