14 February 1997

Modelling for hybrid potential

HYBRID cereal potential could be revealed by new models, suggests a recent HGCA-funded review.

The SAC Aberdeen project examined research on hybrid breeding of wheat, rye and barley. Financial feasibility, markets, likely yield, quality and disease resistance benefits were all considered.

Work with hybrid wheats in France is believed to be the key to whether they are introduced in the UK. High seed cost and a relatively low yield advantage are identified as hurdles. But parental selection and better seed production could boost yield and cut costs.

Rye hybrids with yields 8-24% above controls already account for much of the UK seed sold, with shorter, stiffer straw a key attribute, the review notes.

"Hybrid wheat has had a long and complex history," says the SACs Roger Eavis. "If hybrids become commercially available in the UK, the spreadsheet models will help farmers and advisers assess whether they are worth growing." &#42