HGCAshould raise the current minimum disease standards for wheat varieties beingconsidered for the UK Recommended List, urges wheat breeding consultant BillAngus, who is calling on all involved with the UK wheat crop to wake up to someworrying causes for concern.
BillAngus, who is now a UK-based International wheat breeding consultant, led thehighly successful Limagrain wheat programme for many years: This was based ondelivering high yield potential varieties with good diseaseresistance. Think of the varieties that came from this strategy suchas Claire, Einstein and Alchemy and more recently Crusoe.
Butthe current situation with variety choice is not serving the grower as itshould do. In effect, the Recommended List is morphing into a DescriptiveList with no fewer than 45 varieties on the current version. I am totallysupportive of a Recommended List it has been at the centre of much of thesuccessful yield improvements that have taken place on farm. But now, as moreand more me too varietiesare being added, there is a real risk of it confusing growers instead ofguiding them.”
BillAngus has three specific areas of concern, and he believes these will be sharedby growers, agronomists and the seed trade.
Wemust look for excellence, not mediocrity, and one clear route to do this wouldbe through raising the standards which varieties need to meet before beingadded. This should be a phased operation over a number of years.
Mostimportant, and underlined by problems this season, we should look at raisingthe minimum septoria ratingfrom a 4 to a 5 as soon as possible. It is by far the most damaging foliardisease growers face – we see septoria everyyear and the problem is being exacerbated by early sowing and reduced efficacyof available fungicides. We need to move to a better balance between geneticand chemical control and this can only be done by raising the minimum standardsfor acceptance to the Recommended List.
Hewould also like to see higher grain standards being enforced: We need to raisethe specific weight standards as we all know that exporting grain is a key partof the UK wheat growing economy. On the continent where our competitors inthis market are located there is a wide acceptance of grain quality as animportant character to select varieties to be grown.
As a third proposal, he strongly supports the return of variety pedigreesbeing shown on the Recommended List: Many of the current varieties are soclosely related that growers may think that they are spreading their risk bychoosing different variety names, or even varieties from different breeders.However, they are often from the same genetic pool. A farmer would notconsider buying a new fungicide without asking what was in it so why buy avariety without knowing what varieties were used in its development?