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Australia reaps rewards as international oat conference host

Alannah MacTiernan, Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food and the Hydrogen Industry in Western Australia, opens the 11th International Oat Conference in Perth.
Photo: David Broadway

With a theme of ‘health’, the 11th International Oat Conference (OAT2022) was finally convened in Perth in early October 2022, after a two-year delay caused by COVID-19.

Ashley Wiese, a member of the conference organising committee and a Western Australian oat grower, said international conferences provide unique opportunities to share knowledge among industry experts.

On reflection, Mr Wiese said, the two-year delay was a huge benefit for the global oat community and Australia. “The delay meant that scientists had made further progress in their areas of research for oats to share with the global community, and also gave Australia’s new national oat breeding venture at InterGrain time to get established,” he said.

The conference was a valuable opportunity for Australia to boost its oat reputation on a global scale and it increased our chances of establishing and consolidating valuable partnerships.

OAT2022 drew experts from across the oat value chain, including from Europe, the US, the UK, Asia and even Iceland. Being hosted in Australia enabled more than 160 Australian delegates to attend.

Mr Wiese was encouraged to see the amount of oat research occurring around the world and to connect with the tight and collaborative global oat research network.

Addressing the challenges for oats

OAT2022 covered an extensive range of oat-related topics – from health trends in oats, global markets, quality, products and innovation to genomics, bioinformatics, breeding, agronomy, crop protection and stress tolerance.

“My takeaway from the conference was that the forecast growth of oat trade is strong, driven greatly by oat milk and the snack food market. But the incentives globally for a grower to produce oats are challenging when compared to a grower’s other options,” Mr Wiese said.

Oats are a small crop globally and have lacked research funding compared to other cereal crops. They also have an outdated pricing model based around their historical use as a feed grain rather than a health food.

“The boost in investment by GRDC and AgriFutures in the National Oat Breeding program investment with InterGrain has never been so important. We need to produce new varieties that are profitable for growers while bringing all the health benefits that our markets are demanding.”

GRDC was a gold sponsor of the conference, together with platinum sponsors Uncle Tobys, Quaker Oats, CBH Group, Unigrain, Blue Lake Milling, Morning Foods and others.

To maximise inclusion of international oat community, OAT2022 organiser, Grain Industry Association of Western Australia, ran the conference as a hybrid event, offering both in-person or virtual presenter opportunities and attendance.

A pre-conference tour visited a dedicated field trial at York to inspect locally adapted oat lines. Supported by the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the site contained trials that compared their performance to international germplasm and historical oat lines together with agronomy and physiology experiments. Additionally, attendees also had the opportunity to visit local oaten hay exporter Gilmac.

Capitalising on the pool of oat experts being brought together, four post-conference workshops were convened. These focused on oat quality, functionality and innovation, oat breeding technologies, oat crown rust and an international oat rust workers’ meeting. The workshops were an opportunity for OAT2022 attendees to share ideas, generate new collaborative opportunities and advance key research fields.

More information: OAT2022 Conference proceedings are available to attendees via the Event App. For further information on the conference, visit International Oat or visit the GIWA Facebook page for photos of the event.

Read: Oat development gains momentum.

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