As featured in Arable Farming Magazine
Have your say on future RLs
by Arable Farming Magazine January 2023 issue
For many farmers and agronomists, the Recommended Lists have become vital when choosing varieties. Andrew Blake examines how the lists may evolve.
In changing times, if you want to be sure the Recommended List (RL) system continues to be a reliable source of information on the best varieties to grow on-farm, then be sure to take part in the latest review of how they are created.
That’s the advice from the Dr Jenna Watts, AHDB, who led a 2018-2019 RL review and heads the board’s integrated pest management team (IPM) team.
“It’s vital we review the RL periodically to ensure it continues to meet the evolving needs of its users,” says Dr Watts.
The main RL project* runs in five-year phases and each includes a review, she adds.
Removal criteria “The new review covers every operational aspect including costs, trials, data types and analysis, selection and removal criteria, as well as presentation and communication.”
The results of AHDB’s recent Shape the Future and earlier reviews have emphasised the value of the lists, says Dr Watts.
The Look Ahead review, part of the 2016-2021 phase, highlighted the importance of the whole variety package, rather than the more traditional focus on yields.
In response, the way in which many traits, including those relating to disease resistance and lodging, changed.
“It also led to the development of enhanced digital formats, providing powerful ways to interrogate RL data, such as through the RL app and variety selection tools.
“Now, given rising input costs and concerns about the future availability of chemical control options, the importance of disease resistance in the recommendation process is one that is likely to be more closely examined.”
The challenges posed by climate change will also need to be considered.
“Certainly, the increased frequency of extreme weather prompts the need to consider varietal performance consistency.
Valuable results “This where questioning and investigating new ways of analysing existing RL data sets could achieve valuable results.
“The presentation and formats of the lists are particularly important.
It must be as easy as possible to select a variety suitable for your specific farm.
“In recent years the RL has launched new online tools and I hope that as a result of the new review we can identify ways to make it even easier to interrogate the lists.”
The overall aim of the RL consortium and its members is to ensure a successful route to market for new cereal and oilseed varieties with appropriate agronomic and quality characteristics, says Dr Watts.
“Such varieties will enable all businesses, from farmers to end users, to maintain the productivity and competitiveness of the UK cereals and oilseeds supply chains.”
The first phase of the review takes place during this winter and next spring, with activities including stakeholder meetings and focus groups, plus a questionnaire** which is open to everyone.
“It’s really important that RL users get involved as this is their opportunity to give their views on how the lists could be improved to meet their needs,” she adds.
New trial series In the second phase, beginning in spring 2023, results of phase one will be communicated and action planning will take place.
“We anticipate that some actions will be possible to achieve in the short to medium term, while others, such as introducing new trial series, could take longer.”
A steering committee – independent of the RL Board and Crop Committees – has been set up to oversee the RL review and the development of recommendations, she notes.
**A digital version will be published at ahdb.org.uk/rl at the end of November.
Robust review needed to address changing needs
The Recommended Lists have been the mainstay of cereal and oilseeds variety selection for UK growers for decades, says Yorkshire-based Patrick Stephenson, former chairman of the Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC).
“My role is chair of the review committee and I am a sector board member representing agronomists with the backing of AICC.
“Over the years we’ve had multiple reviews and recommendations for fine tuning.
“The recent vote has given us a steer to look again at the processes involved to see if we can address the challenges our industry faces.
We’ve become accustomed to a supply of pesticides that enabled growers to tackle multiple threats to production.
Disease resistance “We need to accept that this is no longer the case and part of this review is to look at the standards we use for disease resistance and claimed traits.
“Changes in establishment techniques must also be considered.
“The perfect growers’ wish list may not be achievable but aiming for that is part of this review which will examine all aspects.
“What will be retained is the strength of the processes and, ultimately, the consortium representing growers, breeders, and end users need to agree to them.
Testing systems “I’ve travelled to many countries and seen the problems caused by them not having robust centralised testing systems.
“We’ll be looking for an evolution of the lists, not reinventing them.”
*AHDB project 21130028 AHDB Recommended Lists for cereals and oilseeds (2021–26)
Managed by a consortium consisting of: AHDB, British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain (MAGB) and UK Flour Millers (UKFM)
April 1, 2021 – March 31, 2026
Total value: £22,229,529.
AHDB cost £8,282,000 Contributions to the Recommended List are made by member companies of the British Beer and Pub Association, MAGB, the Scotch Whisky Association, the Scotch Whisky Research Institute and UKFM, who conduct milling and distilling tests, plus ADAS, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland, the British Society of Plant Breeders, Campden BRI, Envirofield, Frontier Agriculture, Gold Crop, Harper Adams University, NIAB TAG, Scottish Agronomy, SRUC, Stockbridge Technology Centre and Trials Force who undertake contract work and supply advice.