About 70 attended the New Zealand Oat Industry Group field day, which was held near the Southland city of Gore, in the south of the South Island, recently.

Not only does the countryside remind one of Scotland, but this is where many Scots emigrated to in the later part of the 19th century. As a result, oats have always been major crop in this part of the world, accounting for around 20,000ha.

Irrigation is not required as there is plenty rain to grow very good crops. We looked at three commercial blocks of very high yielding spring oat varieties plus one autumn variety.

Adrian Russell, of Plant Research NZ, explained these were suitable for milling and farmers could expect commercial yields of 10 tonnes per ha. He also hoped that one line – named 5-3-9 and a spring oat – may be suitable for oat growers in Scotland.

The next plant breeding goal is to have an oat with a high oil content to make the perfect oat milk, with no need to add canola oil. Mr Russell also told the audience that the New Zealand government should adopt a similar policy to that of Defra in England as regards gene editing, otherwise plant breeding expertise would migrate to those nations that understood the importance CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing as the next revolution in plant breeding.

When I mentioned that the Scottish Government was opposed to gene editing, there was incredulity.

We also had speakers from the NZ oat milk industries. Morgan Maw, the founder of 'Boring' oat milk', told us that in the UK sales of oat milk had soared to 50% of the plant-based alternative to dairy milk market. In NZ, the oat milk share of this market has risen from 5 to 37% . 'Boring' is the only brand made from NZ oats in NZ which uses NZ water,

Then we heard from Harroways the only oat mill in NZ based not far from Gore, in Dunedin. Given that NZ exports around 90% of its agricultural produce, food standards must be of the very highest to meet global consumer demand, he said.

Many countries will not buy any food or drink products that contain any hint of glyphosate. As a result, pre-harvest glyphosate is now banned both in New Zealand and Australia.

I was asked to say a few words which was a pure pleasure as there were two other Scots present – Alison Stewart, from Glasgow, is the head of the Foundation of Arable Research based on Christchurch and Christine McKenzie, a force of nature now farming in NZ, and her parents were Magnus and Effie Mackay, of Farness, on the Black Isle.