Although not always a popular cropping option in recent years, oats could see a consistent rise in acreage and a return to popularity amongst UK growers, thanks to several factors now in the crop’s favour. Farmers Guardian reports.
Consumer demand for oat-based foods has never been higher, with oats set to become one of the top 10 nutrition trends in 2020.
This is according to Dr Luzia Valentini, director of the Neubrandenburg Institute of Evidence-Based Dietetics, who told Europe’s first Oat Convention in Braunschweig: “Oats are rich in fibre, rich in protein and contain high levels of key micronutrients, such as zinc, iron and magnesium.
“Less well-known, but equally important, is the high content level of beta-glucan, a soluble dietary fibre which has positive, proven cholesterol-lowering effects on the human body.”
Echoing the growing health awareness benefits and consumer trends towards oats, speaker Dr Steffen Beuch, oat breeder for Nordsaat Saatzucht GmbH, focused on the issue of falling stock supplies of oats among major producers, such as North America.
This could lead to greater demand in both the UK and EU when aligned with the simultaneous rise in consumer demand, offering growers new markets to exploit, he said.
Dr Beuch also confirmed how a better understanding of oat agronomy, improved input management and use of better quality land could lift yields and help bridge the historical yield gap of up to 35 per cent between oat yields achieved by plant breeders and those achieved by growers.
This yield gap was highlighted as one of the widest among all agricultural crops.
Dr Beuch said: “With almost 50 per cent market share in Europe and with established varieties such as Delfin, Yukon and Canyon in the UK alongside market leader Huskey in Ireland, we understand the UK oat market.
“Having tracked the recent uptake in oats as a health food, and by combining this with a breeding programme which adapts to changes in consumer demand, we are now able to announce the launch of Lion, a new spring oat variety.”
Following four years of trials, Dr Beuch said Lion was a high yielding and stable variety, with high disease resistance to mycotoxins which was well-suited to growing conditions in the UK.
George Goodwin, combinable crop manager of Elsoms Seeds, who will be marketing Lion in the UK, added: “Lion has a very good agronomic package and has shown good standing ability.
“Yield potential is high with an impressive combination of kernel content, specific weight and hullability.
Including spring oats in the rotation provides an autumn window for black-grass control and for using catch and cover crops to improve soil quality.
“At the same time, spring oats can also benefit the overall crop rotation by providing a take-all break.”