The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) offers the most advanced know-how regarding the complete production chain of oats; from plant genetics to consumer products. Luke can draw on decades of extensive experience with oat farmers in the Nordics. This allows Luke to enhance its scientific knowledge with practical implementation and promotion of environmental sustainability in the farming of oats. At Luke, we can offer comprehensive oat related cost effective solutions and know-how to businesses ranging from farms, food producers to advanced players in plant protection and cosmetics.
Oat’s genetics and varieties
The Oat genomes are sequenced at Luke. This sequencing work allows us to gather information about which genes have an impact on the plant’s fiber content or on its resistance to disease. In addition, we develop new technologies for plant breeding. This enables us to guide the creation of new varieties, which possess qualities desired by the industry and which will thrive in conditions altered by climate change.
Cultivation of oats and field experiments
In Finland, unlike many other developed countries, oat is an exceptionally important feed and food source. The arable land area in Finland under oat cultivation is the second largest after barley cultivation. Luke always investigates the cultivation value of new varieties of oat in Finnish farming conditions. The information about the crop profiles, cultivation qualities and crop quality help farmers and the processors to choose the right varieties to be used.
Oats and plant health
Our plant health knowledge enhances a high-quality oat crop. Luke’s research is supported by extensive research platforms at different scales, e.g. in fields, greenhouses, and laboratories. Our experience and competence in testing and evaluation of plant protectants and plant pests give us capabilities to develop bio based pesticides. Our expertise includes the diagnostics of pathogens in addition to the development of disease resistance for example against oat fusarium.
The quality and chemical consistency of oats
Nearly 30 years ago, the predecessor of Luke, MTT, was already then, profoundly invested into the research of oat’s chemical consistency. Our strong expertise in quality and chemical consistency creates a solid foundation for the development of new product concepts. Now, we are studying oat’s phenolic compounds and avenanthramides, which have been proven to possess inflammation relieving qualities. It is essential to investigate more thoroughly how avenanthramides are developed in the plant and which factors affect their development to optimally utilize them in industry.
Luke works with different processing methods for oats from fermentation and fractionation to extrusion processing. Luke’s research and product development services includes a twin-screw extruder which will soon be complemented by a new multi-screw extruder. The most important features of a multi-screw extruder include steady-state conditions, effective substance and heat transfer, more accurate temperature / pressure optimization and their constancy under reaction conditions. The multi-screw extruder functions in various reaction environments and in relatively dry matrices. This technology offers a fantastic foundation for future oat innovations.
In the future, we will have specialized oat varieties, such as varieties with high levels of protein, β-glucan or avenanthramide. This opens up potentially new business opportunities for the industry as well. – Veli Hietaniemi
Oat’s side streams
Oat harvesting and processing in food and bakery industries create various oat related by-products. These by-products are often utilized to generate bioenergy, but there are other applications which generate higher added value. At Luke we have studied and developed the utilization of the side streams of oats. For instance, the utilization of oat’s hulls in the production of packaging materials is the result of a co-operation with various operators. The hulls of oats can replace up to 20 % of the fibers used in manufacturing of paper while maintaining the technical qualities of the paper product.
Oat’s markets and export
Luke continuously tracks the shifts in the international market of oats, the price development and the relevant EU legislation. In addition, Luke produces the annual review of business conditions in Finland regarding agriculture and food economy, in which the development and state of oat market and oat export are shown. Thanks to this information, operators in the food industry can track the development of the oat business. Luke offers a combination of the market tracking, versatile research along the food supply chain, based on continuous dialogue with farms, producers and other operators in the field. This unique combination makes Luke an excellent co creation partner for promotion of export as well.
Profitability of oat farms
The economy and profitability developments of grain farms are calculated and estimated in Luke’s profitability accounting system. The results are available in Luke’s Economy Doctor’s agriculture and horticulture service. The Economy Doctor service offers the business an opportunity to examine the cost development and the profitability development of oat farming starting from the financial year 2000. The service provides an opportunity to develop competitiveness in the industry.
Luke is one of the official producers of statistics in Finland, Luke has extensive statistics about oats. Our statistics show how many oat producers there are in Finland, how big the area under oat cultivation is and how big the yield is each year. The information regarding the number of producers and the sizes of the areas under oats cultivation are available also by municipality. Additionally, statistics are compiled on the usage and storage of both organic and non-organic oats. The information on oats generated by the statistics makes it possible for farmers, government, and businesses to plan their futures.
Oats and their environmental footprint
Luke is the leading expert in evaluating environmental footprints of the supply chains of oat products in Finland. We offer calculations of the carbon, water and eutrophicating footprints of products, packaging, and supply chains to businesses in the food industry. We calculate GHG Protocol guide Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions as well and help businesses to find solutions to reduce their environmental footprints.
Luke’s environmental footprint calculations are based on science, are reliable and transparent, utilize high-quality source information and the best calculation methods available. Our vast competence is based on many national and international research projects along with multiple environmental footprint contract studies conducted for businesses in the food industry. At the moment, Luke is also developing and harmonizing environmental footprint calculations in collaboration with 30 domestic businesses in the field.
There is very little information about how oat or other cereals bind carbon dioxide into the soil but the root system of oats is known to be beneficial for the condition of soils. These are important research topics for the future. Oat may be used in the prevention of soil erosion and in crop rotation to boost the crop yields of other plants elsewhere in the world. – Anu Kaukovirta