Michaela Havrlentova was born in 1974. She lives with her family in Slovakia, in a small village. After graduating her study of biology at the Commenius University in Bratislava in 1997 she has been working at the Research Institute of Plant Production in Piešťany. Her activity is seeds quality (especially cereals and oilseeds) influenced by genotype and environment. Since 2012 she has been teaching at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Trnava. In her lectures she is oriented in general biology and plant biotechnology. She likes reading books, nature and discussing with people.
Plants have evolved to live in environments where they are often exposed to different stress factors. Permanently changing climatic conditions in the environment as well as biotic and abiotic forms of stress can negatively affect the life cycle of crops what can result in reduced seeds quality and loss in yield. Being sessile, plants have developed specific mechanisms that allow them to detect precise environmental changes and respond to complex stress conditions, minimizing damage while conserving valuable resources for growth and reproduction and, on the other hand, human consumption. Oats have long been recognized as a cereal of superior nutritive value and its grain composition is very favorable for human nutrition and health-prevention. Currently, the demand for oat is increasing. Compared to other cereals, oat contains significantly higher amounts of essential amino and fatty acids, dietary fibre and its soluble fraction beta-glucan as well as other beneficial phytochemicals (tocopherols, avenanthramides and others). (1-3)(1-4)-beta-D-glucan works in the plant also as a tool of plant protection. In some cereals, especially seeds of oat and barley, beta-glucan is located in cell walls. Higher amounts of this polysaccharide have been detected in naked seeds compared to hulled, so there is an assumption of protecting role of the polysaccharide in the cell to resist the effect of stress factor to the intracellular space (especially the DNA). In heat stress, higher amounts of beta-glucan have been accumulated in the seeds of oat as a regulator of humidity in the plant, again, with the assumption of protecting role in heat stress conditions. In oat, plants with higher amount of beta-glucan were more resistant to biotic stresses caused by pathogens such as Fusarium or leaf-rust. Beta-glucan was observed only in some cereals, plants growing in broad-spectrum of regions, very often of extreme inhospitable conditions. On the other hand, the physical and physiological properties of cereal beta-glucans are of commercial and nutritional importance. Increasing interests during the last two decades are largely due to their acceptance as functional, bio-active ingredient. Among grasses, mature grains of barley and oat are suitable natural sources of health beneficial beta-glucans with the average amount 41.6 g.kg-1and 34.9 g.kg-1, respectively. Naked seeds dispose of the highest amount of this cell wall polysaccharide. Genotype and environment are factors influencing the amount of beta-glucans, whereby genotype is superior. Higher temperature during grain maturation and lower precipitation increase its amount, also N and Se fertilization. On the other side, warehousing decrease the portion of soluble beta-glucans in grains, but cooling can slower it. Hydrogels prepared from cereal beta-glucans are one of possibilities to increase this component in food products and make foods healthier. Oat glucans in the amount 2% improve the total tastiness of bread and soften the acid taste of ketchup. The potential of beta-glucan in oat as a natural tool of plant protection and its adaptation as well as its uses in food industry are discussed in the contribution. This research was financially supported by the project: APVV-0398-12.