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OSCII Activity A.2

Organic oat breeding

Activity summary

Improvements in organic crop agriculture depend on understanding how to best manipulate the cropping system, having plant cultivars that can take advantage of the system, and producing a crop that can contribute the most value to end-users. It is the intention of this activity to develop oat cultivars that will perform better in organic crop production systems than currently available, conventionally bred cultivars.

The organic oat research is building on the past success of the organic wheat and oat breeding programs, one wheat program located in each of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and one oat program located in Manitoba funded from the past Organic Science Cluster. These programs are all associated with large conventional programs which have provided convenient launching platforms for these organic programs by being able to provide germplasm, existing resources, and expertise to address specific needs of the organic industry. The previous funding from the first Organic Science Cluster allowed these programs to develop, but has also required that they increase in size as they mature. Early successes have occurred in oat with the registration of OT8003 as AAC Oravena in 2014. This cultivar will provide producers, end-users and consumers with an organically developed product that can be marketed and utilized throughout the value chain.The milling industry and snack food industry have already been active in processing organic cereals into marketed products. The development of cultivars well-suited to the production area and to the specific end-uses is extremely important. Producers need to have a range of cultivars available that can perform well under their regional organic management systems as well as being suited to the processors’ systems and products.  Consumers will be anxious to access products that have been “organic” throughout their lifecycle. Consumers are more aware of the health benefits of whole grains and oat products, and having an organic option available for those products will be extremely attractive. AAC Oravena was selected and registered because of its milling qualities, including higher levels of betaglucan (a health-benefitting soluble fibre), as well as for its disease resistance and agronomic performance in organic production systems.

Breeding programs must continue to develop improved lines and cultivars in order to meet the ever-changing pressures from diseases and other pests, the pressures from the climate and changes in production systems, as well as changes in processing systems and end-use products and consumer preferences. It essential to stay ahead, or at least abreast, of these changes. Developing cultivars that provide good agronomic performance under organic management, have superior disease and pest resistance, while exhibiting good quality and nutritional traits to provide a more attractive package and product to producer, processors and consumers is extremely important.

Activity researchers

Name Affiliation
Jennifer Mitchell Fetch, Activity Leader Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Brandon Research Centre
Martin Entz University of Manitoba
Dean Spaner University of Alberta