Easy to produce, rising demand, and, significantly, a contract price set 35% higher than the average return for wheat or barley, all made naked oats an intriguing possibility for growers at a DEFRA-funded Walk the Supply Chain event in Yorkshire last week.

While naked oats might only be seen as a niche market, their potential was growing, thanks to livestock producers becoming more aware of their high energy content, I’Ansons feed mill grain buyer Howard Jackson said.

“Livestock producers are becoming more aware of diet content, and they like naked oats because they are high in oil and, therefore, high in energy.”

His firm’s mill in Masham, North Yorkshire, uses 8000t of naked oats a year.

“The market is flourishing.

With transport costs increasing and traceability becoming more important, we are keen to talk to local growers.”

That the mill is offering a price contract set at 35% higher prices than the HGCA ex-farm average return for wheat or barley should provide further encouragement.

The crop’s potential had been helped by advances in varieties, he noted.

“Twenty years ago, varieties did not yield well, but that has all changed.

Advances mean outputs of 2.7t/acre are not uncommon.”

Economic crops of naked oats could be achieved at 5t/ha (2t/acre), according to Yorkshire Arable Advice’s Andrew Fisher, while yields of 6.25t/ha (2.5t/acre) equated to the returns from 8.75t/ha (3.5t/acre) of feed wheat.

Naked oats were also about 112/ha (45/acre) cheaper to grow.

For winter crops, growers had a choice between two varieties, he suggested.

“It all depends on soil fertility.

High nutrient soils are better for Hendon, a semi-dwarf variety with stiffer straw.

Grafton is longer in the straw and suits lighter land.”

fwarable@rbi.co.uk