2 January 1998

No double charges

LAUNCH of the NIAB Association last autumn in no way conflicts with the use of HGCA levy money to produce the recommended cereals and oilseeds lists.

That is the view of Paul Biscoe, recently appointed director of research and development at the HGCA, which committed £1.1m, or about 20%, of its R & D budget to the RL system last year.

Industry watchers have suggested that by using raw data generated through RL trials to produce its own commercial handbooks interpreting results, the new association is asking growers to pay twice to get the full picture.

Summary guides to varieties determined by NIAB council are still freely available to all levy payers, stresses Dr Biscoe. "More than 40,000 are distributed to farmers each year."

NIABs contract to conduct trials under standard procedures and produce the Recommended Lists is constantly under scrutiny, he maintains.

One result of a specific procedures review a year ago is the new RL for spring oilseeds replacing the extensive descriptive list for the crop.

"The levy has never paid for interpretation of results beyond production of the Recommended Lists. There is a good argument that levy payers could pay more for that."

The NIAB handbooks draw on a much wider range of information, including National List trials funded by MAFF and breeders, he points out.

"If growers came back to us and said they wanted more interpretive information to be made available, of course we would respond. But if I was a levy payer already paying another organisation for more local information, I am not sure I should want to spend any more. I am not sure the demand is there."

Criticism that a full-blown RL for spring rape is unwarranted is misguided, maintains Dr Biscoe. "A lot of the developments in oilseed rape are taking place in the spring crop. We need to understand how best to manage these newer types of varieties."

By having a proper recommended list we are getting prepared for the future."