Oat – the grain
Oats contains relatively high levels of protein and oil compared with other cereals, and are also rich in dietary fibers, essential vitamins and minerals, and a range of antioxidants and many other bioactive substances. Avenanthramides are for example a group of polyphenols with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, only found in oats. The most recognized fibers in oats are the β-glucans, but it also contains other fibers such as cellulose and arabinoxylans. The β-glucans are soluble, high molecular weight polysaccharides which form highly viscous solutions. Oats are, in contrast to other cereals, typically eaten as whole grains in a healthy breakfast cereal, porridge and delicious cookies.
Oat & sustainable agriculture
The increasing world population presents a great challenge to food production. Expanding the agricultural land is not a viable option and therefore increased production has to occur by intensification and increased yields. Sustainable intensification (SI) is therefore of high priority to many national and international institutions.
Oat is particularly suitable for SI agricultural systems. It has a natural high disease tolerance and low nourishment requirements and is an excellent rotation crop contributing to reduced soil erosion and plant diseases. Oat also has a comparatively low input demand, and breeding to enhance the uptake efficiency of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other micronutrients will further contribute to the SI properties of this crop. The need for plant protection agents can be further reduced by efficient breeding for resistance towards pathogens, which also is a major goal in ScanOats.
In combination with precision agriculture tools to optimise crop inputs in real time according to in-field variation the environmental impact of oat cultivations will be further reduced, again contributing to SI. To reach these goals, ScanOats will take advantage of basic research data combined with mutagenesis, modern genetic engineering, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and advanced biochemical analysis techniques to develop new oat varieties with properties designed to be compatible with the SI philosophy.
Oat & food innovation
Compared with other cereal crops, oats have a unique nutritional value, and have thus been used in more non-conventional settings than wheat, rye and barley. One example is the oat drink that was developed during the 1980-90s, and that now, decades later, have high demands on the market due to the request from consumers of vegetarian products as an alternative to dairy foods. Another is the beta-glucan concentrated cereals produced by removing some of the starch and fat from the oat bran/whole grain. Yet another example is the Finnish product “pulled oats”, which is plant-based meat substitute that is claimed to “look like pulled pork and taste a bit like chicken”, with oats and broad beans as main ingredients. The ScanOats collaborators are convinced that yet more clever, nutritional and health beneficial foods wait to be discovered.