Naked Oats

We are growing naked oats developed by Nick Fradgley.

Nick worked with the ORC at Wakelyns between 2012 and 2015. While doing a PhD in quantitative genetics at NIAB in Cambridge, Nick bred several non-commodity cereal varieties and populations, which led him back to a personal collaboration with Wakelyns, which is really great. In the end, the draw of the surf got the better of him, and Nick now lives in Australia and is working for the Australian Government.

But we have his oats (and his Purple P wheat).

Josiah Meldrum from Hodmedod’s has provided this helpful background:

Naked oats are free threshing, which means they fall from the ear when harvested – unlike more usual oats that have to go through a tricky de-hulling process once they leave the field. This requirement for energy intensive and fairly complex processing has led to a centralisation of production and a race for economies of scale. Now only two large companies process almost all the oats grown in the UK. 

But naked oats turn all that on its head – they’re a disruptive technology; take that tech start-ups! Smaller-scale farmers and producers can grow naked oats and sell them directly, creating shorter, more transparent routes to market, cutting out energy intensive processing and creating new regional grain economies.

Though not a new crop it’s proved very difficult to get naked oats onto farms and plates. This is because they’re grown almost exclusively for animal feed (because they’re so nutritious) and getting hold of seed and growing them is incredibly difficult. Big grain trading companies control the supply of seed and generally only release it to farmers on buy-back contracts which ensure they maintain control over both seed and harvest.

In 2020 Hodmedod asked Nick Fradgley whether he could create a Naked Oat Population – the genetically diverse result of multiple crosses, much like Wakelyns YQ. The idea was that the seed should be held in common by the UKGrainLab, available to farmers who wanted to grow and save the seed, and freely sell oat groats and flakes.

From a few grams of seeds in the first year, 2023 sees the naked oat population move out of Nick’s allotment and into this alley where they’ll be harvested mechanically for the first time. There’s much to test – will the oats ripen evenly, will they thresh well, will the groats be an even enough size to make cleaning easy – but we’re optimistic!

And here’s his super video explainer: