25 February 2000

RL system flexible, maintains NIAB

THE National Institute of Agri-cultural Botany is fully committed to making the Recommended Lists as relevant to UK farming as possible.

That is director Brian Leggs response to breeders criticism (Arable, Feb 18) that the testing system, with its heavy fungicide use and the subject of an HGCA review, is out of date.

"At a time when agriculture is changing so rapidly changes may be needed," says Prof Legg. "We are certainly not averse to change and want to improve the system where possible. But we have to be careful not to be influenced by those with vested interests.

"A wide range of evidence, including untreated yields, resistance to major fungal diseases, and suitability for end use are all considered when assessing variety performance." Regional variations and breeders written representations are also taken into account, he adds. "Experiments using half the RL fungicide rate show the ranking of the top 10 varieties is almost unchanged. So a farmer aiming for a relatively clean crop and using the fully protected RL yields as a guide would have chosen aright."

Gross margin data are not part of the RL system. "But we intend to make such information available to a much wider audience in the form of an interactive Internet model later this year." &#42