Oats, the seeds of a genus of annual cereal grasses. The plants, which are also called oats, are raised primarily for the grain The several wild and cultivated species of oats are related to rice and barley, and are grown in temperate regions throughout the world Oats were probably first cultivated in the Near East long ago.
When mature, oat plants are from two to five feet (60 to 150cm) tall. They have narrow, blade-like leaves six to nine inches (15 to 23 cm) long. The flower cluster is a panicle, a delicate stalk that branches into small stems called spikelets. The spikelets of most cultivated species of oats each bear two flowers, which are self-fertilized.
The fruit produced by each flower is caryopsis, or grain—a single-seeded fruit in which the hull is firmly attached to the seed. The embryo and the endosperm (a food-storage tissue) make up the seed. Oat grains contain a relatively high percentage of protein, fat, minerals, and B vitamins. Oat proteins do not form gluten and are, therefore, unsuitable for making raised bread.
Oats flourish in cool, moist climates an can grow in relatively poor soil. In North America they are raised from southern Canada to Texas. Oats are sown both in springy and in fall.
Most of the oat crop grown in the United States is used on the farm for livestock feed, hay, pasturage, or seed. Some of the crop is sold as livestock feed for horses and young animals, and a small portion is used for human consumption as oatmeal and other foods. Oats are prepared for human use by milling processes in which the grains are cleaned and roasted, and their hulls are removed They are then cut or steamed and rolled to form oat products.
Some milling by-products of oats contain antioxidants and are used as preservatives in foods The hulk another by-product, serve as a source of furfural, a solvent.
Oats are attacked by several diseases and insect pests, of which the most troublesome are parasitic fund called rusts and smuts. Controls include treating the seeds; changing planting times; and planting disease-resistant varieties.
Oats belong to the family of grasses, Gramineae. The common oat, Avena saliva, and the red oat, A. byzantina, are the thief species raised commercially in the United States. Many varieties of these species have been developed. Two species cultivated to a small extent are the hull-less oat, A. nuda; and the side, or horse-mane, oat, A. orientalis. The wild oats, which are found in the United States as weeds or range grasses, are the common wild oat, A. fatua; the wild red oat, A sterilis; and the slender oat, A. barbata.