In the never-ending quest to buy acres, oats have given many growers something to smile about. Current prices are strong, and the dry weather bias has pushed Manitoba yields into the 170 and 190 bushel range on some fields. Still, oats can be a tough sell for some — prices are volatile (with a much more bearish outlook for new crop prices), it can be itchy, and the fluffy crop can take up far too much storage space vs. its value.
Jim Dyck, oat breeder with Oat Advantage, has spent the last decade working to improve on at least a few of those points. Dyck says the focus of his breeding program is to meet the need between what farmers want and need in yield and agronomic qualities and what millers can use. To that end, his program has two lines started back in 2009, that are moving towards market.
Farmers would like less of an itch factor, and Dyck says the gene is there, having been developed by an oat breeder in Ottawa, but it’s been shelved for some time. Shorter straw, while retaining or pushing yield higher, is a key focus, too. With higher test weights and on-going milling evaluations Dyck hopes to build off of success this year to be able to bring these characteristics and traits to market.
“There’s real genetic power in oats to reach (high yield) levels,” he says. “Now we want to add extra value to oats to keep them an integral part of crop rotations … to make oats more complementary to farmers’ rotations.”