Naked oat grain, which is free from lemma and palea, has high nutritional quality, but the unprotected grain is prone to mechanical damages caused by combine harvesting. Naked oats were grown for 3 years in southern Finland, at Viikki Experimental Farm, University of Helsinki (60° 13′N) to produce seed material for laboratory tests that evaluated: (1) genotypic differences of naked oat in sensitivity to damage during harvesting at grain moisture varying from c. 10% up to 50%, (2) the effect of mechanical damage on germination and grain vigour, and (3) grain characteristics contributing to susceptibility to reduced grain viability. In 1997, one naked (Rhiannon) and husked oat cultivar (Salo) were harvested, and in 1998–1999 additional four naked cultivars (Bullion, Lisbeth, Neon, SW 95926) were included. One large plot (14 m×10 m) was sown per cultivar. Two sowing times were used. Fully ripened grains were combine harvested on several occasions for each plot to obtain differences in grain moisture at harvest. Simultaneously, panicle samples were collected, dried and threshed by hand (controls). Grain moisture at each sampling and harvesting was monitored. About 3 months after harvesting, germination tests on blotting paper were carried out. Proportions of normally developed seedlings, seedlings lacking either radicle or hypocotyl, damaged coleoptiles, dead grains and lethally fungus-infected grains were recorded from combine harvested and hand threshed samples on different cultivars and harvest moistures. Tests on seedling elongation, seedling emergence through sand (2 cm and 5 cm depth), and ion leakage were applied to evaluate grain vigour. Groat weight, diameter, length, roundness, hardness and protrusion of embryo were determined.
Our results indicated that naked cultivars were far more prone to mechanical damages than husked Salo, but differences among naked cultivars in susceptibility occurred. When targeting germination of [ges ] 75%, grain moisture at harvest should not exceed 19–26% depending on cultivar. Abnormal seedlings appeared irrespective of grain moisture at harvest, but the higher the grain moisture, more dead grains were found in harvested grains after storage. Seed vigour did not alter parallel to germination ability. High proportion of small grains in harvested yield and softer groats contributed to decreased sensitivity to mechanical damages.