Fall 2018

Outwitting oat rust

Assistant professor Melania Figueroa is one of the U’s leaders in its efforts to combat oat rust.
Photography by  DYLAN VANBOXTEL

Growing oats more efficiently is vital to Minnesota farmers and to the businesses that rely on their crops. 

But oat rust poses a significant threat, reducing yields by as much as 40 percent and hurting the quality of the grain.

Since 2015, the University of Minnesota’s Stakman-Borlaug Center for Sustainable Plant Health has led the Oat Global program. Oat Global aims to improve oat yields by bringing together growers, millers, researchers, industry associations, government officials, and others from around the world to improve breeding methods and reduce disease. 

In one project, University of Minnesota researchers sequenced the genome of oat rust pathogens, which will help in the development of disease-resistant crops. Support from PepsiCo (owner of Quaker Oats), General Mills, and other companies has made this work possible. 

“Their funding has been really important for developing this broader, collaborative community,” says James Bradeen, Oat Global director and head of the U’s Department of Plant Pathology. “We hope it leads to significant new funding for research and more researchers working on oats.”

Learn more about oat rust research happening at the U.
U of M Department of Plant Science