A DIFFERENT BALL GAME IN NIRELAND
GROWING conditions for the 15,700ha (39,000 acres) of winter cereals in Northern Ireland are often very different to the rest of the country.
All varieties recommended in the UK are accordingly kept under constant scrutiny, says Ethel White of DANI Plant Testing Station at Crossnacreevy, Belfast.
Although the wheat variety Beaufort comes top of the yield list in north-west regional trials, its poor resistance to the provinces main disease threat, Septoria tritici, makes it just too risky to consider, Dr White maintains. "We get very few spraying days."
Animal feed is the main requirement. "Reapers place at the top of the DANI winter wheat Recommended List may not be unassailable," says Dr White. "But it is unlikely to be superseded by provisionally recommended Abbot and Harrier, despite their valuable resistance to Septoria tritici."
Along with Hussar, these varieties are all susceptible to the same race of yellow rust which has appeared in Northern Ireland crops this year for the first time since the 1980s, she notes.
Consort, despite being prone to Septoria tritici, has good yellow rust resistance. "Since this is conferred by genes different to those in other recommended varieties, its place on the 1999 list looks secure."
Candidates for the 1999 NI list clearly need yields superior to Reaper and high specific weight. But they also need resistance to Septoria tritici, which is not good in Aardvark, Buchan, Claire and Shamrock, she notes. "The breadmaking candidates, Shango and Malacca, are unlikely to be contenders because of their lower yields."
In winter barley, Regina is well established at the head of the DANI Recommended List, despite concern over its susceptibility to mildew, says Dr White. "Yellow rust is even less likely in winter barley in Northern Ireland than it is in winter wheat."
Provisionally recommended Jewel and Vertige, with strong straw, high specific weight and large grain, have many features which appeal to NI growers. "Jewels resistance to rhynchosporium is particularly valuable given the impact of the disease here.
"Regina sets the standard for the two-row candidate varieties, Flute, Heligan and Pearl, to surpass. At this stage they all have something to offer NI growers, but yield will be pivotal in deciding their futures."
Angela, the six-row candidate with high yield and strong straw, could challenge established Manitou. But its prospects depend a lot on specific and grain weight. In winter oats there is keen interest in finding varieties which combine good yield and acceptable milling quality, says Dr White. "Gerald, with its high yields, and Image with its undoubted quality, have been reliable. Jalna, appearing here in 1997 for the first time failed to threaten them. So all eyes are on Dunkeld this year to see how its kernel content and specific weight compare with those of Image."
Winter oilseed rape has a small number of committed growers in the province. But lacking local trials they rely on GB information, she explains. "This year the main one under scrutiny is Pronto."
Other breaks such as winter beans are not even considered. "The long cool grain-filling period and unpredictable harvest conditions here limit our options for many later ripening crops," she explains. *
Reaper currently holds top slot on the DANI list. Its good Septoria resistance is likely to keep things that way in future, says variety expert Ethel White.