The collaborative effort, which drew in experts from academia, government and the private sector, was able to complete the sequence in just four months.
“Through our collaboration with Corteva and a number of key partners, we were able to unlock answers to the difficult problem of sequencing the entire oat genome in just a few months’ time, a project that will benefit our own Quaker Oats brand and the broader oat community,” said Dr René Lammers, PepsiCo chief science officer.
Primary project contributors include Corteva, which applied its advanced sequencing technology and analytic capabilities; the University of North Carolina Charlotte, which provided sequence data and learnings; and the Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, which supplied the oat variety.
"We are at an exciting time in oat genomics as technological advances have taken the oat community to the forefront of understanding how complex polyploid genomes function. This public-private partnership with PepsiCo continues to benefit the whole oat community," said Dr Jessica Schlueter, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina Charlotte.
Advancing oat research: sustainability, nutrition and taste
PepsiCo hopes the development will help advance the resiliency of at-risk food systems while leading to heartier oat varieties with improved sustainability, taste and nutrition.
The initiative is part of PepsiCo’s broader effort to use its ‘scale and reach’ to help build a more sustainable food system. The company said its vision of sustainable food production provides ‘nutrition and enjoyment’, driving economic growth and social development, while protecting and restoring the planet.
“With this open-source approach, we hope to advance the science of oat breeding and ultimately improve food and nutrition security and farmer livelihoods worldwide,” PepsiCo's Dr Lammers elaborated.
PepsiCo and Corteva are publicly releasing the genome in a bid to advance oat research, the companies said. The development has the potential to spur agronomic innovations globally that can improve the resiliency of the food system, they suggested.
PepsiCo believes the discovery can help advance sustainable production, facilitating crops that are bred for a better yield or improved resilience to disease. There is also potential to leverage the research to improve soil health, with longer root systems capable of delivering healthier spoils that reduce water run-off through carbon sequestration. It is also possible that by developing new oat varieties, the amount of land and other natural resources needed to grow oats could be reduced.
Understanding the oat genome could also unlock the possibility of developing more nutritious varieties. Oats are already rich in fibre and essential nutrients. “Understanding a full oat genome improves the ability to target these qualities, ultimately benefiting consumers looking for elevated nutrition profiles from their oats,” PepsiCo suggested.
Dr Aaron Beattie, associate professor of Crop Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, said that the oat variety included in the study delivers on both resilience and nutrition – attributes that could be further strengthened. “This line has a strong combination of quality attributes, including high beta-glucan, protein and milling yield, resistance to diseases like crown rust and smut, and good yield potential in a short plant stature. Its underlying traits can now be studied and understood and will ultimately assist breeders in their efforts to improve oat,” De Beattie predicted.
Meanwhile, on taste, PepsiCo believes there is the possibility to support consumption by ‘potentially creating more flavourful varieties’ to expand appeal.
The data is being hosted on the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s GrainGenes website.