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The overall goal of this proposal is to employ state-of-the-art genomic tools for oat genetic improvement building on the Defra and RERAD SAL LINK sponsored OatLINK project which provided a pipeline for the transfer of improved genetic material into the oat supply and value chain for the benefit of producers and consumers.  Harnessing the unique properties of oats both as a plant and a grain we can address some of the emerging problems with cereal cultivation and at the same time deliver an environmentally benign crop which offers considerable health benefits for human and livestock consumption.

Further research on oats is required for several reasons. Increasing global demand for cereals coupled with the increased cost of energy and fertiliser is impacting directly upon the profitability and competitiveness of UK cereal growing.  Responding to these challenges, there has been a trend towards continuous wheat rotations which increases soil borne diseases and weed problems impacting on profitability.  Producers are endeavouring to optimise their overall farm returns which has led many to grow crops on less fertile soils or in more marginal situations.  At the same time the increased cost of fertiliser N and environmental concerns emphasises the need for crops that use N more efficiently (HGCA Research review No. 63) so reducing the main environmental burden in arable crop production (Nemecek, 2004).  For the livestock sector the high cost of imported concentrates has increased the opportunity for a high quality feed that can be grown and fed “on-farm” in an environmentally sustainable manner.  The high Actual Metabolisable Energy (AME) in oat grains and the lower fertiliser and pesticide input when growing the crop means that oats have a lower environmental footprint per AME delivered.