29 September 2000

Independent group to oversee crop testing

CHANGES to ensure variety testing reflects farm practice more closely came a step nearer last week with the formation of Crop Evaluation Limited, an independent HGCA offshoot to oversee the £1.3m of levy funds spent on combinable crop testing each year.

New protocols will be agreed in time for next autumn so trials reflect farm practice, especially disease control, mirror key production areas and fully assess end-user needs, says HGCA chief executive Paul Biscoe. Cost savings will also be sought.

CEL was created to overcome criticism that decisions are subject to commercial pressures and interests. "This arms length approach means the new board will be able to truly meet the needs of the industry," Dr Biscoe explains.

The 12-man board includes five farmers, the HGCA director of R&D and two representatives from the breeders, end-users and NIAB, which has been contracted to manage the trials programme over the next three years. &#42