Promoting Canadian Oats

 Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) 2020-2021 Projects, updated April 2021

Research and Development - Breeding

POGA, through the Manitoba Oat Growers Association, the Saskatchewan Oat Development Commission and the Alberta Oat Growers Commission, provides funding to:

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Brandon Research Centre in Brandon, MB through the Prairie Oat Breeding Consortium (POBC)
  • Crop Development Centre in Saskatoon

Organic Oat Breeding: conducted at the AAFC Brandon Research Centre by Dr. Kirby Nilsen, with an objective of developing milling quality oat cultivars suitable for organic production in western Canada, and potentially across Canada.  Dr. Nilsen will evaluate and identify germplasm with high levels of genetically conferred disease resistance, develop oat cultivars with durable resistance, especially to oat rusts, with acceptable milling quality, suitable for organically managed production systems in western Canada, and for the ever-increasing organic markets.

Research and Development - General

Alberta Variety Trial led by Gateway Research Organization will test 11 approved milling varieties to investigate the impact of the variety and growing conditions on the yield and beta-glucan in both Westlock, AB and Fahler, AB.  The goal of this trial is to determine if a variety with higher beta-glucan can outperform Morgan oats in Alberta to meet oat miller’s demand for higher beta-glucan.

Breeding, Genomics and Agronomy Research to Improve Oat Yield and Quality led by Dr. Weikai Yan and Nick Tinker, AAFC Ottawa. There are six objectives in this project and POGA is helping fund objectives two to six:

  1. identifying optimal agronomic practices to achieve high and stable grain yield and quality, (yes just had condensed the list to save room)
  2. enhancing the current oat breeding procedures in both the Ottawa and Brandon programs with genomic selection,
  3. improving the ability to deploy appropriate rust resistance genes through a survey of Pc gene profiles in existing cultivars, and Pc gene effectiveness in western and eastern Canada,
  4. enhancing genetic diversity in North American oat breeding programs through a joint testing and genotyping network that promotes germplasm exchange and provides information about adaptation,
  5. developing a multi-faceted approach to data and knowledge management that enhances all objectives of this project and benefits world-wide pre-competitive oat research.

Continuing studies on intercropping for increasing yield and quality of grain and forage crops, and improving soil quality led by Dr. Myriam Fernandez, AAFC. This project will look at the relationship between various intercrop dynamics to see where benefits can occur. Intercrop species use soil available nutrients and soil moisture, and at given times inter- and intra-competition are expected. Specifically, the project will look to determine if intercrops with crops or a living mulch can reduce weeds compared to sole crops, and will look at various seeding ratios to evaluate impact on each crop. It will aim to identify if there is a nitrogen benefit from legumes in the intercrop to its companion crop, as well as look to determine the biomass and grain yield/quality due to the intercrop dynamics. It will also look at the disease pressures, and evaluate if intercrops have less disease than monocrops, as well as develop crop growth and nutrient models for intercrop verses monocrop scenarios.

Coordinated monitoring of field crop insect pests in the Prairie Ecosystem led by Dr. Meghan Vankosky, AAFC Saskatoon. The Prairie Pest Monitoring Network is a collaborative project and participants include federal and provincial entomologists, university scientists, agronomists, industry, and producers. Participants monitor insect pests annually across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the BC Peace Region. Data is released on a weekly basis when insect pests pose the greatest threat to crop yield. Annual data is collected and compiled into distribution maps, and in some cases, forecast maps for the subsequent season. These tools provide up-to-date, relevant information that can be used by agronomists, industry representatives, and farmers to make decisions regarding insect pest management.

Development of markers linked to oat crown rust resistance to help breed improved oat varieties for Canadian oat producers led by Dr. Aaron Beattie. To build on Western Canada’s position as a supplier of premium quality oats to the current US markets, and developing markets like Mexico and China, requires developing varieties with a strong disease resistance package (of which crown rust resistance is a critical component). This will provide value to growers, through improved yield and reduced input costs (i.e. reduced fungicide use) which will help oat remain a viable crop within a grower’s rotation, and to millers/food processors, through higher selectability (i.e. good plumpness and test weight).

Economic Value of Diversified Cropping Systems, led by Elwin Smith, University of Lethbridge. Short crop rotations provide an environment conducive for an increase in plant disease, weed pressure from herbicide resistance, and insect damage. While some short rotations are currently profitable, the lack of diversification in a cropping system can be detrimental to maintaining crop yield and profitability. This study will look to determine the net return and variability of net return associated with cropping systems of different rotation length and diversity of crops, to determine the marginal user costs of the “pests” associated with reduced diversity in cropping systems, and to determine the degree to which participation in business risk management (BRM) programs (crop insurance, AgriStability) affect the long-term economics of cropping systems (e.g., potentially masking of negative impacts of reduced diversity).

Improved Integrated Disease Management for Oats in Saskatchewan led by Jessica Pratchler of the Northeast Agriculture Research Foundation (NARF). This project aims to understand the effectiveness of fungicide applications, in addition to genetic resistance to control foliar diseases in oats. It will determine the impact that plant populations have on optimal fungicide applications.  It will also explore the impact of increased plant populations and their effect on reduced tillering, decreased variability of growth stages within plants of a given area, and ease determining the optimal fungicide application timing.  Finally, it will look at how integrated disease management strategies vary in SK soil climatic zones.

Revising the crop nutrient uptake and removal guidelines for Western Canada, led by Dr. Fran Walley, University of Saskatchewan. The goal is to develop new estimates for crop nutrient uptake and removal, as the current information regarding crop nutrient uptake and removal does not reflect current crop yields, and the grain and straw nutrient concentration estimates are not adequately reflective of current varieties. Also, there is no consistent data regarding micronutrient uptake and removal. This is a two- year project that will be co-funded by ADF.

Saskatchewan Variety Performance Trials, led by Mitchell Japp, Saskatchewan Agriculture looks to assess various oat varieties and their suitability to various Saskatchewan regions. Trials are conducted in various areas throughout the province, and the varieties are chosen based on top yearly performers. The information is important for producers to grow the variety best suited for their region to ensure a quality, profitable crop. In the near future, the regional variety testing program intends to enhance the lodging data collected on oats.

Tuning the Oat Genome with CRISPR-based systems, led by Jaswinder Singh with McGill University.  This project will lay the foundation for a new genome editing method in oat. Genome editing allows plant breeders to make targeted improvements within a plant’s existing DNA. The major objective is to integrate CRISPR- based genome editing approaches with oat breeding for the development of future generation of oat varieties. The objectives are to ensure the agility of the oat research community to respond to new opportunities, and hopefully to integrate CRISPR- based genome editing approaches with oat breeding for the development of oat varieties that address new challenges in food security and environmental stress.

Understanding the Impact of Particle Size on Physicochemical Properties and Nutritional Benefits of Pulse and Oat Flours by Dr. Yongfeng Ai at the University of Saskatchewan. This project will address two interlinked but distinct research gaps:

  1. investigate the effects of milling/processing of pulse and cereal flours on their physicochemical functionality in foods.
  2. determine the impact of milling on nutritional benefits of pulses and cereals with a focus on postprandial glycemia and insulinemia.

The former will generate the new knowledge and technologies needed in the food industry to produce high-quality food ingredients with functional versatility, and the latter will support future health claims to promote the consumption of heathy pulse and cereal products.

Beyond Beta Glucan, demonstrating the health benefits of oat protein, led by Dr. Sijo Joseph. The objective of this project is to provide scientific evidence of the specific health attributes of oat protein in reducing abnormal levels of cholesterol and glucose, and thereby generate preliminary data for an oat protein health claim petition. Ultimately, the Canadian oat industry could capitalize on new opportunities for marketing efforts with new evidence promoting the health benefits of adding oats in a diet. It will enable the Canadian oat industry to meet consumer expectations in search of value-added oat products both at home and worldwide.

Collecting the Carbon Data Needed for Climate-Smart Agriculture in Saskatchewan, led by Dr. Kate Congreves at the University of Saskatchewan. There is no direct annual data on net carbon footprints of Saskatchewan cropping systems. This project will address this gap by providing spatially and temporally integrated data on greenhouse gas (GHG; N2O and CO2) emissions at the field scale level.  This information will be used to determine net ecosystem exchange and the net carbon footprint of the cropping system.

Intercropping Pea with Canola or Oat: impact on nitrogen, disease and economics, led by Dr. Liu Kui with AAFC. Intercropping pea with oat or canola enhances biodiversity and likely increases resource (e.g. N, water, and phosphorus) use efficiency. The improved quality and quantity of straw from the intercrops likely affect straw decomposition, soil carbon and N dynamics, and soil health. In this study, the effects of intercropping on soil particulate organic matter carbon and N will be determined. This study will be conducted at three sites in Saskatchewan.

Stimulating Germination in Wild Oats and Volunteer Cereals led by Dr. Shaun Sharpe with AAFC. The study objective is to characterize the dose response, interaction, and optimal mix of potassium nitrate and pyroligneous acid (liquid smoke) to determine the suitability of either pre-seeding or post-harvest germination stimulation of wild oat, volunteer barley, oats, and wheat. Wild oat is a strong competitor and can cause significant yield loss when emerging prior to cereals.  The development of herbicide resistance in wild oats results in additional herbicide inputs and costs atop of standard practices to control wild oat.

Oat Pea Intercrop Demonstration, led by Lana Shaw at the South East Research Farm. This project will look at how to grow oat and pea together as a grain crop, how to separate grain components using slotted screens, and the effect of varying oat seeding rate in intercrop with pea on yield and agronomic parameters. Peas and oats are both relatively low value crops in the rotation compared with canola. They are both beneficial to have in a crop rotation in terms of nitrogen use efficiency and mycorrhizal associations. Intercropping oats and pea in a mixed grain crop may result in a more resilient and valuable product with reduced need for herbicides and nitrogen fertilizer. Oat may have beneficial effects on pea disease or reduce weed pressure, which has implications for herbicide-resistant weeds like kochia. An oat-pea intercrop may be agronomically and economically suitable for many of the crop zones found in the province. An intercrop may reduce the need for glyphosate applications by reducing weed competition, and may also improve soil aggregate stability. This project is funded by the ADOPT program.

Are oats responding to higher levels of macronutrients?, led by Mike Hall, through AgriARM. The objective of this project is to demonstrate the response of a modern oat varieties to the historically recommended rate of 60 lb N /ac against the more recently suggested recommendation of 90 lb N/ac and to determine the relative importance of adding phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and sulphur (S) for these different nitrogen (N) recommendations in eastern Saskatchewan. The influence of treatment on oat yield, lodging and test weight will be determined. This project is funded by the ADOPT program.

Which oat varieties “hold it together”, when the going gets tough, led by Mike Hall, through AgriARM. Many oat millers will no longer accept oats treated with pre-harvest glyphosate. Losing this harvest management tool forces many producers to leave oats standing in the field longer, creating a greater risk of poorer grain quality and higher harvest lost. The objective of this project is to help producers select milling oat varieties that are more likely to maintain yield and grain quality when harvested late. Lodging, shatter loss, grain quality and yield between six (6) commonly grown milling oats will be compared between ideal and late harvest timings.  This project is funded by the ADOPT program.

Research and Development – Product Development

Development of a nutritionally enhanced plant based milk alternative beverage from Canadian oats and study of its hypoglycemic effects conducted by Dr. Lingyun Chen at the University of Alberta.  This project is a continuity of Dr. Chen’s previous effort to address industry interest in using fractionated oat ingredients as a source of food product innovation.

The specific objectives in the next two years are to:

  1. Study competitive advantages of Canadian oats for development of healthy oat milk products; special emphasis will be placed on oat varieties that are high in yield, protein and beta-glucan.
  2. Optimize processing to enhance recovery of oat nutritional components into a nutritionally enhanced oat milk drink with significantly improved protein and beta-glucan content.
  3. Study peptides with anti-diabetic effects from oat protein for functional oat drink development and evaluate the drink hypoglycemic effect through in vivo test in diabetic animal model.

Research and Development – Feed

Develop New Strategies to Efficiently Utilize Oat Grains in High Production Dairy Cows to Maximize Economic Return and Benefit to Prairie Oat Growers, led by Dr. Peiqiang Yu from University of Saskatchewan, is a five-year project that aims to increase and enhance basic knowledge of the optimal nutrient supply to dairy cattle through variety selection, feed processing, and optimal feed ingredient blending. Objectives within this project include: finding the best oat variety or type of oat grain with the highest Feed Milk Value (FMV) for dairy cattle; improving the FMV of oats through processing applications; and finding the maximum or optimum level of oats to replace barley in high production lactation dairy cow diets. Among other things, this project will carry out a detailed metabolic study in dairy cattle to understand the effects of feed processing on rumen fermentation, degradation kinetics, intestinal digestion, and truly absorbed nutrient supply from Prairie oat grains to dairy cattle using various techniques.


Market Access to China – funded in part by AAFC and directed by POGA through Emerging Ag.  POGA has reduced efforts in this area until the political landscape becomes more favourable.  As such, the Chinese articles and translations for a targeted website are still being maintained. Other funds originally earmarked for market access have been redirected to the Japanese market.

Expand the Canadian Oat Market: Mexico funded in part by AAFC and directed by POGA through Emerging Ag.Mexico is the third largest importer of oats globally and several other Latin American countries who import oats could offer additional opportunities for Canadian exports. A long-term strategy for POGA is to make use of the proximity to these markets and build on the strong Canadian reputation for products in Mexico which would support the efforts to differentiate Canadian oats. This project focuses on diversification of Canadian oat exports to Mexico. The activities aim to increase per capita consumption of oats; increase Canadian oat exports to Mexico and increase consumer awareness of the health benefits of oats.  Since this project began in 2015, Canada has had the largest three oat export to Mexico in history.

Keep It Clean Cereals (KIC) is a program that shows Canada’s commitment to delivering consistently superior agricultural products to markets around the world. Keep it Clean is an established program started by the Canola Council of Canada and expanded with Cereals Canada, Barley Council of Canada and POGA to share best practices required for export-quality cereals and canola. The overall goal of the KIC program is to help prevent market access issues and maintain Canada’s international reputation for reliability and quality. Each importing country has different standards and qualities that must be met for that market. The KIC program best management practices checklist contains five items, accompanied by explanations of each item. This list was created to be used by growers, but it also serves as the Canadian value chain’s commitment to quality, cleanliness, and consistency.

Market Access to Japan – funded in part by AAFC and directed by POGA through Emerging Ag. POGA has invested funds into developing market access into Japan. Japan has a stable market, is the fourth largest importer of oats worldwide, and has a good working relationship with Canada. This is an exciting market to pursue, and will increase diversity in Canadian oat export options.

National Food Policy, led by Emerging Ag. In response to the Canadian government’s new National Food Policy, POGA is looking for ways to promote and highlight oats as a healthy food ingredient for Canadian consumers. One key component is the “Buy Canada” focus, where POGA supports efforts to promote oats domestically instead of solely being export focused.

India.  In 2016, POGA applied to the AAFC Market Access Secretariat for elimination of the requirement for methyl bromine fumigation on raw oats for human and feed consumption as well as a reduction in tariffs for processed oats and groats into India.  This requirement for methyl bromide is also prevalent in other crops, most notably pulses.  The Government of Canada has advised that until this issue is resolved in pulse it is unlikely to be resolved in other crops like oats.  POGA continues to follow up on this request.

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) countries. POGA is working with provincial governments to determine tariff and non-tariff barriers for oats into CPTPP countries to ensure that oats will have market access to these countries when/if this agreement is ratified or to begin work to address issues as soon as possible.

*Most of these projects are partially funded by one of the following:  Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, AgriScience Program: Projects Component and the AgriMarketing Program-National Industry Association Component ; the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture through the Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) and the Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward 2- Bi-lateral agreement, and the Agricultural Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) initiative under the Canada-Saskatchewan Growing Forward 2 - Bi-lateral agreement; Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund Ltd. (ACIDF);  Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF); Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC); and industry partners.