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Oats to be supercharged as GRDC ups the ante

Gary Lang is keeping a close watch on improved oat varieties for his cropping system as GRDC ramps up investments.
Photo: Evan Collis

With an average yield of 3.1 tonnes per hectare over the past five years, oats have been the biggest profit-earner for Gary Lang, who farms at Wickepin, 214 kilometres south-east of Perth.

With reasonable frost resistance, oats are a valuable tool in Gary’s frost management arsenal. He is also keen to see what will be achieved with GRDC’s new investments in oat improvement.

As a prior long-serving member of the Regional Cropping Solutions Network and now a member of GRDC’s Western Panel, Gary is a staunch advocate for GRDC’s research into frost management, as he says growers need as many tools in their toolkit as possible.

“Frosts are difficult to predict, understand and manage and can have a significant impact on growers, their families and their communities,” he says.

“GRDC has taken a multi-pronged approach to frost management, focused on areas such as farming systems, crop genetic improvement, agronomic management, spatial temperature mapping and improved damage assessment – and crop diversity plays a significant part.

“Oats have been a valuable inclusion in my cropping system and we are able to obtain good returns from them off low-lying areas of my country that may incur frost. In fact, we were amazed in 2016, which was a high frost year, to make a significant profit and the credit was due to oats.”

He says the traditional challenges for oats have been grain quality and consistent prices, “but we are seeing these being resolved as more-consistent and higher-value human markets for oats expand, which are encouraging growers to invest more time and effort in oat production”.

“Disease management has seen improvements with better fungicide packages, but I’m keen to see what sort of boost we can achieve with new breeding investments for resistance, in particular for Septoria avenaeblotch.”

Weed management is the biggest challenge for Gary in his oat crops. He ensures that oats are sown in a crop sequence that has been carefully managed for weeds and is as clean as possible.

He is also watching oat production expand into drier areas, having recently spoken to a grower from east of Corrigin, where oats achieved a yield of 1.6t/ha (and OAT1 specifications), compared to 1.2t/ha for wheat.

Gary grows Bannister oats, a tall dwarf, mid-season variety, which was bred by the National Oat Breeding Program with support from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and the South Australian Research and Development Institute and released nearly 10 years ago.

“The timing is right to boost oat improvement with a comprehensive program covering adaptation, disease resistance and breeding tools, as the markets for oats are growing,” he says.

More information: Moves to secure oat's food status.

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