In collaboration with leading industry and academic partners, PepsiCo has launched the Oat Growth Guide, to help farmer grow the perfect oat.
The guide is the culmination of a five-year research project pioneered by PepsiCo, owner of Quaker Oats, with co-funding from Innovate UK and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The guide contributes to PepsiCo's goal for all its directly sourced agricultural raw materials to be sustainably sourced by the end of 2020, as part of its sustainable agriculture strategy.
The project analysed 120 commercial crops and 60 reference crops across four different seasons, collecting over one million data points; taking detailed field measurements to track the growth and development of the oats.
These findings led to the development of the Oat Growth Guide, which provides benchmarks that describe the growth and development of the oat crop during the growing season. Growers can assess the progress of their crops against the benchmarks in the guide and modify their management practices to improve yields and efficiency, ensuring a more sustainable, high quality supply of oats for consumers.
The guide is available free of charge to all UK oat growers and aims to address a four tonne per hectare gap between the average farm yield achieved in the UK and optimal yields. The Oat Growth Guide is targeted to deliver a 5-10% increase in yield, meaning more oats per hectare, while optimising resources; a significant contribution to making oat a more sustainable crop.
Unlike other staple cereal crops R&D investment to improve oat agronomy has been limited. As a result, while crops such as wheat and barley have had growth guides in place for years, oats have not - yet their appeal to consumers continues to grow.
Mac McWilliam, R&D Director of Crop Technology, PepsiCo explains: "It's clear that oats are receiving more and more interest from consumers, as overnight oats and porridge drive up demand. This has to be matched with sustainable production and supply of oats.
"Our Oat Growth Guide aims to put oats back on the map for farmers, ensuring growers and agronomists have the best available information to optimise oat production while helping the Quaker brand deliver delicious products for consumers, using only the best quality oats. With over 100,000 metric tonnes of oats going through our mill in Scotland every year, exported to 60 countries around the world, it's critical that we support our growers to meet this growing global market."
David Hay, owner of Hays Farms and grower for Quaker Oats added: "Until now, even experienced farmers have had to rely on a try-and-test approach to oat growing which can mean inefficiencies and waste. Now for the first time we have all the insight we need to produce the best quality oats written down on paper as a free resource."
The Oat Growth Guide was produced by the Opti-Oat project, a consortium of leading industry partners (PepsiCo, Environment Systems Ltd, James Hutton Ltd, ADAS), academic partners (NIAB, Aberystwyth University, James Hutton Institute), with co-funding from BBSRC and Innovate UK (project 102128).
You can download the Quaker Oat Growth Guide for free.