18 February 2000

NIABlist neglects promising varieties

By Andrew Blake

PROMISING varieties are being barred from the HGCA-funded UK Recommended List because the trialling system is out of date.

Leading this latest attack on the Recommended List system is New Farm Crops. It is appealing against the exclusion of Eclipse winter wheat from the 2000 list. Other firms are appealing about a winter barley and a spring wheat.

Main thrust of NFCs case is that NIAB focuses too much on theoretical yield potential and too little on gross margins, applying costly fungicide programmes which no longer reflect farm practice.

"The system hasnt changed quickly enough to adapt to wheat at only £60/t," says NFCs Gary Mills-Thomas. "Growers can no longer afford to disinfect wheat, but NIABs approach hasnt changed for 15 years."

At £154/ha (£62/acre) the RL fungicide programme costs more than three times average farm spend, according to a recent Novartis survey.

In NIAB trials with quarter-rate fungicide programmes most akin to farm practice Eclipse outyielded soft biscuit-making market standards Consort and Riband, says Mr Mills-Thomas.

A further 29 trials at the ARC and NFC using realistic programmes showed Eclipse bettering or equalling Consort for yield and only just behind Claire. "The committee appears to have ignored this information."

With over half the UK winter wheat area in Group 3 types, and bearing in mind Claires mildew susceptibility, there is plenty of room for a new variety with Eclipses attributes, he argues.

These include slow development making it suitable for early drilling and unusually promising dough characters, according to the Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association.

&#8226 Other appeals include Banks Agricultures for Vanessa winter barley and Nickersons for Morph spring wheat. Vanessas earliness and good mildew resistance set it apart from Fanfare, Regina and Pearl, maintains Neil Pateman of Banks.

Nickersons Bill Angus says the NIAB cereals trials advisory committee appears to have missed the point that Morph was bred to meet market demand for a late autumn-sown Group 2 quality wheat.

NO NIAB response to critics for now

NIABs agricultural services director Jan Ingram confirms that four cereal variety appeals have been received, but refuses to say more ahead of a committee meeting next week. "I cannot comment because it would prejudice the appeals." Only half the appeals committee will be members of the original decision-making panel. It will be chaired independently, he notes. Any announcement is unlikely until mid-March.

much to lose and little gain from GM crops.

HGCA reviews the whole RLsystem

HEAVY fungicide use to keep treated crops squeaky clean is one of several issues of concern frequently raised about the Recommended List, acknowledges Paul Meakin, HGCA assistant director of research. A review of the whole system has just been completed and should be discussed in early April. "We are working with the industry to come up with a system of variety evaluation that overcomes these central issues," says Dr Meakin. "End-user needs is another important area."