28 November 1997

Breeders blow cool on NIABs list approach

By Andrew Blake

AGAINST a backdrop of relatively few newcomers to the UKs recommended lists of combinable crop varieties, breeders have reacted angrily to changes in the way some of the lists are produced.

The use of results from two northern wheat trials hit by poor grain set has brought most criticism for the National Institute of Agricultural Botany. The replacement of the lengthy Descriptive List for spring oilseed rape with a more discriminatory Recommended List is also under fire. NIABs John Ramsbottom stands by the Cereals Trials Advisory Committees decision to include results from winter wheat trials in Aberdeen and Kelso. A combination of unusual environmental factors rather than husbandry is probably to blame for the grain set problems highlighted in the RL booklet, he says. A repetition cannot be ruled out.

Bob Miles of Elsoms Seeds, whose candidate Chaucer failed to be listed, is particularly critical. Excluding the northern figures would have put the varietys relative yield a whole point higher, he claims. "We would have been happy for Chaucer to have been given a regional recommendation for the central and south-east regions where 75% of the UK wheat is grown. I am bitterly disappointed and we shall be appealing against the decision."

John Blackman of CPB Twyford reckons 80% of the wheat crop is grown in the east where NIAB has fewer than half its 25 core trial sites. Scotland accounts for less than 10% of the crop, he maintains.

NIABs philosophy is that testing varieties beyond where they are likely to be grown stretches them to exaggerate differences.

Mr Blackman claims the current arrangements are in place for political reasons and do not give growers the information they really need. "The northern results allow us to highlight a system that is testing varieties all over the place that are not designed to be grown all over the place. Some of the work on the Continent is more relevant to eastern England."

Main critic of the new list for spring rape is Mike Bearman of PBI Cambridge. "I find the whole thing amazing that we have a full Recommended List for a crop of just 50-60,000ha. I dont see the necessity of it, and I dont believe the raw data is sufficient to make it creditable. Its jobs for the boys."

The only real disadvantage of the previous system was that once a variety became listed it stayed so until the breeder asked for it to be removed, says Mr Bearman.

&#8226 See Special Focus on the new listed varieties on p65-67.

VARIETY WINNERS

W wheat Savannah.

W barley Vertige, Jewel.

W oats Jalna.

W OSR Madrigal, Boston.

W beans Clipper.

S barley Chalice.

S oats Banquo, Sailor.

S OSR Canyon, Concept, Hyola

401, 38 & 420.

S beans Quattro.

S peas Badminton, Bonanza,

Espace.