UK and Irish scientists are researching new ways to develop oat varieties that are both climate-resistant and have a higher nutritional value.
The ‘Healthy Oats’ project will work with farmers to promote the health, economic and environmental benefits of growing oats – a crop which is ideally suited to the climate of both countries.
Scientists will test the resilience and performance of different varieties under reduced and targeted input tillage systems.
They will work to identify varieties that have a combination of enhanced performance under low inputs and superior nutritional and health benefits.
Project leader at University College Dublin, Professor Fiona Doohan said oats were culturally and historically a very important part of both Irish and UK agriculture.
"There is renewed awareness of their health benefits and the potential of farm-to-fork strategies to deliver innovative, healthy and nutritionally enhanced oat products. "
Consumer demand for oats is increasing with the demand for healthier products, with firms capitalising on new opportunities in food categories including cereal bars, breads and drinks.
The higher protein and oil content of oats mean that they have very high nutritional value and, in addition, are an effective replacement for imported soya.
Leading the research at Aberystwyth University, Professor John Doonan said: “Oats grow very well in Wales and Ireland and new products will provide the opportunity to increase both production and add value to a traditional crop.
"We will be working with colleagues on both sides of the Irish Sea to increase awareness and understanding of the potential of this crop.”