Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
More farmers are expected to grow spring oats as they seek to loosen up rotations and limit the build-up of disease. Oats for human... Why oats are increasingly popular spring option

More farmers are expected to grow spring oats as they seek to loosen up rotations and limit the build-up of disease.

Oats for human consumption will continue to be grown predominantly in Scotland, say seed breeders. But growers much further south are realising the potential of the crop too – especially when it comes to early maturing varieties such as Merlin.

Early maturing varieties perform well in wetter climates, where early ripening is vital. Merlin also boasts high disease resistance and strong yield potential – as well as being a clean variety with good standing ability and low screenings.

Crop conversion

Ewan Mackenzie, from W&A Geddes, works with farmers in Caithness in the north of Scotland. He has switched  more than two-thirds of the oat cultivation area in the region to Merlin spring oats, and hopes  to convert the entire  crop to Merlin in the coming years.

“We had 10 farmers growing around 809ha  of Merlin in 2023, and we saw the best yields that I can remember,” says Mr Mackenzie, who supplies most of the oats grown in the region to Hamlyns of Scotland, a subsidiary of Morning Foods.”

The quality was excellent, with bushel weights at a minimum of 56kg/hl and a maximum of 61.8kg/hl. Yields averaged over 7t/hectare dried. The crop had good disease resistance, the sample was bold and it had and fewer screenings than other varieties.

“What we look for in the north of Scotland is good standing and an early harvest and Merlin has these attributes. Going forward it looks to be the variety we will be using.”

Alternative option

Further south in Berkshire, arable farmer Ed Ryder, took his first Merlin harvest in 2023. “We wanted an alternative spring cropping option to wheat and Merlin yielded at 5-6t/ha on a seed contract to Cope Seeds and Grain,” he says.

“Some went for milling and the rest for seed, and although the yields suffered with the wet weather, the low inputs meant there was a good margin there.”

Hampshire arable farmer Richard Monk, has been growing Merlin for four years.

“The 2023 harvest was our fourth year of growing Merlin and we grew 70ha in total. It has done well despite a difficult spring growing season. Quality was good, and yields ranged from 6.8 to 8.3 t/ha.

Quality counts

Suited to all UK regions, Merlin produces high quality oats when grown either organically or conventionally. It offers a competitive lodging score of 7 and a high rating of 8 for mildew. Millers value its low screenings and specific weight above Delfin, Aspen, and Conway.

“It’s this mix of low screenings, good specific weight and kernel content that is generating interest from the millers,” says seed supplier Gemma Clarke, of Lincolnshire-based seed supplier Cope Seeds and Grain.