Promoting Canadian Oats

Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) Projects as of May 2020

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
  • Oat Advantage (private oat breeding) 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:

2) identifying optimal agronomic practices to achieve high and stable grain yield and quality,

3) enhancing the current oat breeding procedures in both the Ottawa and Brandon programs with genomic selection,

4) 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,

5) 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,

6) 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.

Maintaining Acceptable Test Weights for Milling Oats, led by Mike Hall at the East Central Research Foundation. This project will look to prove that test weights and other quality factors for milling oats tend to worsen with the delayed seeding and increasing nitrogen rates. It will also compare test weight stability between varieties, demonstrating that seeding early and managing nitrogen is particularly critical for a low-test weight variety such as CS Camden as compared to Summit. This project will look at how different varieties in Saskatchewan respond to varying nitrogen rates and seeding timing. This project is funded by ADOPT.

Monitoring SOC on commercial direct-seeded fields across Saskatchewan – Phase 4 is led by Brian McConkey with AAFC. This project will resample the Prairie Soil Carbon Balance Project (PSCB) network and analyze for changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) since 1996, 1999, 2005 and 2011. The intention is to use to the evidence to benefit producers economically from the environmental benefits they have produced. The Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association (SSCA) developed the Prairie Soil Carbon Balance Project to provide strong evidence of the positive effect of conservation agriculture practice (direct seeding and diverse cropping system with little fallow) on soil quality, as indicated by SOC. This project represents an important phase in the project to show the benefits 20 years after adoption of conservation agriculture.

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 Saskatchewan government’s Agriculture Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) program.

Product Development from Gluten Free Oat Fractions, conducted by Dr. Lingyun Chen at the University of Alberta. Traditionally, oats have been utilized in their whole ingredient form (flour, groats, flakes, rolled, etc.) In terms of fractionated ingredients companies supply growing markets for oat beta-glucan, oil, and proteins. Most fractionation methods that are currently used by industry focus on the extraction of one or two ingredients from oats, often resulting in the decrease quality, functionality, and usability of the non-desired fractions. This reduces the value-added potential of oats. This project is working on developing a cost-effective process that will allow for the extraction and utilization of all the oat ingredient fractions in coordination with two other POGA supported projects. The end goal is to develop one to three prototypes from each fraction (protein, fibre, starch and oil) and use these prototypes to engage retailers and finished product manufacturers. This project ended in 2019-2020.

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 the Saskatchewan government’s Agriculture Development Fund (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.

Selecting crop sequences and developing a risk model to mitigate FHB in western Canadian cereal production, led by Paul Bullock, University of Manitoba. The oat related objective of this study is to determine the optimum crop sequence to mitigate fusarium head blight (FHB) in wheat and other cereals, as well as the most detrimental crop sequences affecting FHB of cereal crops.

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.

Research and Development – Product Development

Development of an Oat Based Beverage, conducted by Dr. Lingyun Chen at the University of Alberta. This collaborative industry project is focused on developing two oat protein-based beverages. The initial oat-based beverage will be a ready to drink oat protein enriched product. The second will be a nutritious oat-based beverage that possesses the necessary sensory and nutritional properties to improve the quality of life of patients who are undergoing radiation therapy.

Oat Coffee Additive/Creamer, conducted by Dr. Lingyun Chen at the University of Alberta. Consumer demands for nutrition, convenience and plant proteins/fibres is generating a new market opportunity within the coffee creamer market. Through this research, U of A will attempt to develop a nutritious, functional oat-based coffee additive that combines protein, beta-glucan and a probiotic into a functional and competitive lactose-free coffee additive. This developed product will be the first of its kind on the market, and will generate a new market opportunity to increase consumer awareness of oats.

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.


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 and 2018 was the largest yet.

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 China – funded in part by AAFC and directed by POGA through Emerging Ag. In 2015 POGA applied to AAFC Market Access Secretariat (MAS) for market access for Canadian raw oats in China. In 2017, POGA hired Emerging Ag to propel this project forward. This project has four areas:

1) Liaise, in conjunction with AAFC, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and Global Affairs Canada, to understand the specific review needs of the Chinese phytosanitary authority.

2) Facilitate the research and engagement of Chinese officials so they may conduct reviews as needed.

3) Conduct technical reviews to meet any data requirements. Conduct technical reviews regarding any potential risk vectors. This could include CABI reviews, provincial agronomy reviews, literature reviews, and development of technical data if there are not existing records regarding specified plant health issues.

4) Outreach to the Chinese import sector to discuss the merits of Canadian oats and build internal demand within China for a solution on the plant health requirement. This would also foster relationships which would be of subsequent use to POGA when the market is opened. With the current political environment in China, POGA chose to shift focus away from this market.

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.

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.


*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.