Climate change and its impact on oats Image: Cranfield University

Oats and oat-based product consumption has increased

Cranfield University’s Professor Naresh Magan will be presenting on his research into the contamination of oats at Oxford Farming Conference this week.

The eating of oats and oat-based products has increased significantly in the UK and Ireland in recent years because of their beneficial health benefits.

However, oats can become infected, during the critical ripening phase. A pathogen called Fusarium langsethiae, a fungus that contaminates the grains with toxic mycotoxins, although there are no visible symptoms. This makes making them unsuitable for human or animal feed consumption.

Although there are European Union directives on the maximum safety levels in oats for human consumption, there is no information on how climate change could influence the infection of oats by this pathogen.

Joint initiative with University College Dublin

Cranfield’s Professor Magans’ Applied Mycology Group is working closely with University College Dublin on a four-year BBSRC and Science Foundation Ireland. Their joint initiative is to develop novel and innovative strategies for control pre- and post-harvest.

Evidence suggests that elevated temperatures, increased CO2 concentrations and mild drought stress may increase the likely contamination of oats.

Professor Magan, said:

“Extreme weather events are becoming more common and the resilience of staple food chains is very important.

“We need data on the impact that climate change scenarios may have on cereals to ensure sustainability and food security and ensuring that we can minimise toxic contaminants, especially mycotoxins, from entering the food production chain to consumers.

“This project is addressing these issues in relation to oats which will have benefits for farmers and for downstream processing.”

damaged oats is being investigated by Cranfield University Image: Cranfield University

The team is looking at identifying cultivars in the UK and Ireland which have better resistance to the pathogen. They will develop strategies for controlling contamination by understanding the effect of present and future climate change scenarios on the pathogen and toxin contamination.

The theme of this year’s Oxford Farming Conference is ‘World of Opportunity’ and it runs from 2-4 January 2019.