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Oat Research

Oats are an essential grain, both for human consumption and animal feed. Oat products are whole grain and heart-healthy. Oats are also valuable in environmentally sustainable crop rotation systems, helping to ensure sound cropping and soil conservation practices. Nutrition experts and many consumers in North America have long recognized the value of oat nutrition to consumer’s diet. Solid nutrition science has repeatedly proven that oats, particularly oat soluble fiber, has many health benefits. In 1997 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that consumption of oats and oat-based products significantly reduces total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. Since that time oat consumption has been increasing at about 5% per year. More recent research data indicate that including oats and oat-based products as part of a lifestyle management program may confer health benefits that include reducing artery plaque, and are consistent with dietary patterns that may favorably alter the risk for elevated blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and obesity.

Emerging technologies in the plant sciences allow breeders to efficiently select for improved nutritional quality, disease and pest resistance, and drought and heat tolerances. Until now, oats were seriously lagging in the utilization of such technologies. NAMA oat millers have pledged $510,000 to the “North American Collaborative Oat Research Enterprise” (North American CORE) a global oat research project that will substantially improve the genetic map of oat and could, for the first time, produce a complete map. This effort will lay the groundwork for utilization of molecular technologies for oat improvement. Investment in genetic information and marker technology is critical if we are to develop new oat varieties with better nutritional characteristics and production stability in the face of disease and insect attack.

No private commercial oat breeding programs exist in the U.S. Oat research is conducted only by state land-grant universities and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Current federal investment in oat research is only about $5.1 million per year, yet the return from this modest investment exceeds that figure many times over. To remain a viable crop and provide much needed diversity in field crops, progress in oat improvement must be sustained. Federal support for oat research is essential to this progress.

Last update January 5, 2011



Oat Research Appropriations

Basic research in oats has not kept pace with research in other crops. As a consequence, oat production has become less economically viable relative to other production options


  • Oats give growers another production option and are environmentally sustainable.
  • The U.S. doesn’t grow enough oats to satisfy demand. The U.S. is forced to import virtually all of its oats for food usage, as much as 100 million bu/year.
  • Oat production is the lowest on record (since 1865).
  • Growers must have oat varieties that compete in the market.
  • All oat research in U.S. is publicly funded. Without needed research, progress in oat improvement will be slow. U.S. oat production will continue to decline, increasing our reliance on foreign sources of a basic food commodity.

North American Collaborative Oat Research Enterprise:
Identifying and understanding the oat genome is the core to successful long-term oat research into molecular genetics and plant improvement. Without these advances, oats will fall farther and farther behind other crops despite its key role in healthy diets.

North American Collaborative Oat Research Enterprise” (North American CORE) a global oat research project that will substantially improve the genetic map of oat and could, for the first time, produce a complete map. The entire oat research community and stakeholders have come together collectively to support the project. It promises to transform the future of oats by giving oat breeders the ability to make marker-assisted selections, growers another crop option, millers greater oat availability and consumers continued access to a safe, heart-healthy, whole-grain food product.

Cereal Rust Disease Initiative:
Highly virulent and aggressive new races of stem, leaf, and stripe rust have appeared in the world, which now threaten the entire U.S. production of wheat, barley, and oats.  The Cereal Rust Disease Initiative supports cooperative cereal rust research efforts by ARS and Land-Grant university scientists throughout the US.

USDA-ARS Cereal Crops Research Unit:
More nutritious, health-promoting oats and barley are goals of scientists at the USDA-ARS Cereal Crops Research Unit (CCRU).  Researchers are identifying and studying antioxidant chemicals in oats and barley that may play a role in protecting humans from degenerative diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers.


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