New American research on the cholesterol-lowering ability of oats should boost their consumption and create further market demand when it is reported next year, said Cark Maunsell of Just Oats.

A long-term study from the University of Tufts in Minnesota showed that the antioxidants contained in oats helped to reduce cholesterol levels by 5-15%, he added.

“That compares to a reduction of 20-30% with statins, so it’s a significant piece of research. Not everyone can take statins.”

The other health benefits of oats had been appreciated for a while, said Mr Maunsell. “Human use of oats has risen from 220,000t in 1990 to 427,000t last year, as the high fibre and protein message has got through. So it’s a growing market.”

Independent consultant Colin Brown said there was a 5% increase in oats milled in the UK last year,

Despite the buoyant market signals, the UK area of winter oats was below 100,000ha this year, about 20% lower than usual, says Chris Green of Senova.

“The appalling conditions last autumn reduced the plantings of all winter crops and oats were no exception,” he says.

Six winter varieties are grown in the UK, with Gerald, Mascani and Dalguise taking the top three positions, he reports. “But candidate winter oat variety Balado is attracting a great deal of interest for its yield of 110. It takes winter oats to a new level of performance.”

It was also very short and stiff, said Mr Green. “It’s up for recommendation this autumn.”