29 November 1996

NIAB on defensive in face of attacks on trials system

The National Institute of Agricultural Botanys cereals trials system is under fire from plant breeders and seed firms. Edward Long reports

RESPONDING to the criticisms NIABs head of combineable crops, John Ramsbottom, points out that National List trialing uses tests for milling and malting quality agreed with breeders and end-users.

"Additionally, material from breeders trials is assessed by millers or maltsters," he says. "Results are normally available in time for decisions on which varieties to include in RL trials to be made."

Winter trials are drilled as soon as all seed is available. Most barley is sown in the third week of September – wheat in early October. For the past two years early drilled sites have also been included.

There are no specific lodging trials, but enough data is generated, even in seasons with low perceived risk, to make balanced decisions on Recommended List candidates, maintains Mr Ramsbottom.

Trial results are posted to HGCA levy payers, on request, immediately they become available in time for autumn sowing decisions. Advice on how to use the data is provided along with results from previous years.

"Our trials system is contin-ually evolving and developing in response to the changing needs of the industry.

"Regretfully, some individuals still seek to blame the system for the inadequacies of their breeding material. This does a grave disservice to the excellent support we receive from all sectors of the industry, including BSPB, who invest a great deal of time and money to ensure that the Recommended List evolves in a constructive manner to provide the best possible independent advice on varieties," stresses Mr Ramsbottom.

Some plant breeders believe current NIAB testing is too much of a lottery. (Inset) NIABs head of combineable and forage crops, John Ramsbottom, says the trialing system is constantly evolving to meet industry needs.