The optimization of management practices for oats is hindered by a lack of knowledge of the critical phenological phases at which management should be focussed. The objective of the present review was to identify the yield-limiting phases in the growth of the oat crop in order to optimize management and to maximize yield. The methodology employed was to identify characteristics associated with either the pre-anthesis grain number determination phase or with the post-anthesis grain filling phase. Characteristics associated with the pre-anthesis phase were identified as a positive linear relationship between yield and grain number, in addition to insensitivity of grain weight to changes in assimilate supply. Characteristics associated with the post-anthesis grain filling phase were identified as an absence of a relationship between yield and sink size (grain number) and changes in grain weight in response to changes in assimilate supply. Data was taken from published literature. Yields of both winter- and spring-sown hulled oats increased linearly with grain number showing a strong influence of grain number on yield. Grain weight of both winter- and spring-hulled oats, however, decreased with increasing grain number suggesting that competition for assimilates may exist at high grain number. Further evidence of the influence of assimilate supply on grain yield was obtained from several studies which showed that yield increased with leaf area duration as well as from studies where grain weight was found to decrease after reductions in assimilate supply per grain, whereas grain weight increased when assimilate supply to grain was increased. Oat crops also feature a grain abortion mechanism when assimilate supply is constrained. Yield of naked oats increased with grain number before reaching a plateau, a trend which suggests source limitation at high grain numbers. The available evidence suggests that yield is primarily determined by grain number determination but that grain yield is also potentially limited by assimilate availability in the post-anthesis period. It is recommended that crop management strategies for oats should aim both to increase grain number in the pre-anthesis period but also prolong the grain filling period after anthesis. Such a post-anthesis strategy should both reduce the possibility of yield being limited by assimilate availability and compensate for the production of smaller grains at higher grain numbers.