Top crop . . . Speaking at an oat industry field day on a farm near Gore last week are Plant Research New Zealand managing director and principal plant breeder Adrian Russell (left) and New Zealand Oat Industry Group chairman and oat grower Graeme Gardyne. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Strategies are needed to help oat growers battle pests, diseases and adverse weather, a plant breeder says.

About 70 people attended an oat industry field day on Graeme and Elspeth Gardyne’s farm Viewbrae in Chatton, about 20km north of Gore, last week.

Plant Research New Zealand managing director and principal plant breeder Adrian Russell, of Christchurch, said a global trend was crops being hammered more often by adverse weather for every year of the past three years.

‘‘Mostly heat and cold at the wrong time . . . we’ve got to read those signals and start to find strategies to get around that.’’

Strategies to combat the heat was planting crops earlier or spreading crops between autumn and spring.

‘‘So if one gets taken out, the other is hopefully OK.’’

There was a need to breed varieties which could cope with the weather extremes and produce a more stable yield.

Another strategy was breeding crops for early maturity so they were ‘‘in and out as quickly as possible and safely in a silo’’.

Some pests and diseases of crops, which had never posed a risk before, were now becoming more prevalent and problematic.

The search was on for new genetics to provide resistance.

Globally, especially in Europe and the United Kingdom, pesticides were being withdrawn, removing tools for farmers to protect crops against pests and viruses.

New genetics were needed so crops could cope.

‘‘The problems are coming faster and we are going to need more tools in the toolbox.’’

He hoped some of the trial crops grown in Chatton would soon ‘‘tick enough boxes’’ to be available for farmers to grow.

‘‘To get to this point we’ve looked at hundreds of thousands of plants and thousands of plot trials over many years.’’

Mr Russell thanked the Gardyne family ‘‘for giving so much to the group’’.

Mr Gardyne, the New Zealand Oat Industry Group chairman, said three combine harvesters and crews harvested hundreds of individual trial plots for testing including to Plant Research New Zealand in Canterbury and suitability for milling at Harraway & Sons in Dunedin.

The research was a joint effort, he said.

‘‘We are all in this game together.’’