Tuesday, February 27, 2007

History of Oat

Food History
Oats did not become important to man as early as wheat or barley. Oats probably per­sisted as a weed‑like plant in other cereals for centuries prior to being cultivated by itself. Some authorities believe that our present cultivated oats developed as a mutation from wild oats. They think this may have taken place in Asia Minor or south­eastern Europe not long before the birth of Christ.

Probably the oldest known oat grains were found in Egypt among remains of the 12th Dynasty, which was about 2,000 B.C. These probably were weeds and not actually cultivated by the Egyptians. The oldest known cultivated oats were found in caves in Switzerland that are believed to belong to the Bronze Age.

The history of oats is somewhat clouded because there are so many different species and subspecies, which makes identification of old remains very difficult. The chief modern center of greatest variety of forms is in Asia Minor where most all subspecies are in contact with each other. Many feel that the area with the greatest diversity of types is most likely where a particular plant originated.

Oats were first brought to North America with other grains in 1602 and planted on the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. As early as 1786, George Washington sowed 580 acres to oats. By the 1860s and 1870s, the westward shift of oat acreage in the United States had moved into the middle and upper Mississippi Valley, which is its major area of production today.

Oats are chiefly a European and North American crop. These areas have the cool, moist climate to which oats are best adapted. Russia, Canada, the United States, Finland, and Poland are the leading oat producing countries. Oats are adapted to a wide range of soil types, thus temperature and moisture conditions are the usual limiting factors as to where oats are grown. Perhaps no other country uses oats as much in their cropping system as does Scotland. Some winter oats are produced in the United States, but most are spring oats produced mainly in the north central states.

During the 1940s and 1950s, the five leading states in production usually were Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and South Dakota. By the 1960's, the main oat producing area began moving somewhat north and westward. In 2000, the rank of states in order of production was Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Iowa. Iowa acreage peaked at about 6.4 million acres in 1950 and slumped to 270,000 acres, of which only 180,000 acres were harvested, by 2000. The more profitable crop, soybean, has replaced the oat acreage.
Food History