Data collection key to cereal sector

Harnessing the huge amount of data currently produced by commercial farms and building these into variety assessments could add to the robustness of appraisals in the widely used recommended lists, a cereal expert has claimed.

With some signs of growers breaching the yield plateaux which have been seen in the grain sector since the early years of this century, Dr Steve Hoad, who heads up the SRUC’s Scottish recommended list, said that while official trials produced much detail, there was a limit to the reliability of the information gathered from a small number of trial sites:

“But if we could access and make use of the huge amount of data which is produced on farm – through yield monitoring and other systems - we could draw conclusions which were much more robust,” said Hoad who was speaking after an SRUC/AHDB webinar on cereal varieties yesterday.

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He also said that while farmers had traditionally focused on yield, there was growing evidence that other key agronomic features were also being fed into the mix – and along with quality characteristics this also included disease resistance ratings, maturity date and untreated yields.

While the current colour-coding for a varieties performance in a particular sector allowed growers to assess the merits for particular situations, it was also hoped that a numeric scoring of a varieties overall agronomic merit could be added in future.

But Hoad added that other factors such as nitrogen use efficiency ratings could be added to the list as environmental considerations were likely to become more important in the future.