30 June 2000

Sadness at response to GM for retiring expert

A LEADING agronomist, soon to retire, believes disease control will need both breeders and chemical companies for some while yet.

"It will continue to require a partnership," says Doug Stevens of Morley Research Centre. His key regret is that GM technology, which could help keep crops disease-free, is in danger of being stifled in the UK. "It allows breeders to do in a month what used to take years.

"I am saddened by the public response, which seems to have turned the whole thing upside down. We shall find ourselves left behind. People talk a lot about increasing disease resistance and some breeders are certainly helping. Claire has been a step in the right direction.

"We will soon see broader spectrum strobilurins with more eradicant action. But triazoles will still be needed in the foreseeable future."

His personal view is that the strobilurins success is largely due to their control of low levels of diseases other than those assessed by NIAB.

New UK problems like wheat mosaic virus could pose a threat. "But it is interesting that on the one farm that has it here it is over a huge part, yet it has not spread to neighbours."

Due to retire at the end of July, Dr Stevens plans to move to Cornwall to pursue his daffodil-growing hobby. &#42

Soon to switch his attention to daffs, Doug Stevens is saddened by the publics lack of enthusiasm for GM crops.