Common oat (Avena sativa) is one of the most important cereal crops serving as a valuable source of forage and human food. While reference genomes of many important crops have been generated, such work in oat has lagged behind, primarily owing to its large, repeat-rich, polyploid genome. By using Oxford Nanopore ultralong sequencing and Hi-C technologies, we have generated the first reference-quality genome assembly of hulless common oat with a contig N50 of 93 Mb. We also assembled the genomes of diploid and tetraploid Avena ancestors, which enabled us to identify oat subgenome, large-scale structural rearrangements, and preferential gene loss in the C subgenome after hexaploidization. Phylogenomic analyses of cereal crops indicated that the oat lineage descended before wheat, offering oat as a unique window into the early evolution of polyploid plants. The origin and evolution of hexaploid oat is deduced from whole-genome sequencing, plastid genome and transcriptomes assemblies of numerous Avena species. The high-quality reference genomes of Avena species with different ploidies and the studies of their polyploidization history will facilitate the full use of crop gene resources and provide a reference for the molecular mechanisms underlying the polyploidization of higher plants, helping us to overcome food security challenges.