3 August 2001

Trials data caution urged

By Andrew Blake

BE extra careful when interpreting this years combinable crop trials results, say specialists. As the first Varplan figures on winter barleys emerge (see p56), the most unusual season in living memory is bound to throw up unexpected figures, they warn."We are expecting considerable variations and it is very important to be critical about the data when talking about differences between varieties," says ADASs John Garstang. "Its going to be possible to show almost anything you want."

The reasons behind outstandingly good or bad performance must be investigated thoroughly, he warns.

New two-row winter barleys, Carat and Milena, did particularly well at NIABs Cambridge, waterlogged site challenging six-row types for yield, notes Varplan co-ordinator Adrian Pickett. But at the Staffs and Kent sites, the latter sown on the same day as at Cambs, they performed poorly.

Initial Varplan figures show potential market leader Pearl down on its long-term mean, echoing Arable Research Centre findings. But 17 more trials could easily change the picture, says Mr Pickett. "Its still early days."

In some respects varieties especially successful this season could be considered more "robust", but that would effectively be gambling on a repeat of the extreme conditions, he notes.

"Pearl hasnt done so well with us this year but we dont really know why," says ARC director Mike Carver. "It certainly had more disease this season than last year, but not so much as to account for the difference in yield."

"Its been a very unusual season and nothing would surprise us," says Rodney Habgood for Pearl breeder Nickerson. "Conditions in some of our own trials were quite dire and growth patterns were highly abnormal. But Pearl has been on a par with other malting barleys. Its long-term results that count."

Recommended List six-row reject Jackpot is well up the Varplan figures. "Its also done well in our trials as has another NIAB rejected variety, Lagoon," notes Dr Carver. &#42

TRIALSCAUTION

&#8226 Highly unusual season.

&#8226 Vital to assess trials details.

&#8226 Pearl barley slightly down.

&#8226 Long-term results more important?