April Showers

When it rains, it pours and there is a lot of information in this update!

Wet conditions, of course, help spread disease, so let’s begin with a reminder that Oluseyi Fajolu at the Cereal Disease lab in St. Paul, MN, is eagerly awaiting this season’s rust samples!

Oluseyi’s request is posted in the "Community News" section, as is the first of the following announcements regarding new positions:

The healthiness of oats will be discussed at the Finnish Oat Association’s 1st Food Oats conference this June. This will be a virtual meeting. Please note that the timeline for submitting abstracts and early-bird registration is short – May 7th is the deadline!

In other news from Finland, results from the OATyourGUT project are described in this article (in Finnish). Researchers “investigated the acceptability of oat products in Finland and China, intestinal well-being and functionality in in vitro and clinical trials, and the shelf life of oats in the manufacturing process”.

The article also discusses using oats in the gluten-free diet for people with celiac disease, which is the focus of a research report submitted by Pauliina Öhman. The latest Finnish oat innovation is also gluten-free - Arctic Blue Beverages plans to introduce a gin-based oat liqueur (article in Finnish) to the Finnish market!

A second research report concerns genomics research and the highly-anticipated release of version 2 of the PepsiCo OT3098 oat genome sequence! Genomics researchers are very grateful to PepsiCo for their support of this work and for making the results accessible to everyone through the GrainGenes database.

The Grain Millers company is also involved in funding research, and celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Based in the USA, it also operates in Canada, where Scott Shiels is Grain Procurement Merchant. A summary of Scott’s SaskOats AGM presentation is in the March issue of the ‘Oat Scoop’ newsletter from the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA). As always, there is a lot of great information in the ‘Oat Scoop’, including interviews with a large number of Canadian oat researchers.

Jenneth Johanson is the president of POGA, and she, along with AAFC oat breeder Kirby Nilsen and market analyst Mike Jubinville, recently participated in one of Grainews’ “Hot topics in Commodities” webinars. Jenneth and Kirby are both based in Manitoba, where University of Manitoba researchers Martin Entz and Michelle Carkner are involved in a “Participatory plant breeding” program that also includes oats.

In eastern Canada, Joshua Nasielski was recently interviewed about a project to understand lodging in milling oats. Nitrogen availability can be a factor, and that (along with sulphur) is the focus of the NoatS project being run by Sarah Clarke of ADAS in the UK. Sarah will be presenting more results from the project at a webinar being held on May 5th at 7:00 pm BST.

Turning to Australia, the National Oat Breeding Program has been run by SARDI and headed by Pamela Zwer for many years, but was recently sold to InterGrain. Allan Rattey will take over as oat breeder from Pamela, who recently retired from SARDI but will be doing some work for InterGrain.

In Australia, there is growing consumer demand for oats, and the National Oat Breeding Program has always worked hard to find new sources of disease resistance to make oats more profitable.

One of the diseases of great importance in Australia is Red Leather Leaf, caused by the fungus Spermospora avenae. Hari Dadu at Agriculture Victoria has produced two videos on this disease, one on “Red Leather Leaf symptoms in oats” and the other on the “Impact of Red Leather Leaf on oaten hay quality and yield”.

Georgie Troup, from DPIRD in Western Australia, was recently interviewed about spring growing conditions and the quality of oaten hay. Georgie is also studying parameters involved in the quality of food oats, as Australian standards have recently changed.

Catherine Howarth from IBERS, in Wales, has noted that changes in government legislation and environmental standards are affecting oat research in the UK as well.

In Iceland, there has never been a breeding center for cereals, so Hrannar Smári Hilmarsson and Egil Gautason are proposing that the Icelandic government establish one (article in Icelandic), as “in order to strengthen food security in Iceland through cereal cultivation, it is necessary to breed the main cereals for Icelandic conditions and to create a market for the products”.

Finland is almost self-sufficient when it comes to cereals, and various projects involving oats are underway to help address the issue of climate change. For example, Fazer uses waste oat hulls to produce xylitol, and their factory has won the “Circwaste – Towards Circular Economy in Finland” project’s circular economy award.

There is a lot we can do to address the issue of climate change, and the next “Speaking of Oats…” webinar will look at research concerning heat stress tolerance in oats. Please join us on May 20th at 11:00 am EDT to hear Walid Sadok and Kevin Smith from the University of Minnesota talk about “Improving heat stress tolerance in MN-adapted oats using eco-physiological approaches”. Registration is open! Note also that the videos for the March and April webinars are now available.

I hope many of you will be able to join us for the May webinar – here’s a question: does heat stress necessarily mean it’s dry?