Oats [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Hafer
English Oats
French Avoine
Spanish Avena
Scientific Avena sativa
CN/HS number * 1004 00 00

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

The oat plant (Avena sativa) is a type of cereal belonging to the grass family (Gramineae), the term „cereals“ covering the grain fruits of cultivated grasses (spikes or ears in the case of wheat, rye, barley and corn; panicles in the case of oats and rice.

The structure and chemical composition of the grain vary little between the different types of cereal. The cereal grain is a single-seeded indehiscent fruit, the husk of which is formed by the fusion of the fruit and seed walls. It consists of three components:

its cracked husk, which gives the grain a greatly increased surface area relative to its mass. This allows the cereal grain to enter into an active exchange of materials with its environment.
the endosperm, which constitutes the main component of the grain.
the embryo.

After harvesting, oats usually undergo further post-ripening, which consists of the high molecular weight substances congregating further with water being expelled (syneresis). As the surface of the cereal then becomes damp because of the elevated water content, this is described as „sweating. In this state, the cereal is highly susceptible to mold and must not as yet be shipped. However, if the water content of the cereal is relatively low (approx. 13 – 14%), proper storage allows the sweat moisture to be absorbed by the air without the risk of mold growth. This sweating process proceeds for a period of approximately 1 – 2 months.

Seed oats
Bearded or slender oats
Short oats

Grain size: diameter 2 mm, length 10 mm

Oil content: approx. 4.8%.

Quality / Duration of storage

Prior to loading, checks should be carried out by an independent inspector and a certificate provided in relation to loading moisture content, the absence of odor and contamination and the absence of pests.

Excessively damp and incompletely ripened goods may be liable to self-heating, elevated respiratory activity, mold growth and fermentation during transport.

Oats which are „dry for shipment“ (water content below 13%) may be kept for up to 12 months or longer provided that the appropriate temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions are complied with.

Intended use

Since oats have the highest content of fat (approx. 4.8%) and minerals of all types of cereal, they are particularly suitable as a feedstuff for horses and poultry. Due to their low gluten content, oats are not suitable for breadmaking, but they are used to make oat flakes.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Drawing, oats

Figure 1
Photo, oats

Figure 2
Photo, oats

Figure 3
Photo, oats

Figure 4

Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Europe EU countries
America Argentina, USA, Canada
Australia Australia

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Oats are mainly transported as bulk cargo and only sometimes in bags (seed).

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Symbol, temperature-controlled

Bulk cargo
Symbol, general cargo

General cargo

Means of transport

Ship, railroad, truck

Container transport

Mainly in bulk containers, but also as bagged cargo (e.g. seed) in standard containers. Compliance with limits for the water content of the cargo and container floor must be ensured.

Cargo handling

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since wetting and extremely high relative humidities may lead to mold growth, spoilage and self-heating due to increased respiratory activity.

Suction and blowing devices may cause not inconsiderable damage to the grains.

Stowage factor

1.81 – 2.21 m3/t (bulk cargo) [14]
2.04 – 2.44 m3/t (bags) [14]

Angle of repose

Lower limit: 26°
Upper limit: 30°
Average value: 28°

Grain size

Diameter 2 mm, length 10 mm

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry, good ventilation.


Matting, jute coverings. Different types of cereal must be carefully segregated from one another, as mixing gives rise to serious claims.

Cargo securing

In the case of maritime transport, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) „Code for Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk“ must be complied with.

When loading an ocean-going vessel with several types of cereal, heavy cereals (wheat, rye, barley, corn) must be stowed in the lower part of the hold and lighter cereals (oats, millet) in the upper part of the hold, for reasons of stability.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Oats require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Favorable travel temperature range: no lower limit – 20°C

Molds reach optimum activity at temperatures of between 20 and 30°C. In addition, at temperatures > 25°C, metabolic processes increase, leading to increased CO2 production and self-heating of the oats.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Oats require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 70% [1]
Water content 12 – 14% [2]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 70% [1]

Weight loss, germination, self-heating, mold growth and fermentation processes are closely associated with the moisture content and hygroscopicity of the cargo.

Drawing, oats

Figure 5

Problems of moisture may be prevented by suitable pre-drying of the oats. This is the easiest way of reducing the activity (respiration) of the grain and removing the nutrient medium for mold development and spoilage processes. The required level of dryness for relatively long voyages is a water content of 12%, which is at equilibrium with a relative humidity of 70%, while it is 14% for shorter voyages, the mold growth threshold being reached (75% relative humidity). In very cold transport regions (North Atlantic in winter), a water content of 15% may also be sufficient in certain cases; this water content would correspond to an equilibrium moisture content of 80% at a temperature of 25°C, but of < 75% at the prevailing low winter temperatures, such that the oats would not sustain any damage even at that level.

At 16 – 17% water content, the sorption isotherm climbs sharply, so meaning that equilibrium moisture contents of > 80% very rapidly produce an excessively damp atmosphere.

Individual clusters of damp product may cause considerable damage to the cargo. The oats in such clusters have a tendency to self-heating. Damp (sweating) oats then appear in the boundary layers, so allowing the process to develop further. Such clusters may form, for example, in too freshly harvested product (not yet post-ripened) or where damp goods have been loaded.

Prior to loading, the loading moisture content should be checked by an independent inspector and a certificate provided. These certificates should state not only that appropriate measures have been carried out but also how and with what they were carried out and with what level of success.

When cereals are shipped as bulk cargo, lumber used for the grain bulkheads must be air dry, i.e. the water content of the lumber must not be more than 15%. The water vapor released by the lumber may otherwise lead to heating of the cereals and to lump formation along the lumber walls. Spoiled cereals then stay stuck to the bulkheads.

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RF Ventilation

Oats require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions (SC VII) (storage climate conditions).

Recommended ventilation conditions: surface ventilation.

Ventilation of cereals depends on water content: goods with a water content of < 13% and equilibrium moisture contents of < 70% do not need to be ventilated.

Up to a water content of 15%, surface ventilation is recommended, in order to dissipate CO2, heat and moisture. At the same time, care should be taken to ensure that the surfaces are not cooled too much, to avoid the formation of damp boundary layers beneath the cargo surface.

Oats release water vapor constantly, which needs to be dissipated by ventilation. However, caution is advisable on voyages from hot to cold regions (e.g. Argentina to Europe):

Oats which are not dry for shipment have a particular tendency to self-heating and the flow of heat from the cargo counteracts external cooling, so resulting in the formation of steep temperature gradients in the superficial layers of the cargo. At the same time, water vapor flows from the inside of the cargo to the surface. In the case of simultaneous cooling of the surface by ventilation, the relative humidity increases in the superficial layers of the cargo. If dry fresh air is used for ventilation, a dry surface layer several centimeters thick is obtained, which creates the impression that the cargo is free of all defects. Beneath this is then a damp intermediate layer of lower grade cereal which is starting to decompose, being stuck together and swollen. Such damp intermediate layers are observed relatively frequently.

In order to avoid cargo damage caused by such moist intermediate layers, the fresh air supply must be restricted when there is an excessive temperature differential between the cargo and the external temperature.

Damage to only a proportion of a cargo of oats is as a rule indicative of the damaged proportion having been stored in a dead air zone, where it was inadequately ventilated.

Damage may also be caused by the ships‘ lying in the roads at the port of destination for an extended period at low external temperatures. The cargo within the stack is, however, still at a higher temperature, resulting in water vapor transport towards the colder parts of the cargo close to the ship’s side, where moisture damage may then occur. Such damage is often associated with the fact that ventilation is stopped when the ship is lying in the roads. Ventilation is, however, essential until the cargo has been unloaded from the ship.

It is essential to be aware of the fact that it is impossible to ensure proper airing throughout a bulk cargo of cereals. Even when ventilation is carried out, the relative humidity of the immobile air between the individual cereal grains is determined by the product’s water content. For this reason, as mentioned above, drying-out caused by ventilation is generally only superficial.

As a result, cereal loaded in an excessively moist state cannot be dried and protected from spoilage by a ship’s ventilation installation.

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RF Biotic activity

Oats display 2nd order biotic activity.

It is a living organ in which respiration processes predominate, because its supply of new nutrients has been cut off by separation from the parent plant.

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RF Gases

In oats, metabolic processes continue even after harvesting. The cereal grains absorb oxygen and excrete carbon dioxide (CO2).

This excretion of carbon dioxide is important from various standpoints:

If relatively large quantities of CO2 accumulate in the hold, the respiratory activity of the cereal will drop. In the case of cereal which is dry for shipment, hold or container air with an increased CO2 content does not have a negative impact on the quality of the cargo, indeed mold growth is inhibited.

However, if oats is shipped in closed holds/containers at relatively high water contents, the cereal must be expected to change over from aerobic to anaerobic respiration due to the build-up of CO2, which means, among other things, that lactic acid bacteria, which are able to tolerate an anaerobic environment, can also develop. Due to their toxicity, the resultant fermentation products CO2, lactic acid and alcohol have an impact on the grain germ, especially on seed cereal, which loses its ability to germinate if stored in an oxygen-depleted environment.

Respiration may cause life-threatening CO2 concentrations (TLV: 0.49 vol.%) or O2 shortages in the hold/container. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

The oil content of oats is approx. 4.8%.

An excessively high water content may result in self-heating due to increased respiratory activity. The oats in individual clusters of excessively moist cargo heat up and give rise to more damp (sweating) cereal at the boundary layers of the cluster. In this way, the process propagates into other parts of the cargo. Such clusters may form, for example, in too freshly harvested product (not yet post-ripened) or where excessively damp goods have been loaded.

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RF Odor

Active behavior Oats have a slight, pleasant odor.
Passive behavior Oats are highly sensitive to the absorption of foreign odors.

Gases and aroma substances, such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), phenol and kerosene, are readily absorbed by the cereal. For this reason, holds must be completely odor-free and deodorization must not be carried out only immediately before loading.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Oats cause contamination by forming dust.
Passive behavior Especially after the carriage of contaminating (coal, ores, cement), odor-tainting or pest-infested cargoes, fitness for loading must be carefully reestablished by cleaning, disinfection, deodorization and ventilation. An inspection certificate confirming fitness for loading should be provided.

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RF Mechanical influences

Suction and blowing devices may cause damage to the grains during cargo handling.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

Respiration may cause life-threatening CO2 concentrations (TLV: 0.49 vol.%) or O2 shortages in the hold/container. Therefore, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and a gas measurement carried out.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Evaporation may cause weight losses of at most 0.5%. Further losses may arise due to dust formation and adhesion to the hold or container walls.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Oats may be infested by the following cereal pests during storage and transport:

by the granary weevil (Sitophilus granarius)
by the cadelle beetle (Tenebroides mauretanicus)
by the rust-red grain beetle (Cryptolestes ferrugineus)
by the sawtoothed grain beetle (Oryzaephilus surinamensis)
by the European grain moth (Nemapogon granellus)
by the Angoumois cereal moth (Sitotroga cerealella)

The chewing damage caused by the cereal pests brings about increased respiration in the cereal (hot spots) and this, associated with the metabolic activity of the pests themselves, promotes evolution of heat and moisture, which in turn provide favorable living conditions for molds and subsequently, at very high moisture levels, for bacterial growth.

Insect infestation may result in self-heating which ultimately gives rise to depreciation and finally total loss.

Inadequately cleaned warehouses, holds and containers are generally the root cause of insect infestation.

Cereal is also at risk from rats and mice, which can act as disease vectors and contaminate the cereal.

Before loading, holds/containers should be examined by an independent inspector for infestation by pests of any kind and an appropriate certificate obtained.

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