Look to markets, growers advised GRDC funds new directions

Cartoon of an horse-race announcer: "It's Flying Oatis first, 50 lengths to No Oats second, then 40 lengths to Zilch Oats and Sans Oats."

Oat growers need to look more toward their markets, according to a South Australian miller.

Wayne Johnson, general manager of the Blue Lake Milling Co. located in Bordertown, says that current markets are challenging, but he has trouble convincing growers that they should grow for the market.

The problem may lie somewhat with currently available varieties. Breeder Andrew Barr of Northfield Research Laboratories in Adelaide agrees that new and growing world markets are challenging breeders in the demands they make on new varieties.

New market demands

"They want new varieties which will produce strong, semi-dwarf straw, resistance to leaf disease, especially leaf and stem rust, resistance to rain and hail damage, and the ability to capitalise on an extended growing season," Mr Barr said.

Markets opening up for oats for human food processing are becoming more discerning in their quality requirements. They seek varieties with lower fat and higher fibre, as well as good physical grain quality.

Competition has also intensified in export markets.

Against this background, Australia needs premium quality product to maintain and expand its market share. Mr Johnson of Blue Lake Milling said that minimum protein requirements for export sometimes caused a problem. Demand for higher protein grain was continually growing, and export markets were looking for a wider, whiter flake. But growers still planted for the larger yields, which sometimes failed to make milling quality.

A grower perspective was provided by John Hyde of Greenpatch, near Port Lincoln. Mr Hyde grows Echidna, a popular, high-yielding variety from Andrew Barr's breeding program. He finds the variety sometimes borderline for milling quality.

"We always grew oats and did well out of them," Mr Hyde said. "But for the last five or six years the market has been flat."

GRDC funds new directions in oat breeding

In response to the market situation a GRDC-funded research program in South Australia and Victoria supports new directions in oat breeding. South Australia, with a well-established breeding program, provides the coordination.

The project will breed oats for milling and processing for the premium, human food, domestic and ex pan markets; for ruminant feeding (high energy, low lignin); for poultry and pig feed; for hay and for break crops with resistance to CCN, that minimise the disease levels confronting the subsequent wheat and barley crop.

In addition naked oats represent a new market opportunity for pig, poultry and pet foods. They have also performed well as a feed for racehorses.

Recent varieties

Mr Barr said most recent tall varieties performed poorly, but Echidna and Dalyup were excellent. The naked oat variety Bandicoot also yielded well, returning 75 per cent of the yield of Echidna (up 9 per cent on its long-term average).

A new breeding line derived from a three-way cross involving Dumont (from Canada) Echidna and Bandicoot was the highest yielding line in 1992 trials, returning 12 per cent more than Echidna. A potential new variety with good milling quality known as ME/45/7 was, along with other tall varieties, disappointing in 1992. Further quality testing will determine whether it is released.