While oat represents only ~ 1.3% of the total world grain production, it is a vital part of the Canadian cropping rotation. Canada is the largest exporter of oat in the world. Canada has a premier reputation for quality production that is sustained by research funded by Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA), as well as public funding from the Federal and Provincial governments and by the private companies that contribute to breeding, marketing of oat varieties, processing of oat and production of traditional and novel oat products.
Oat is grown for three primary markets, each with specialized variety choices and economic considerations:
- milling oat (human consumption),
- performance oat (pony oat), and
- feed oat.
The human food market for oat is increasingly important. In addition to the traditional uses of milled oat (Figure 1.1), oat is being processed for an array of products to meet the demand for gluten free, plant based, and non-dairy milk alternatives.
The health benefits of oat are widely recognized. Oat-specific soluble fibres, such as Beta Glucans (ß-glucans), maintain and reduce blood cholesterol and aid in balance of blood glucose. Oat has a high content of unsaturated fatty acids, especially present in the endosperm, which reduces the risks of heart and vascular diseases. Oat starch has a low glycemic index, which is favourable for weight control while oatspecific polyphenols and avenanthramides have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
There are many new oat food products contain oat ingredients available that are being rapidly adopted by health-conscious consumers (Figures 1.2 and 1.3).
Canadian oat are exported around the world (Figure 1. 4), with the USA being the most significant market.
Performance or pony oat are also a specialized market, primarily for high end race or competitive horses (Fig 1.5). In this market, the visual appearance of the oat is important along with other parameters (Stony Plain Seed Cleaning Association). Oat should be plump and white in color.
Performance oat is marketed in Western USA, Japan, Malaysia and Korea to specialized buyers.
High yielding feed oat varieties can be a choice for some oat growers and finally, oat that does not achieve quality standards can default to the lower-value feed market.