Oat breeding receives funding

The federal government announced late last month that it will spend nearly $2 million to help the prairie oat industry develop new commercial oat cultivars.

Ottawa will invest $1,982,915 in prairie oat breeding initiatives — money that will be used to support variety development work led by oat breeder Jennifer Mitchell Fetch at the Agriculture Canada research facility in Brandon.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau made the funding announcement in an Aug. 27 news release.

“The Canadian grain industry constantly innovates to remain strong and competitive,” Bibeau said in the news release.

“By supporting cutting-edge research in the oat industry, we are proud to help prairie producers overcome the agronomic challenges they face today.”

Shawna Mathieson, executive director of the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA), said the new funding package will support oat breeding work that has been taking place at Brandon for some time.

“This is an extension of a prior project that’s been happening (at AAFC Brandon) for a number of years,” Mathieson said.

The ultimate goal is to produce new oat cultivars that have improved end-use qualities and offer improved genetic resistance to major diseases, pests and adverse environmental conditions.

Specifically, the Agriculture Canada oat breeding program hopes to increase oat yield while enhancing resistance to crown rust and maintaining beta-glucan levels at or above industry thresholds, Mathieson said.

“The breeding work being done in Brandon at the AAFC location would not be possible without the continued support of the Government of Canada and all the industry funders including AustGrains, Emerson Milling, FP Genetics, General Mills, Grain Millers, POGA, Richardson International and SeCan,” added POGA president and Manitoba oat producer Jenneth Johanson.

“In order to ensure oats remain a viable and competitive option for our producers in Western Canada … continued investment in varietal improvements is essential.…

“The investment is a true demonstration of the collaboration of the oat industry and its dedication to continue to deliver this healthy, safe and nutritious product into the homes of consumers across the globe.”

Canada produces about three million tonnes of high quality oats annually and is the largest exporter of oats in the world.

Western Canadian producers are responsible for nearly 90 percent of Canada’s annual oat production.

Ottawa’s funding announcement comes just a few months ahead of Mitchell Fetch’s retirement, which is expected in early 2020.

“The entire oat industry wishes Jennifer Mitchell Fetch … well in her retirement and eagerly awaits the announcement of her replacement,” POGA said.

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