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FAO has long emphasized the importance of fodder crops and their role in farming systems, particularly for smallholders. Oats are one such fodder crop that has gained in importance in recent years, particularly with the availability of new cultivars and multicut varieties. Although the overall area sown to oats has fallen over the past century, partly due to the decline in the number of draught and cavalry horses, for which oats were the basic feed grain, they have become increasingly important as green and conserved fodder, both in temperate and many subtropical areas.

Information on fodder oats, and particularly on the considerable changes that have taken place in the last twenty years, especially in terms of their growing importance as a winter fodder and the increasing areas under fodder oats, is scattered in various publications or is not readily available. This book brings together information on the state of fodder oats worldwide, and is aimed mainly at agronomists and extension workers. While the book considers oats in large-scale production systems, particular emphasis has been given to the smallholder sector and to the increasingly important role of oats in smallholder production systems.

FAO has focused on oats in the Maghreb countries through an Oat-Vetch Network, and in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush, in particular, has emphasized the important role of oats in smallholder production systems. The Fifth Meeting of the Temperate Asia Pasture Working Group, in Bhutan in 2002, discussed Fodder Oats - a forage crop for mountain areas and subsequently, through a Fodder Oat Network, initiated activities to evaluate new oat cultivars, exchange information and ensure that promising new oat germplasm is made available to smallholders, and particularly those involved in dairying. Several papers from that meeting have been included in this book. With papers from North America, South America, Europe and Australasia, and country or regional studies from the Maghreb, the Himalaya, Pakistan, China and Japan, the book brings together information from all regions of the world from contributing authors who are all regional experts in their field.

The contributions of authors are much appreciated by FAO in its efforts to disseminate information on fodder production, particularly for the smallholder sector. The considerable input made by the editors - retired staff member James Suttie, and Stephen Reynolds of the Grassland and Pasture Crops Group of the Crop and Grassland Service - both for their personal contributions and in ensuring that the book was brought to publication, is particularly acknowledged.

Mahmoud Solh
Plant Production and Protection Division
FAO Agriculture Department

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