One of the UK’s biggest developers of oat varieties is leading a £4.9 million project on researching ways to further improve the crop.
The Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) is heading the Quality Oats (QUOATS) project, launched in response to increased crop production costs as well as demand for healthier foodstuffs.
QUOATS was unveiled at the Royal Welsh Show by Wales’ deputy first minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones.
Dr Athole Marshall, who heads the oat breeding programme at IBERS, said oat varieties developed at the Institute account for more than 60% of the UK oat seed market.
The new project will make use of the most recent genomics technologies. “Combining expertise in molecular and conventional plant breeding and analysis of grain composition with evaluation of new and novel varieties by research and industrial partners will ensure that new oat varieties meet the requirements of the different end users,” said Dr Marshall.
The research team will study a component of oats that is thought to lower blood cholesterol in the hope of developing new varieties tailor-made for the healthy foods market.
Another aspect of the programme will be the development of oats for inclusion in livestock feed that could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The project is being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, DEFRA, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Government.