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Avena abyssinica Hochst.

Protologue
Schimp. iter Abyss. sectio III No 1877 (1844).
Family
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Chromosome number
2n = 28
Vernacular names
Ethiopian oat, Abyssinian oat (En). Avoine d’Abyssinie (Fr).
Origin and geographic distribution
Avena abyssinica probably originated from Avena barbata Pott ex Link. It is native to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen, and is cultivated for its grain in northern Ethiopia. It has been tried as a crop in Tanzania and Algeria.
Uses
In Ethiopia the grain of Avena abyssinica is used mixed with barley to make pancake-like bread (‘injera’), local beer (‘tella’) and other products. The grain is also eaten roasted as a snack (‘kollo’). Malt containing an admixture of Avena abyssinica has been credited with giving better beer than malt from pure barley or wheat.
Botany
Erect annual grass up to 1.5 m tall. Leaves alternate, simple; leaf sheath long and loose; ligule acute, membranous; blade linear, flat, usually glaucous. Inflorescence a terminal panicle 20–35 cm long, loose and open, the branches slightly rough. Spikelet slender-stalked, pendulous, 2–2.5 cm long, 2–3-flowered, with the uppermost floret reduced or vestigial, non-shattering; glumes almost equal, narrowly elliptical, sharply acuminate, several-veined; lemma 1.5–2 cm long, smooth and glabrous or with a few bristly hairs near the awn insertion or margin, narrowly bifid, each lobe with 1 vein extended into an apical bristle 1–3 mm long, usually also minutely toothed at the base of the bristle, with slender, abruptly bent awn 2.5–3 cm long, arising from the back of the lemma; palea almost as long as lemma, bifid, 2-keeled, prickly hairy on the back; stamens 3; ovary superior, villous, with 2 stigmas. Fruit a caryopsis (grain).
Avena comprises about 30 species, which are diploid (2n = 14), tetraploid (2n = 28) or hexaploid (2n = 42). The tetraploid Avena abyssinica belongs to section Ethiopica. It can be distinguished from the common oat (Avena sativa L.) by the presence of two bristles at its lemma tip. It crosses easily with the weed Avena vaviloviana (Malzev) Mordv., resulting in weedy hybrid swarms which shatter easily.
Ecology
Avena abyssinica is cultivated, but is also a weed of arable land, particularly in barley and wheat fields. In Ethiopia it is found at 1700–3000 m altitude. Experiments indicate that Avena abyssinica is a long-day plant and that vernalization results in earlier flowering.
Management
Avena abyssinica is recorded to be grown sometimes in Eritrea and Ethiopia, but it is unclear to what extent this is still the case. As a weed in barley and wheat it is often tolerated and harvested with the main crop. Avena abyssinica is affected by crown rust or leaf rust (Puccinia coronata f.sp. avenae). It is also susceptible to infestation with ergot (Claviceps spp.); consumption of infected grains has led to outbreaks of ergotism in Ethiopia.
Genetic resources and breeding
The largest germplasm collections of Avena abyssinica are kept at in the United States (USDA-ARS National Small Grains Germplasm Research Facility, Aberdeen, Idaho, 241 accessions), the United Kingdom (John Innes Centre, Department of Applied Genetics, Norwich, 65 accessions) and the Russian Federation (N.I. Vavilov All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Industry, St. Petersburg, 53 accessions). No germplasm collections are known to exist in tropical Africa.
Prospects
Avena abyssinica is a semi-domesticated plant in Ethiopia, where it is used as a component in mixtures for the preparation of food and local beer. It has, however, not become important and its present status is uncertain.
Major references
• Baum, B.R., 1977. Oats: wild and cultivated. A monograph of the genus Avena L. (Poaceae). Monograph No 14. Biosystematics Research Institute, Canada Department of Agriculture. Ministry of Supply and Services, Ottawa, Canada. 463 pp.
• Fröman, B. & Persson, S., 1974. An illustrated guide to the grasses of Ethiopia. CADU (Chilalo Agricultural Development Unit), Asella, Ethiopia. 504 pp.
• Hanelt, P. & Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Editors), 2001. Mansfeld’s encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops (except ornamentals). 1st English edition. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 3645 pp.
• National Research Council, 1996. Lost crops of Africa. Volume 1: grains. National Academy Press, Washington D.C., United States. 383 pp.
• Phillips, S., 1995. Poaceae (Gramineae). In: Hedberg, I. & Edwards, S. (Editors). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Volume 7. Poaceae (Gramineae). The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. 420 pp.
Other references
• Clayton, W.D., 1970. Gramineae (part 1). In: Milne-Redhead, E. & Polhill, R.M. (Editors). Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London, United Kingdom. 176 pp.
• Engels, J.M.M., Hawkes, J.G. & Worede, M. (Editors), 1991. Plant genetic resources of Ethiopia. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom. 383 pp.
• Harlan, J.R., 1989. Wild grass seed harvesting in the Sahara and sub Sahara of Africa. In: Harris, D.R. & Hillman, G.C. (Editors). Foraging and farming: the evolution of plant exploitation. Unwin Hyman, London, United Kingdom. pp. 79–98.
• Harlan, J.R., 1989. The tropical African cereals. In: Harris, D.R. & Hillman, G.C. (Editors). Foraging and farming: the evolution of plant exploitation. Unwin Hyman, London, United Kingdom. pp. 335–343.
• King, B., 1979. Outbreak of ergotism in Wollo, Ethiopia. The Lancet 1(8131): 1411.
• Martens, J.W. & McKenzie, R.I.H., 1973. Resistance and virulence in the Avena: Puccinia coronata host-parasite system in Kenya and Ethiopia. Canadian Journal of Botany 51: 711–714.
• Sampson, D.R. & Burrows, V.D., 1972. Influence of photoperiod, short-day vernalization, and cold vernalization on days to heading in Avena species and cultivars. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 52(4): 471–482.
• Welch, R.W. (Editor), 1995. The oat crop: production and utilization. Chapman & Hall, London, United Kingdom. 584 pp.
Author(s)
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands


Editors
M. Brink
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
G. Belay
Ethiopian Agricultural Research Organization, Debre Zeit Center, P.O. Box 32, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia
Associate editors
J.M.J. de Wet
Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana-Champaign, Turner Hall, 1102 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, United States
O.T. Edje
Faculty of Agriculture, University of Swaziland, P.O. Luyengo, Luyengo, Swaziland
E. Westphal
Ritzema Bosweg 13, 6706 BB Wageningen, Netherlands
General editors
R.H.M.J. Lemmens
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
L.P.A. Oyen
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands
Photo editor
A. de Ruijter
PROTA Network Office Europe, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, Netherlands

Correct citation of this article:
Brink, M., 2006. Avena abyssinica Hochst. In: Brink, M. & Belay, G. (Editors). PROTA 1: Cereals and pulses/Céréales et légumes secs. [CD-Rom]. PROTA, Wageningen, Netherlands.