The continued demand for oats driven by consumer motivation around health and wellness places a positive outlook on the future sustainability of oat growing.
This was evident at White’s recent oat research day, held at Crossnacreavy, which saw over 50 farmers and industry delegates in attendance.
James Mathers, general manager of White’s, said: “Behind the demand is the increasing awareness around the health benefits of oats and this coupled with innovative product development, has seen oats move away from the staple bowl of porridge to being incorporated into a variety of meal and snack options that will drive demand for years to come.”
Sean Kane, White’s agri supply chain co-ordinator explained that White’s wished to establish growing oats as a competitive crop option for growers in Northern Ireland.
He added that the agronomy trials programme, which covers both the winter and spring sown crops, would provide valuable results to assist growers in optimising the performance of the crop on their own farms and the results would be available to all on a bespoke oat portal.
Underlining the profitability and suitability of oats as a break crop in the rotation, John Finnan of Teagasc said that over a long term rotational trial, oats had consistently shown to improve the subsequent first wheat yield by an impressive 1.2 tonnes /hectare.
In this respect he added that growers should look at the gross margin performance of the overall rotation not just the contribution from the single break crop.
Rosemary Hall, a lead oat agronomist from Crop Research Services, highlighted some of the challenges that cereal crops faced in the light of the withdrawal or restrictions on use of effective proven fungicides.
Specifically she said that cereal growers should be diligent in how they address the BYDV threat to their cereal crops.
With potash being the second most important mineral behind nitrogen, and not being available from manure over the first 12 months, she encouraged growers to consider a higher stubble cut allowing more straw to be returned to the soil.
Consumers are increasingly interested in the provenance of where their food comes from and White’s are committed to increasing oat production in partnership with local growers in Northern Ireland.
In support of this, they have released a new grower’s contract which offers attractive premiums for quality oats with high kernel contents and no penalty for low bushel weights.