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03 Issues & Trends
Cereal Foods World, Vol. 64, No. 5
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1094/CFW-64-5-0055
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Development of Oat Production in Brazil: Interaction between Agriculture, Academia, and Industry
Alicia de Francisco,1,2 Luiz Carlos Federizzi,3 and Thomaz Setti4

1 Ceres Lab, Department of Food Science & Technology, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Rod. Admar Gonzaga 1346, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil.

2 Corresponding author. Tel:+55 48 3721-5369; E-mail: aliciadf@gmail.com

3 Departament of Field Crops, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul. Av. Bento Gonçalves, 7712 Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. Tel: +55 51 998081047; E-mail: federizi@ufrgs.br

4 SL Alimentos, Ltd. Rodovia do Café BR 376, km 289 Mauá da Serra, PR, Brazil. Tel: +55 43 21012500; Fax: 55 43 34641383; E-mail: Thomaz@slpart.com.br

© 2019 AACC International, Inc.


Oat consumption is not a tradition in Brazil, and other cereals, such as rice, in combination with beans, are consumed almost daily in the Brazilian diet. Rapidly growing concerns about healthy diets are leading to increased oat consumption, and in the future, this trend could make oats an important staple in the Brazilian diet. The development of oat production in Brazil, initially an independent endeavor, has been supported by interactions between agriculture, academia, and industry. The results of these interactions have proven to be very successful, leading to the development of higher quality oats and oat products in Brazil.


The exact point in time oats were introduced in Brazil has not been determined, but there are indications that it was cultivated during the colonial period. Oat consumption is not a tradition in Brazil, and other cereals, such as rice, in combination with beans, are consumed almost daily in the Brazilian diet. Wheat bread is a main breakfast component across all of Brazil, and corn (maize) is a very important food staple in the northeastern area of the country. Oats remained an optional food item that appealed to a small section of the population until more recently, when consumption started to increase. Table I shows per capita oat consumption in 2002 versus 2008 (9). Rapidly growing concerns about healthy diets are leading to increased oat consumption, and in the future, this trend could make oats an important staple in the Brazilian diet.

The development of oat production in Brazil, initially an independent endeavor, has been supported by interactions between agriculture, academia, and industry. The interplay between these sectors, which was initiated by SL Alimentos, Ltd., is illustrated as a triple helix interaction model (Fig. 1) and has been described by Cabral and Dahab (2,3) as it pertains to science park management. The model was modified here to include the sectors involved in oat development in Brazil. The results of ongoing interactions between agriculture, academia, and industry have proven to be very successful, leading to the development of higher quality oats and oat products in Brazil.

Oat Breeding and Agriculture in Brazil

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the area in Brazil cultivated with oats for grain production was very limited. The main varieties cultivated by farmers in Brazil were introduced from the United States or Argentina and had the typical characteristics of forage plants. At the time, Brazil was a major importer of oat grains. The oat breeding program in Brazil was started at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) by Prof. Fernando I. F. de Carvalho in 1974 and Prof. Luiz Carlos Federizzi in 1978 and at the University of Passo Fundo (UPF) in 1977 by Prof. Elmar Floss. In 1978, a program was started by a farmers cooperative (COTRIJUI) but was discontinued in 1995. By the end of the 1970s, the Instituto Agronomico de Campinas (IAC) had introduced several oat collections and from them selected a few oat cultivars. Programs were started in 1995 at the Universidade Federal de Pelotas (UFPEL) and in 2000 at the Instituto Agronomico do Parana (IAPAR). A National Oat Research Commission (Comissão Brasileira de Pesquisa de Aveia) that included all of the institutions mentioned above was founded in 1981, and since then, the commission has met annually to share the results of agricultural research and plan new experiments. Today, active programs are located at UFRGS, UPF, UFPEL, and IAPAR, and the main varieties with the most area in cultivation in Brazil are from UFRGS and IAPAR.

Origins of Germplasm Used in Brazil. The oat germplasm used in Brazil was obtained from two well-differentiated original sources: one source was used until the early 1970s, and the other source was used from the 1970s onward. In 1974 Prof. de Carvalho received the first F2 and F3 populations of oats from Prof. Hazel L. Shands of the University of Wisconsin (United States), which initiated a germplasm exchange program (Breeding Oats Cultivars Suitable for Production in Developing Countries) that was financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during the first two years. This program has continued to the present day as the Quaker International Oat Nursery (QION), which was started in 1977 and is funded by the Quaker Oats Company (now PepsiCo) (1,13). During the late 1980s, the Brazilian programs started to create crosses and develop them on segregating populations. Oat breeding is challenging because the crop must be adapted to grow in places where soil and climatic conditions are very different from those in the countries from which it originated. In the case of southern Brazil, the breeding challenges were, and in part still are,

  1. To obtain short-cycle varieties farmers can use in succession with corn or soybeans within the same year.
  2. To reduce the height of oat plants to make them more resistant to lodging.
  3. To create plants with resistance to the toxic aluminum in the soil that in high concentrations inhibits root growth.
  4. To improve the quality of oats so they can be used by industry and have a higher nutritional value for humans and animals.
  5. To incorporate tolerance to major diseases that compromise grain yield.
  6. To increase the productive potential of grains by maintaining wide adaptation.

Brazilian oat cultivars have broad adaptation, insensitivity to photoperiod (early cycle), medium to high stature, resistance to crown and stem rusts, good resistance to black stain (caused by Pyrenophora sp.), high grain yield, high test weight, medium to high beta-glucan contents, good resistance to Barley yellow dwarf virus, and good resistance to frost damage. Because of the frequent changes in crown rust virulence, most Brazilian cultivars exhibit only partial resistance to the pathogen. The incorporation of new resistance genes for crown and stem rusts from cultivars with low adaptation to subtropical environments has been difficult and has prevented the maintenance of short plant type in new cultivars.

Agricultural Issues. In southern Brazil, oat crops are grown in the subtropical states of Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul. In this region, farmers use a no-till system with two crops per year in the same area: one in the winter and one in the summer, rotating with soybean crops. As a result, the oats cultivars need to have the right growth cycle to fit in the windows between the summer crops. There are two main regions of adaptation with different climates and growing seasons. One region is in northern Paraná, where crops are planted in April (fall) and harvested in August and September (spring), temperatures are mild, and dry spells are frequent (one every 3–4 years), and there are up to 25 days of rain, and crops have higher yields and better grain quality. The other region extends from southern Parana to the border with Uruguay, where crops are planted in June (fall/winter) and harvested in October (spring). The climate is colder, with several days of frost, and more humid for several days at a time, with air moisture above 90% RH, and there are severe epidemics of crown rust. The same cultivars are planted in both environments due to their wide adaptation. With the use of modern oat cultivars, the area planted, production, and yield have increased in Brazil in recent decades (Figs. 2 and 3) (12). 

Oat Research in Brazil

Initially, oats were cultivated in Brazil mainly for forage and crop rotation; oat crops were mainly utilized as feed. Today, even though much has been said about its health benefit, oat consumption is still somewhat limited.

Research on oats in Brazil started around 1993 with mostly agronomic studies. According to the SCOPUS bibliographic database, of 145 bibliographic references for oats, 130 are associated with agricultural and biological science studies, and 14 with biochemical and genetic studies (Fig. 4), of which 2 are focused on the chemical composition of oats.

According to the SciELO bibliographic database, of the 844 bibliographic references for oats since 1946, 153 are directly related to oats, of which 7 are focused on the chemical composition of oats and 5–6 are focused on food product applications.

In 1996, the first work, in the form of an M.S. degree dissertation on the chemical composition of Brazilian oat cultivars as related to genetic and environmental influence (5), marked the start of the CERES Laboratory of Cereal Science and Research at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), which is coordinated by Dr. Alicia de Francisco. The materials used in the studies mentioned above were donated by several institutions affiliated with the National Oat Research Commission that evaluated and approved varieties developed though their agronomy programs and grown in different locations. These include UFSC, UFRGS, UPF, COTRIJUI, IAC, UFPEL, and IAPAR. Since its inception, the chemical characterization of Brazilian oat cultivars has continued to support the agricultural programs of the oat research commission to improve the nutritional quality of oats (6,11,18,20,21), and several applications for food products have been published (4,15–17,22).

Since 1998, CERES has collaborated with SL Alimentos Ltd., which has provided support in the form of industrial samples and resources for academic work on oats to gain a better understanding of their nutritional value. Studies include fractionation for nutrient concentration (10), phytic acid content (23), gluten determination in oats and oat products (19), effects of beta-glucan concentration in oat bran on blood cholesterol of men and women (14), and effects of grain morphology on industrial yield (7).

Of the research mentioned above, two studies deserve to be highlighted. “Gluten Determination in Oats and Products” was intended to demonstrate that in spite of the Brazilian regulation requiring oats to be labeled as “containing gluten,” pure oats do not contain gluten. However, contamination in any part of the production chain with gluten-containing materials justifies the label.

A study on the reduction of blood cholesterol by oat beta-glucans was made possible by the ability of the food industry to fractionate oat bran into samples with different levels of this soluble fiber. This was the first oat study with human clinical studies in Brazil and provided support for the meta-analysis “Oats and Oat Products: beta-Glucans and Functional Foods—Scientific Evidence” (8) presented by SL Alimentos Ltd. to ANVISA, the Brazilian food regulatory agency, for a health claim on oat beta-glucans in 2000. In 2000, oats were recognized as a functional food in Brazil. The work was the culmination of the collaboration between academia (UFSC) and industry (SL Alimentos Ltda.) to improve nutritional information about oats and consumption of oats in Brazil.

Industrialization of Oat Processing in Brazil

Industrial oat milling in Brazil started in 1953 when the Quaker Oats Company bought a small local business in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. Quaker dealt with the production and packaging of oatmeal, first in cans and later in “bag in box” packages. Because Quaker wanted to rely on local production rather than imported oats, the company provided some financial support to breeders in local universities and gave preference to purchasing Brazilian oats, stimulating production increases from farmers based in the State of Rio Grande do Sul.

In 1949, László Ferenczi, a Hungarian immigrant, arrived in São Paulo, bringing with him a knowledge of oat processing, and by 1959, Ferenczi had created Ferla, a milling company to produce and pack oat flakes. In the beginning imported oats were used, and later locally produced oats were used. Ferla also began supplying oat products as ingredients to the Brazilian food industry. In the following years, smaller oat mills appeared in Rio Grande do Sul.

In 1996, SL Alimentos Ltd. established a very large mill in the State of Paraná. This stimulated rapid growth of local oat production and led to Paraná becoming one of the main oat producers in Brazil.

Location of Oat Mills in Brazil and Production of Oat Products. As a result of the successful efforts of oat breeders in Brazil, the importation of oats was steadily replaced by local production and vanished completely decades ago. As a consequence, new oat mills concentrated near the major production regions have been established. Currently, there are six major companies milling oats in the country, most of them located in the states of Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul.

The total quantity of oats produced and destined for human consumption in Brazil is around 120,000 tons/year. Of this total, about 60% is used for the production of packed oats, mainly in “bag in box” packages. There are many brands in the retail market. The largest of them are PepsiCo (Quaker), Nestlé, and General Mills (Yoki). The range of products in the market include quick and old fashioned oat flakes, oat bran, and oat flour. In recent years gluten-free and organic oatmeal products made from organic oats grown in Paraná have been introduced in the market.

The remaining 40% of the total oats produced for human consumption are used as food ingredients packaged in 25 kg paper bags and in bulk bags (700–1,000 kg). The sale of oats as ingredients grew with the consumption of granola, initially produced by Kellogg Company in the 1970s, and, since the 1990s, by a multitude of brands from all over Brazil. Similarly, the production of cereal bars started in 1994 and became a big trend in the following decades. The range of oat ingredients sold to the market include old fashioned oat flakes destined for granola, cereal bars, cookies, and biscuits, as well as oat bran and oat flour.

Technical Issues. The size of oat mills in Brazil varies from small to medium compared with North American mills. In the beginning, the technology used by the mills was somewhat precarious but has improved rapidly, and today, the trend is to not be different from the worldwide state-of-the-art technology. The main suppliers of machinery and other equipment have been from Europe, but Brazilian suppliers are surging ahead and offering equipment and parts.

Interaction with Farmers and Attributes of Oats Required by the Oat Milling Industry. There is no trading of oats on any boards in Brazil, and oat prices have no relation with the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Purchasing from traders is very rare, and oats are supplied by direct contracts between oat mills and local farmers. This situation makes it essential for oat millers to have a large storage capacity or to rent external storage to guarantee their supply. This situation is challenging but offers millers an opportunity to improve the industrial yield and final product quality through a closer relationship with local farmers.

Brazilian oat millers meet annually with breeders and the oat research commission to discuss the attributes that need improvement for optimal agricultural and industrial performance. This approach leads to an interesting interaction in which millers participate in the development of new varieties, evaluating along each step of the breeders’ path using tests that can predict the milling characteristics of the future seed. Traditionally, field production and dehulling yields are a key concern, but there are other important requirements, such as short-cycle varieties, small plant height, resistance to diseases, and high beta-glucan contents.

Future Trends in the Brazilian Oats Industry. Because oat consumption is growing rapidly, the future of Brazilian oat millers is likely to include investments in raw oat storage and higher milling capacity. Following the trend of all types of industries around the world, a bigger investment in automation can also be expected. In general terms, if this trend continues, oats will contribute significantly to improve the quality of nutrition of Brazilian consumers, and the interactions between academia, agriculture, and industry will continue successfully.


Alicia de Francisco is currently a major professor in the Food Science and Technology Department of the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) in the area of cereal science and technology and food microscopy. Alicia joined the UFSC in 1993. Prior to that, Alicia worked as a researcher at the Carlsberg Research Center in Denmark after working for 7 years with P&D at the Quaker Oats Company in Illinois. Alicia’s main research interest is in dietary fibers, beta-glucans, whole grains, gluten, and nonconventional plants as sources of starch. She is the author of more than 100 refereed papers and more than 100 conference abstracts and presentations. Alicia is a Kansas State University graduate and has been an active member of AACC International for more than 30 years.


Luiz Carlos Federizzi holds a B.S. degree in agronomy from the University Federal de Santa Maria (1974), an M.S. degree in agronomy from the University Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) (1979,) and a Ph.D. degree in genetics and plant breeding from the University of California (1986). Luiz is currently a full professor of plant breeding and an oat breeder at UFRGS. He has experience in agronomy,  focusing on oat genetics and breeding, with several varieties released in Brazil and other countries. Luiz is responsible for the UFRGS oat breeding program and the commercial launch of numerous oat varieties adapted to the subtropical environments of Brazil.



Thomaz Setti was born in 1955 and holds degrees in mechanical engineering and art history. Thomaz has 42 years of experience in cereal milling. He is the technical director of SL Alimentos Ltda. and of Sementes e Alimentos Paraná Ltda.






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