Of all the cereal grains, oats ranks highest in protein and runs neck and neck with wheat as the all-around most nutritive cereal grain. The 1950 USDA handbook on grains rates oats at 14.5 percent protein, while whole wheat runs second with 13.4 percent. These figures are somewhat outdated now, especially in regard to oats. The average of 287 varieties selected from the World Oat Collection recently averaged 17 percent in protein content. More significantly, two new varieties, DAL from Wisconsin and OTEE from Illinois, contain over two percent more protein than that average, and can go as high as 22 percent on a dry basis. That could make oats almost competitive with soybeans in protein (soybeans contain about 35 percent protein but yield less per acre than oats) and most plant scientists express belief in a bright future for oats as human food. Part of their reasoning is based on the character as well as the quality of oat protein. It has a bland taste, is soluble under acidic conditions, is stable in emulsions with water and fat, and holds moisture, thus making it an ideal protein to supplement other foods. At the USDA laboratory in Peoria, Illinois, researchers are using oat protein to make nutritious refreshment beverages, meat extenders, and high-protein baked goods. Oats also outscore other cereal grains in thiamine, calcium, iron, and some say, phosphorus, though the USDA tables from 1950, below, give whole wheat a slight edge in that department.