From field to kitchen

OATSTANDING: THE TRUTH ABOUT OATS

OATS ARE A versatile crop grown across Ontario. You can find them in foods like cookies, bread, smoothies and of course, oatmeal! Oats are even found in household items like moisturizer.

But did you know that oats play an even more important role in soil and food health?

Although many people enjoy eating oats, they can also be used as a cover crop by farmers. Farmers grow cover crops primarily to benefit the soil. Cover crops help soil by preventing soil erosion, suppressing weeds, improving soil fertility and quality.

Farmers can use cover crops to improve soil nutrients. Leaving a cover crop on the field to decompose will leave nutrients in the soil that can be used by the next crop grown in that field.

Cover crops also help to supress pests and diseases. A farmer might plant a cover crop to break the cycle of pests in the soil. For example, a bug that likes to eat wheat might not survive when oats are grown.

Cover crops also play a part in helping lakes and rivers. Cover crops help reduce the amount of water that drains off a field when it rains, especially between seasons when the field might otherwise be empty. The roots of crops like oats create pores in the soil, so water drains deep into the ground. This protects streams and waterways that eventually drain into lakes.

Next time you eat oats, think about all the other ways oats will help our land this year. To learn how to incorporate oats into your next meal, check out the delicious raspberry oatmeal bar recipe. •