5 May 1995

Growing cross programme

FROM small beginnings with 50-100 crosses a year, the Elsoms wheat programme has grown to a 500 crosses/year effort, with two to three potential varieties entering national list trials each year, explains head of cereal breeding David Feuerhelm.

Six breeders work on wheat, with recent investment establishing a biotechnology lab and quality testing facility.

The programme is split one third bread-making and two thirds feed. "Feed is the frustration, we havent been able to crack that yet," comments director Anthony Keeling. But the next potential varieties from the programme – both in first year national list trials – are a Flame-type feeder and another bread-maker with better disease resistance than Caxton.

Not in the major league

Elsoms is still not in the major league of British cereal breeders, admits Mr Keeling. "But when we get a success, the calibre of that will match anything anyone else can produce. We just wont be able to do it quite so often."

However, Elsoms has the key advantage of early access to breeding material from Desprezs programme in France, stresses Mr Feuerhelm. That relationship will continue, with Elsoms evaluating Desprez-bred varieties and vice-versa. "Who knows, we may be able to send Caxton there in return for them sending us Soissons," comments Mr Feuerhelm.