By Andrew Swallow
SWEEPING changes to the management structure of the Recommended List system have been announced by the HGCA.
Growers and plant-breeders initial reaction is positive, as far as the changes go.
The current cereals and oilseeds trials advisory committees will be replaced by individual crop committees for wheat, barley, oilseeds and “other cereals”, reporting to an overall Recommended List Management Committee.
Each crop committee will consist of up to 15 experts including breeders, growers and end users representatives.
Decisions on variety recommendation and testing protocols will be taken by the crop committees, and ratified by the management committee.
“They will be at the core of each crops trial programme,” says HGCA cereals committee chairman Peter Limb.
The RLMC itself will be a small, focussed body of nine representatives nominated by HGCA, NIAB, the British Society of Plant Breeders and organisations representing processors, such as NABIM.
An HGCA-appointed manager will act as technical secretary to the RLMC, and oversee the running of the new RL system and trials.
That person will be pivotal to the success of the new structure, say plant breeders.
A high calibre individual, free from historical institutional influences is seen as essential.
“The role of the manager is going to be critical. If they appoint the wrong person the system is doomed,” says CPB Twyford managing director John Blackman.
Nickerson senior wheat breeder Bill Angus echoed his comments.
“If they fill the post with another NIAB person it will be a complete waste of time.”
Overall he welcomes the changes, especially if it means competitive tendering is introduced for trials work.
That could mean more varieties are tested, on more sites, at no extra cost.
“The people that benefit from this reform must be the growers.”
PBIC cereals product manager John Howie believes the individual crop committees will help ensure independence and transparency in the RL decision-making process, and help the system keep up with the pace of change in the industry.
“One manager is a good idea too.”
The announcements have also been approved by NIAB.
“We welcome the changes that have been made,” says recently appointed director Brian Legg.
However, he would oppose proposals to end the untreated versus full protective fungicide programme trials protocol.
Norfolk grower and current oilseeds committee chairman Frank Oldfield believes the new system will ensure levy funds are used in the most efficient way.