Program manager of the Small Grains Breeding Program in the UW-Madison agronomy department, John Mochon, said that the BetaGene oats are 2% higher in beta glucan than regular oats – which would lead to 20% higher levels of beta glucan in products made with the oats. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a health claim for soluble fiber from whole oats and a reduced risk of heart disease, and oat beta glucan has also been given the health claim thumbs-up in Canada and the European Union.
Mochon said that although Wisconsin is one of the United States’ top producers of oats, oat harvests across the nation have been in steady decline, as farmers have looked to other crops with better returns.
"That's why I'm trying to add value to oats. It's one of my goals to reverse that trend," he said. "Things like increased beta glucan, developing forage lines, developing lines that are rust resistant, and developing lines that have a high groat percentage are all part of this effort."
UW breeders are hoping to release the new variety for the 2014 growing season. It has taken them 14 years of cross breeding and field trials to bring the oats to this point.
"The biggest thing that stands out about this new variety, BetaGene, is that it's both a high yielding variety and high in beta glucan,” Mochon said.
He claims that the industry has already shown interest in the oat variety, and one large miller recently visited Wisconsin to learn more about the ingredient. He also claims that it could also have international potential, particularly in Canada, as a major oat-producing nation.