Industry urges Recommended Lists to look beyond headline yields

A new, flexible variety trialling system that looks beyond the headline yields of the country’s top cereal crops is required by growers and users of cereals and oilseeds.

Feedback from UK growers has urged researchers to look into more of the other aspects of crop performance yields.

Look Ahead

Jenna Watts explained that the conclusion had been reached through AHDB’s ‘Look Ahead’ activity.

Look Ahead sought to find out exactly how the industry makes use of the Recommended Lists and identify how the variety trialling project can be improved.

More than 600 survey responses were considered as well as feedback from numerous stakeholders at events throughout 2018.

Jenna, who oversees the production of the Recommended Lists at AHDB, said: “One thing is clear, the industry is passionate about our world-class, independent variety trialling system and people want to see it go from strength to strength.

“There are many looming issues, including changes to weather extremes, disease management and government support, meaning this is the right time to look at how the Recommended List is produced.”

Responses were mainly from growers representing just over half of those who replied followed by agronomists who represented 19% of replies.

The survey found that the Recommended Lists booklet is widely used with 87% of grower respondents saying they consulted the list before planting.

The vast majority (90%) of both growers and agronomists rated the lists as an ‘important source‘ of information.

Although treated yields and gross output were considered to be very important by growers and agronomists, many other features were considered slightly more crucial, with ‘disease resistance’ topping the list.

Jenna said: “As chemistry is lost and efficacy is eroded by resistance, farmers put a greater value on varietal resistance to disease.

“In fact, the whole variety package, including regional performance and potential market premiums, is being looked at more closely.

Headline treated yield remains important, just not as much as it used to be – today, optimum and cost-effective yields, not maximum yields, are king.

Among the changes as a result of the Look Ahead review, four working groups have been established to provide advice on the direction of the Recommended Lists:

  • Resowing and recommendation process – This group will look at how the Recommended Lists strikes a balance between quality, yield, agronomics, disease and economic performance.
  • Number and location of trials – With 60% of respondents expressing a strong interest in regional performance data, this group will look at how trials are distributed and analysed to provide the most robust local information.
  • New traits and breeding advances – A wide range of traits were suggested for measurement within the Recommended List. This group will look to develop a flexible system that is able to prioritise and fast-track the traits most likely to bring the biggest rewards.
  • Communication and knowledge exchange – The potential to use digital tools, such as Harvest Results interactive, and enhanced regional event activity will be explored by this final group. Each working group will develop a costed action plan for consideration by the Recommended List Board in summer 2019.