Oats are a widely consumed cereal throughout the world and have become an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet. But have you ever thought about where the oats in your morning cereal come from, including our famous Granolove!
Oats in the world
Oats are grown in many parts of the world, including Canada. Russia is the largest producer, with Canada ranking second although it is the world's largest exporter. World oat production has declined significantly over the past 50 years, from 50 million tonnes in the 1960s to 20 million tonnes in 2010. Although increasingly popular with humans, oats have ceased to be the feed of choice for animals, now replaced by corn and barley, which explains the decline in production.
In Canada, oats are grown mainly in the Prairie provinces, particularly in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In 2020, Canada produced about 3.3 million tons of oats, which represented about 9% of the world production.
Oats in Quebec
Oats are grown in Quebec, but in smaller quantities than in Saskatchewan and Alberta. In 2020, Quebec produced approximately 43,000 tonnes of oats, or about 1.3% of Canadian production. Oat cultivation in Quebec and Canada is generally associated with animal feed, although oats are also used in human food products such as breakfast cereals, granola bars and bakery products.
The oats in our products come from the Saguenay region. Oats are well adapted to the region's climate because the growing season is relatively short, with warm days and cooler nights in the summer, which favors the development of cereals like oats. This being said, oats are cultivated throughout Quebec because of their ability to adapt to many types of soil and weather.
What limits the cultivation of oats in Quebec is the demand for emerging crops with more interesting economic values for producers. In other words, corn and soybeans are more profitable. In the Saguenay, it is too cold for this type of crop, so growers must turn to other types of crops such as oats. To address profitability issue for farmers, research projects are underway to develop new, more productive oat varieties.
Around mid-May, oat farmers in the Saguenay carry out what is called harrowing, which is a work on the surface layer of the soil to break up clods and level the soil. Manure is then also spread to fertilize the soil. In the last week of May, oats and clover are sown to act as a green fertilizer and cover crop, then nature is allowed to work its magic trought the summer. Around mid-September, the oats are finally harvested. After harvest, the grain is cleaned, processed and stored.
Oats and the environment
Growing oats can benefit the environment in several ways. Oats are a
fast-growing crop that requires little fertilizer and pesticides to grow, which can reduce negative impacts on the environment.
An effective rotational crop, it helps prevent soil nutrient depletion and reduces the amount of weeds and crop diseases that can affect subsequent crops. Growing oats can also improve soil quality by increasing organic matter and helping to control erosion. When grown organically, oats eliminate the use of all synthetic products and therefore improve water and air quality.
Oats and water
Oats do not require a lot of water, but they will suffer from drought, which will affect their specific weight and their quality for human consumption.
The amount of water needed to grow oats depends on many factors such as farming practices, weather conditions and soil characteristics. However, in general, oats require less water to grow than some other grains such as rice and corn. Oats have been estimated to require about 450-500 millimeters of water over the growing season, while rice can require up to 2500 millimeters of water. Maize, on the other hand, requires about 700 to 800 millimeters of water during the growing season.
That being said, it is important to note that water management in agriculture is a complex issue and the amount of water needed to grow oats can vary greatly depending on factors such as water availability, soil quality and farming practices. Our Saguenay oat crop is dependent on rainwater since the fields are not irrigated. Cover cropping techniques used by farmers allow the soil to absorb and retain more water and thus have a better resilience to dry weather.
Soils in organic production are governed by minimum tillage which allows for the burial of amendments (e.g. manure), weed control and completes the carbon cycle by partially burying crop residues. Oat-specific techniques are used to improve soil health.
When oats are planted, clover is planted at the same time and takes longer to emerge and will not compete with the oats. Clover as a cover crop has the ability to cover the soil quickly early in the season and helps reduce soil erosion, among other things. By competing with weeds at the time of establishment, it helps to reduce their presence in the field.
Once the oats are harvested in September, the field will be covered with a beautiful green carpet of clovers. The soil is never bare. The clover will capture light, sequester carbon and its root biomass will build a healthier soil. Thus, the clover will ensure a better soil fertility for the following year. To this carpet of green clover, farmers integrate other varieties of plants to form a plant cover that will cover the soil, thus avoiding once again having a bare soil, allowing the capture of minerals available during this period, stabilizing the soil before winter and improving its structure. Like clover, the cover crop improves soil health for next year's crop. It is a matter of working with nature's intelligence and thus building the soil's "auto-fertility" to reduce dependence on external fertilizers.
Nutritional and environmental benefits of
Organic oats have certain nutritional and environmental advantages over conventionally grown oats. First, organic oats are grown without the use of synthetic chemical pesticides and fertilizers. This can reduce exposure to pesticide residues for farm workers and consumers, as well as reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with the use of these chemicals.
In addition, organic oats are often grown in more sustainable farming systems, with more careful management of soil fertility and biodiversity. This can improve soil quality, reduce erosion and maintain the health of surrounding ecosystems.
Nutritionally, organic oats may be richer in certain nutrients due to the quality of the soil and the farming practices used. Studies have shown that organic crops tend to contain higher levels of certain nutrients, such as antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids, than conventional crops.
In addition, oats are naturally
- rich in fiber
- B vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium
- sustainable source of energy, thanks to its high content of complex carbohydrates.
Oats are one of the oldest cultivated cereals in the world and their reputation in terms of nutrition is well established. Oats are rich in fiber, vegetable proteins, B vitamins, magnesium and iron. It is known not only for its good taste, but also because it provides a satiety effect, helps reduce cholesterol and regulates intestinal transit. It was therefore natural for us to incorporate it in our new products, especially since it comes from here!