One of the biggest events on the global grains calendar is headed for Perth, with the first International Oat Conference in six years scheduled for Crown Towers from October 10 to 13. The four-day affair will kick off with field tours on October 10, before the three-day conference from the 11th to 13th — which also includes a conference dinner and several workshops for attendees. It is being coordinated by the Grain Industry Association of WA and the International Oat Organising Committee, with the conference also going by the abbreviated name OAT2022. Normally held every four years, the Perth conference is the 11th rendition of the conference and has been delayed by two years due to WA’s hard border while COVID-19 was sweeping the globe. GIWA oat council chair Ashley Wiese — arguably WA’s biggest oat grower — said the event would be worth the wait after last being held in Russia in 2016. “It is incredibly exciting to be able to hold this face-to-face, it is quite a big event on the global calendar for the oat industry,” he said. “There are a lot of overseas researchers that are keen to come to Australia and see what is happening here. WA is the second-biggest oat exporter in the world so we are significant players.” Mr Wiese said while the program was focused on research, there would be parts aimed at innovation, markets and agronomy and enough content for a local farmer audience. “We hope growers will attend the field day, conference dinner and the days tailored to them to showcase the strength of our industry,” he said. The conference will be held 18 months after news broke that the Australian centre for oat breeding would be shifted from South Australia to Perth to be led by InterGrain at Bibra Lake. WA produces more than half of Australia’s oats but for nearly 20 years the national oat breeding program was based in South Australia. The conference theme is health — with some of the topics set to be explored including health trends in oats, oat quality, products and innovation, oat genomics and bioinformatics, oat breeding and genetics, global oat markets, and oat agronomy and global farming systems. There will be plenty of conversation topics for farmers, with other discussions centred around crop protection in oats — so meeting weed, disease and pest challenges head on — and crop physiology and stress tolerance, including how oats’ boundaries can be pushed for yield and quality. The program also features local WA-based agronomist Garren Knell, from ConsultAg, who will discuss oat agronomy and global farming systems with Aberystwyth University principal investigator Catherine Howarth and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada crop management agronomist Bill May. Seven other speakers have so far been confirmed, including Oatinformation president Randy Strychar — from Canada — and University of Sydney Plant Breeding Institute professor Robert Park. Consultant oat breeder Pamela Zwer has been appointed the OAT2022 program convener. GIWA is still finalising the program, but speaker details are available on the GIWA website. The hybrid event will allow in-person and virtual registrations. Australia is the world’s second-biggest oat exporter, representing 10-15 per cent of the trade behind the “behemoth” oat exporter Canada at 75 per cent. Oat exports from Australia have increased during the past five years, with robust growth last year driven by significant demand from several key markets. The area sown to oats in Australia varies widely each year, but the five-year average production sits at about 1.4 million tonnes, with WA the biggest producer. Mr Wiese said there was a lot of opportunity for Australia’s oat industry, with a reduction in oat production in Canada — the world’s biggest oat exporter. “The lack of supply out of Canada has opened up some great opportunity for Australian oats in wider markets than we are typically used to, so that is exciting,” he said. “And demand into Australian markets continues to grow.” Mr Wiese said oat research had been “left behind” compared to cereal crops. “The conference will bring the latest research and technology to WA,” he said. “It’ll also highlight some of our issues to the research community across the world so that they can hopefully, you know, address some of our problems.