62 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM to get it listed. “Starting off with over one hundred crosses yearly, many thousands of head rows, mini plots and hundreds of yield plots, only few varieties get listed and commercialized after approximately 10 years,” explains Westerdijk. Beuch concurs, stating that breeding a new oat variety costs between 1.5 and 2.0 Mio. € and takes 10 to 12 years. According to Beuch, oat leaf dis- eases like mildew, crown rust, BYDV, Helminthosporium and Septoria are most important. “Additionally, meanwhile we work quite intensively to create a better Fusarium tolerance in oat varieties. This trait became very important the last years all over the European oat growing regions. Mycotoxins like DON and T2/HT2 are in the focus of the oat millers especially. Smut could be become more important again the next years if European organic oat growing will further increase and usage of conventional oat seed will be for- bidden in the organic sector.” DEVELOPMENT AND VARIETY Running a pre-breeding program par- allel to the development of commercial varieties takes quite some efforts, while efficient breeding for the best commercial varieties often excludes the direct use of primitive accessions or landraces, accord- ing to Westerdijk. Since varietal develop- ment in oat is not as extensive as in wheat f.i. the number of (new) commercial varie- ties is limited and so is their use as genetic resource. “Trying to make use of several sources of germplasm, and the fact that the hexaploid crop can exploit a lot of genetic information, there is still a contin- uous improvement of the current selection criteria possible. However, if ‘new’ criteria will be incorporated, efforts to obtain new germplasm will be necessary.” Creating diversity for growers and customers is of course very important. The primary sources of diversity - mainly commercial varieties, but also landraces and other species – is an important com- ponent of breeding oats. “Both sources are very important to us,” says Beuch. “We use all available ger- mplasm to do a lot of crosses which are not directed to create new varieties in any case. We feel that it is necessary because there is not such a high number of other oat breeders left in Europe. Additionally, a regular sustainable pre-breeding does not exist in the European oat breeding.” He says Nordsaat prefers to follow the rules of the IT on genetic resources, also in oat breeding. “The consequent intro- duction of the Nagoya protocol by the European Commission is a big risk to the plant breeders and requires a high input to avoid trouble and mistakes. Additionally, we see the increase of patents on natural traits rising also in oats, which will further limit the available germplasm to breeders.” He believes the European patent authority is strongly requested to ban all those pat- ents in the future to keep our open source oat breeding alive. Westerdijk states the new regula- tions on access and benefit sharing have not noticeably influenced the availabil- ity of germplasm, but it does affect the awareness and better care to use MTA’s when foreign germplasm is incorporated. OATS AS ANIMAL FEED According to the European Commission, nearly two-thirds of EU’s cereals are used for animal feed. While traditionally used to feed horses, oats are now part of livestock feed for chickens and pigs, as well as cattle and sheep. Oats are indeed a high valuable component in regards to animal feed. Beuch says the main use of oats in Europe is indeed for feed grain. “Usage differs between single coun- tries with main usage for human con- sumption i.e. in the UK and Germany,” Beuch explains. “Change in use is on the run from feed to food. Nevertheless, the biggest oat growing countries Poland, Spain, Finland and Sweden still prefer to grow feed oats. This development is in accordance to other global oat grow- ing regions like Australia or Northern America. Some global regions (Southern America, Northern Africa, Nepal region) grow oats as green manure, which is not common in Europe.” According to a Senova report, oats are also recognised as a high value animal feed. The report states that con- siderable progress has been made in the development of high yielding high oil naked oat varieties that have a good oil and protein content with a good distri- bution of the essential amino acids that are particularly suited for inclusion in poultry rations. “We have demonstrated the high energy value of naked oats with oil content of 15-16 per cent and are now incorporating this trait into oat varieties more appropriate for ruminants” say Dr. Athole Marshall and Dr. Sandy Cowan, of IBERS, Aberystwyth University in the UK. The report adds the potential for oats in ruminant diets as a safe traceable feed source that can be grown ‘on-farm’, with the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is an exciting prospect. OATS AND THE FUTURE Beuch says there is a clear lack of pro- fessional handling of oats compared to other crops in the agricultural markets. Keeping in mind the clear increase of oat use in the human food sector, there is a big need for better understanding and engagement of all partners along the oat supply chain. “Currently the oat lobby is weak and there is a need to encourage better engagement. Additionally, the European administration is requested to create better political guidelines for investment into breeding of small market cereals like oats. European public breeding science suffers from the lack of funding into oat breeding research and, consequently, reduces activities or even shows no interest in the crop.” He adds the biggest challenge is the creation of the balance between the avail- able finances for the breeding and the need for the necessary breeding input having a critical mass to be successful. “Nordsaat is also acting as a farmer and has close, continuous contact to prac- tical oat growing since its foundation,” Beuch says. “It is our biggest strength to interact with the European oat farmers. Our marketing organization, the Saaten- Union, is well known all over Europe as a trustable brand with high reputation.” Plant with F1-kernels after crossing. (Photo Wiersum) “The European administration is requested to create better political guidelines for investment into breeding of small market cereals like oats.” – Steffen Beuch