Semester of Graduation

Spring 2024


Master of Science (MS)


School of Plant, Enviornmental, and Soil Sciences

Document Type



Hunting white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is a popular pastime in Louisiana and it is a major economic activity in the region. Planting food plots to attract white-tailed deer to a specific location is a common practice. White-tailed deer are a type of ruminate known as a concentrate feeder and selective in their food choice. Oats (Avena sativa) are a widely used option for these food plots, as deer are highly attracted to them. Anecdotal evidence suggests that white-tailed deer show a preference between different genotypes of oats. This study investigates deer feeding preference among a panel of 234 southern oat lines and compares that feeding preference with growth habit, leafiness, and the health/density of the plot via an NDVI measurement. Additionally, a genome wide association study (GWAS) utilizing 2,526 genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), was conducted to attempt to find loci associated with deer preference. Deer were found to show a preference among genotypes, but preference was highly affected by environmental factors and differed between years. Growth habit showed a strong correlation with preference (r = 0.76) with winter type growth habits preferred by the deer. There was no correlation between leafiness or NDVI rating and preference. The GWASs produced several significant SNPs, none of which have previously been identified as associated with any quantitative trait loci (QTL) in the literature. One SNP was highly significant and explained almost 40% of phenotypic variation in one environment and was associated with lower deer preference. This study is an initial investigation into deer preference between oat lines and further studies will be needed to elucidate the drivers of preference and help improve breeding efficiency.



Committee Chair

Harrison, Stephen

Available for download on Thursday, December 10, 2026