A research project to promote the development of oats as a healthy food product and a climate-resistant crop in Wales and Ireland has been awarded a major European grant.
The ‘Healthy Oats’ project will benefit from a €2.18 million from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Ireland-Wales Cooperation Programme through the Welsh and Irish Governments.
Led by University College Dublin, the project brings together scientists from Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Swansea University and Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority Teagasc.
Research at IBERS in Aberystwyth has already led to the development of improved varieties of oat which can help reduce heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.
Varieties of oats bred at Aberystwyth University include the millers preferred variety, Mascani, which comprises over 80% of the winter oat market in the United Kingdom.
The higher protein and oil content of oats mean that they have very high nutritional value and are a useful replacement for imported soya.
Food manufacturers are rapidly expanding their ranges of oat products from the traditional porridge and oatcakes to cereal bars, breads and drinks.
With demand for oats increasing as consumers look for healthier foods and plant-based alternatives, this latest project will look at developing new climate-resistant varieties as well as innovative products and procedures with industrial partners.
Researchers will also work with agricultural communities and stakeholders to promote the health, economic and environmental benefits of growing oats – a crop which is ideally suited to the climate of both countries.
Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I am very pleased to see that the ‘Healthy Oats’ project has been supported via the Ireland-Wales Cooperation Programme.
“Continued co-operation between universities in Ireland and Wales marks not only our continued commitment to encourage such collaborative research relationships, but also to promote all-important innovation and co-operation within our food sector. Initiatives such as these are vital to our economy and we are pleased to continue to support them.
“All those involved with the project should be congratulated for their success, and we look forward to promoting the success of similar schemes.”