Growers urged to talk to maltsters and distillers

Closer collaboration with end users – such as maltsters and distillers – prior to national list (NL) approval could help growers get the most out of new cereal varieties.

Simon Howell of RAGT called for closer co-operation
Simon Howell of RAGT called for closer co-operation

Speaking after a meeting with the seed trade in Edinburgh, Simon Howell, managing director of RAGT seeds – one of the “big four” cereal breeders in Europe – said that such an approach could help highlight potential benefits and iron out potential problems on the commercial side before growers had committed to a new variety on the list.

He said that this approach had been taken with the new soft wheat variety, Knightsbridge – and the very high spirit yield obtained by distillers, together with low viscosity residues had prompted the company to increase seed production in advance of NL approval.

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“While the list trials look at agronomic characteristics such as yield and disease resistance, it is the commercial end users who can have a considerable effect on the uptake of a new variety,” he said.

He also indicated that to get the best out of a new variety the sooner it was taken up by end users the more time growers had to benefit from the beneficial agronomic characteristics before these were challenged by disease adaptations.

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For Scottish growers looking for a replacement for varieties such as Concerto, which had suffered considerable problems from skinning this year, he said that while the seed house’s new wonder variety, Planet, which was taking the world by storm wasn’t ideally suited to the distilling market, using this variety as breeding stock held out huge promise for Scottish growers.

He said that while the variety was entirely suitable for the brewing trade, the fact that it was not a non glycoside-nitrile(GN) variety, meant it was unlikely to be taken up by distillers:

“However while we have non-GN varieties from this line coming through the NL trials, Planet itself could still take up a considerable acreage in Scotland as it offers a 7 per cent yield advantage over the widely grown feed variety Wagon – and a 12 per cent advantage over Concerto.”

• While interest in the use of cover crops has increased since they have been included in CAP greening measures, head of forage research with RAGT, Helen Wilson, said that the crop could be used to do more than reduce the loss of nutrients over winter.

A number of brassica crops, in particular, could be used as a bio-fumigant to control several species of pests, including wireworm and nematodes – capable of spreading other diseases such as sprang in potatoes and of damaging cereal roots.

Wilson said that to do this it was crucial that both the leaves and the roots of the crops were chopped to allow the glucosinolates which acted as the fumigants to be released.

“Being a biological process the effectiveness of the process can be variable – but some good results have been achieved,” she said.