Lists of the top cereal varieties recommended by the Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) have come in for criticism in the past on account of the fact the top varieties may not cope with Scottish conditions
However yesterday, Dr Simon Oxley of HGCA revealed they would be setting up a trial site in East Lothian to provide Scottish growers with more information appropriate to local conditions.
He said that HGCA currently operated two pilots for more localised trial sites, one in Cornwall and one near Oxford where there was the opportunity to look at varieties not on the recommended lists and also to work with local agronomists and students on how to get the best out of new varieties.
He added that part of the work would look at optimum levels of fertilisers as opposed to the maximum levels that are used in the trials for the recommended lists. “We really want to show growers how to get the best out of new varieties and part of that is providing more regional information,” he said.
The Scottish site will concentrate on barley varieties suitable for the malting industry and will involve working with the final buyers of the grain to ensure acceptability.
In publishing the latest recommended list yesterday, Oxley said that what was now obvious after two years of opposite extremes in the weather – a very dry start to 2011 being followed by an very wet 2012 – was that varieties had to cope with these major climatic differences.
“What we really want is not just high yielding varieties but ones that can cope with whatever is thrown at them by the weather,” he said. “Consistency is more important than yield.”
Having said that, he was pleased that a new generation of spring barley varieties suitable for the malting market had come through the system and their yields were well above previous averages.