According to the man heading up specific Teagasc research and development programmes, the future for oats in Ireland is extremely bright.

“Despite the fact that oats have been grown in this country for over 1,000 years, we know very little about the cereal at a fundamental research level,” stressed Oak Park-based Dr. Atikur Rahman.

He added: “Teagasc is currently addressing this knowledge shortfall. A key project now underway is the development of an Oat Growers’ Guide, similar to the publication that was produced for winter wheat a number of years ago.

“The new publication will be ready for the 2024/2025 growing season. Its purpose will be to reference the various growth stages of an oat crop and discuss the agronomy required to produce oats in the most sustainable way possible.”

The information to be included in the new guide will be gathered from ‘reference’ oat crops that will be grown at a number of sites.

“This is very detailed work, with data being secured on an almost weekly basis,” Rahman commented.

“The completed guide will be an extremely useful management tool for Irish oat growers. However, this will be far from the completed picture as our ongoing work will, almost inevitably, throw up issues that will require further research well into the future.”

Future for oats

The Teagasc research scientist believes that oats have a tremendous future within the Irish tillage sector.

“They form the perfect break crop within a cereal rotation. Oats grow well in temperate climates and are inherently resistant to many of the diseases that impact on other cereal options,” Dr. Rahman continued.

“From a growing point of view, they are also a very low input crop. Oats have a tremendous ability to scavenge nutrients from the soil.”

Rahman takes it for granted that the demand for oats as a human food source will contine to strengthen. However, he also foresees a growing demand for the cereal within the animal feed sector.

“Research has confirmed that the inclusion of oats in ruminant diets can lead to significant reductions in methane emissions from livestock – without hampering animal performance,” he said.

“The implications of these findings for the Irish livestock sectors are obvious.”

Another oat-related initiative ongoing within Teagasc is the genotyping of heritage varieties that were grown heritage on Irish farms over may years.

Dr. Rahman continued:

“The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has very kindly supplied us with relevant seed stock form its own heritage collection. We have been able to add to this courtesy of other seed sources supplied by farming groups in different parts of the country.

“Our aim is to precisely genotype all the varieties that have been submitted, generate pure breeding samples of each, and maintain a replicate collection of these within Teagasc.

“The scope to use these heritage oat varieties within future research projects is immense.”