Two-row feed barley variety Retriever’s current 8% yield advantage over the Recommended List’s top variety Saffron was an incredible yield jump, according to SAC variety expert David Cranstoun.

“You don’t normally expect yield hikes like this,” he said. Its current yield was 112% of the controls nationally compared with 104% with Saffron, and 98% with Carat, and it meant only two six-row candidates could beat it for yield currently.

“But it’s got to nearly hold its yield this year, which won’t be easy,” he warned. “If it came down to 108% other new varieties could challenge it.”

The variety did have some agronomic weaknesses as well, he pointed out. “It is relatively weak-strawed and dirty.” Mildew, in particular, had come as a bit of a surprise this year.

But breeders would almost certainly be trying to build an improved agronomic version of Retriever already, he said.

“They’ve got a good set of germplasm to deal with. I’m optimistic in three years time there will be cleaner, stiffer versions of Retriever coming through.”