HGCA studies organics and underground
ORGANIC production and more attention to what goes on beneath the soil surface are novel features of the HGCAs latest cereals research and development strategy.
Launching the new document, , chairman of the cereals R & D committee Peter Limb said it came at a critical point for the industry.
With about £6m of levy payers cash spent on R & D each year, Mr Limb stressed its value. One recent Norfolk farm study showed a 6.5 times return on its levy investment.
"That is not bad considering it drew on results from only three areas – variety evaluation, fungicide use, and seed rate and sowing date." A similar exercise in Scotland showed a 240% return.
Support for organic cereals research is a novel feature under the new strategy, the first since 1995, reflecting growth in that sector.
"I do not believe that organic production will become a major plank, but it represents an increasingly important niche market," said Mr Limb. "There is a real market for raw materials for organic livestock."
The new organic work, evaluating winter wheat varieties for bread-making and animal feed, will be carried out by Arable Research Centres at the Duchy Farms, Tetbury, Glos.
Seed rates, weed control, grain protein and green manuring will also be studied.
"While returns in the organic cereal sector are potentially very high, so are the risks," says ARC director, Mike Carver. "It is vital that growers are provided with the latest information on variety choice and management to optimise yield and quality."
The HGCA estimates that about 10% of British farmers have contacted the MAFF-funded Organic Conversion Information Scheme, and the area under conversion from conventional methods now exceeds the total organic production area. *
HGCA CEREALS R & D
• £6m a year good value.
• New organic focus.
• Roots to be studied.
• Stronger communication.