Milling tests for stamp of approval by Nicole Baxter

The real acid test for Pallinup oats' acceptance among farmers will be its suitability to the domestic and overseas oat processing markets.

Mortlock is currently the preferred milling variety for the domestic and export processing industry but plant breeders expect new varieties like Pallinup to take its place in the future.

WA oat breeders say Pallinup has potential as a high quality milling oat because it has a higher groat percentage than Mortlock, although it is similar in groat weight, grain colour, hectolitre weight and protein content. However, the final outcome will be determined by industry tests.

Processing company Quaker Oats has a major impact on what varieties are grown in WA because it has dominated the domestic oat manufacturing market for the past eight years.

Using Mortlock oats, the company has increased its domestic market share for processed oaten products from 5-80 per cent and expanded its throughput from 800-20,000 tonnes a year.

About 65 per cent of the company's production is sold as oaten flakes, bran or flour to Asian markets. The remaining 35 per cent of its production is sold to domestic manufacturers.

Quaker Oats managing director Danek Liwszyc said Mortlock was chosen as the preferred milling oat six years ago for a range of oaten products such as oat flour, oat bran, and oat flakes.

Unlike its US counterparts, Quaker Oats Australia does not accept other milling quality varieties.

Uniformity key

Mr Liwszyc believes the company's strategy of remaining variety-specific has been the key to the organisation's growth to Australia's largest domestic oat processor.

"The difference between oat varieties is very important to us and in our buyers' eyes oat varieties can be as different as wheat and barley," Mr Liwszyc said. "We have developed a top-class reputation in the international and domestic oat processing markets because we can guarantee a product which is uniform in texture and quality."

However, he said, the company would look closely at Pallinup for its suitability for human consumption. Quaker Oats plans to gather about 50 tonnes of Mortlock, Carrolup and Pallinup oats from the Walkers' East Wagin property after harvest.

The company will test each variety for millability, nutrition value, appearance, taste, texture and mouth feel. "Oats have always been considered a secondclass grain to wheat and barley, but we believe there is real potential to expand domestic and export use of oat-based products," he said.

Forward contracts

Another key factor in Quaker Oats' domination of the domestic oat milling market has been its provision of forward contracts. Until recently, it was the only company that provided forward contracts for oats, but the AWB and WA Grain Pool now offer forward contracts for Pallinup, Carrolup and Mortlock oats.

Oat breeders say that apart from the outcome of Quaker Oats' quality tests, Pallinup may provide growers with a viable alternative to older milling-quality varieties because of its resistance to disease and its higher yielding capabilities.