According to geneticists at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) the long-standing ‘Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability’ (DUS) test which was formalised in 1961 to safeguard investment and reward innovation in developing new plant varieties needs to be re-visited.
The workers claim that despite the rapid advancement in crop biology, the DUS system has changed little over the past 60 years and remains largely dependent on identifying a set of around 30 morphological traits.
“In spring barley, for example, these traits include the “hairiness” of leaf sheaths and the number, shape, length and density of a plant’s ears,” said Professor Ian Mackay who led the research.
Commenting on the paper which was published in a recent scientific journal, Mackay said that things had moved on since the current approach had been adopted.
“Genetic markers, which use DNA sequences to identify possible weaknesses, are a far more effective way of assessing traits and introducing improved crop varieties and ultimately better yields.
“Comparing genetic markers to the DUS system is like comparing forensic evidence to a police line-up. Our study shows that, quite frankly, it’s no longer fit for purpose.”
He added that the new approach would also create a better audit trail of what went into a field, what came out of it and what went into the seed boxes sold to the farmers.