In this article we will discuss about:- 1. Origin of Oats 2. Uses of Oats 3. World Production and Trade.
Origin of Oats:
Oats (Avena sativa) is the hardiest of all cereals. Present cultivated oats is believed to have been derived from two major species: the wild red oats (Avena sterilis) and the common wild oats (Avena fatua). The crop may have originated in Asia Minor though it is now most extensively grown in Europe. Oats is tolerant of a wide range of soil types but less tolerant of climatic variation.
The crop grows best in a cool, humid climate in the temperate zone and is less resistant to cold or heat than either wheat or barley. It is thus not found in the tropics and sub-tropics of Africa, Asia or South America where the climate is both damp and hot.
Its cultivation is also insignificant in the hotter parts of the sunny Mediterranean lands and in the colder parts of the temperate north. But it can survive in very poor soils, such as peaty moorlands, where other cereals will not grow.
Oats is generally a spring-sown crop, especially in rotation with winter wheat or rye. It fits extremely well into the farm activities of the Corn Belt of the U.S.A. where it is usually sown in early spring before the cultivation of corn, or is grown with clover or alfalfa. It extracts very little nitrogen from the soil. Oats, like maize and barley, is ideal for animal feeding.
Uses of Oats:
The bulk of the world’s oats crop goes to feed livestock, especially horses. More and more oats is being used to feed cattle and 90 per cent of the oats grown in the Corn Belt is used for this purpose. Chopped oats is normally used to feed dairy cattle and pedigree stock, while for horses and sheep, it is fed whole. Increasing amounts are also devoted to pig and poultry feeding.
Oats form such a well-balanced food, having a high content of thiamin (Vitamin B1), that many farmers prefer oats for their animals. In some parts of Britain oats and barley are grown together and harvested to make the traditional ‘dredge-corn’ for cattle feeding. Oats is thus best grown in animal farms where it can be readily consumed.
As food for human consumption, oats is only used when other more palatable cereals are not available. It is then ground into oatmeal or rolled oats and consumed as oatcakes or porridge, as in Scotland, Wales, the Scandinavian countries and Newfoundland, Canada, where the climate is too harsh for wheat to mature. It can also be made into groats or grits with the removal of the husks.
A significant amount of oats is now processed for export as breakfast cereals or invalid foods. Oat flour from the manufacture of rolled oats is also used for packing food products with a high fat content, because it prevents rapid rancidity in fatty goods. Oat ‘Avenex’ is used as an antioxidant in icecream making and in creameries. When young oats leaves are cut green they can be used in the manufacture of medicinal drugs.
World Production and Trade in Oats:
The world’s output of oats in 1977 was about 52 million tonnes from a total area of 31.2 million hectares (78 million acres). The U.S.S.R. accounts for about 35 per cent of the total and the U.S.A. grows about 21 per cent. Canada produces about 8 per cent. Other major producers are West Germany, Poland, France and Sweden as well as China.
The bulk of America’s oats come from the northern parts of the Corn Belt under mixed farming or in crop rotation with corn or soya beans. The leading oats states are Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. The annual output declined during the mid-1970s but rose again in 1977. Many farmers have switched from oats to soya beans, because the latter is a nitrogenous crop and is also in higher demand.
In Europe oats is most widely grown around the Baltic Sea, especially in Poland, Germany and Sweden. The crop is raised largely for animal feeding. Western Europe is also the greatest oats importer, because of its dairying and livestock requirements.
The international trade in oats is small, amounting to not more than 2 per cent of the annual output.