Now that we have hard time to digest the new HGCA Recommended List for a few hours I thought it worth adding a few of my own thoughts. The first thing I would like to mention is the innovative way we could keep briefed on the release of the RL, this year I watched in anticipation via Twitter. Several press members were commenting on Tuesday from the press briefing but alas there was a press embargo until the Wednesday – nothing better to raise the excitement levels to tell people something but nothing. Then mid-way through the morning of Wednesday 16th November @HGCATweets tweeted a link to take us directly to THE NEW 2012 HGCA RECOMMENDED LIST on www.hgca.com. Sadly I was teaching at the time and I could not access it until lunchtime, but I have to say what a fantastic way HGCA and AHDB have for keeping us bang up to date with real cutting edge information. It’s not that long ago we used to be sat in the office eagerly awaiting the screaming banshee that was the fax machine (for younger readers – ask your dad!) to begin churning out the release from NIAB hq. To see the whole RL appear on your screen in full within seconds of it being released is a fantastic development.
In tomorrow’s blog I will begin to give my own comments on the varieties but today I will comment on the list in general. The information published on the list can be quite daunting however if you simply concentrate on looking at the varieties you are interested in it does reduce the cognitive load, and you can begin to be less confused.
It’s worth noting the agronomic characteristics of the varieties as they appear on the list, however I would like to you be aware that these varieties have been grown in a relatively restricted areas and have been exposed to less disease pressures than they will be. Once varieties begin to be grown on farm scale in a much wider geographical spread the diseases that affect the varieties will become more prevalent. As a result the disease ratings can often go down from say a 7 to a 6 or even a 5 over a few years. For example a new variety could be rated at say a 9 for mildew, meaning so far it has been seen to be fairly resistant of mildew in trials, so far. However once the variety is grown wider then it may become exposed to new strains of mildew and be affected by more disease pressure & as a result the rating may drop from a 9 to an 8.
That said, the ratings published and are genuine and it is clear that varieties are being bred with much better all round disease profiles. Increasing the disease ratings will result in reduced fungicide inputs.
You will also notice that the yields are published as a percentage (%) of control figure, not as a yield. This is so we can look at how a variety performs or yields when compared to the mean of a range of varieties (the controls) over a number of years.
- If the control yield figure quoted is 10.3 this means the mean of the control was 10.3 tonnes per hectare
- If an individual variety yield score is quoted as 100, this means that this variety will have performed at 100% of the controls i.e. 10.3 tonnes/ha.
- If the yield figure is say 106 then the variety has performed 6 % better than control i.e. at 10.92 tonnes/ha
Finally I would like to applaud the HGCA RL committees for removing more varieties than they promoted, as surely the RL has to be about the varieties being the best available and with developments in agronomic characteristics’ being bred in to new varieties it is right that older varieties with diminishing ratings or being outclassed by newer ones do indeed fall off the list. That’s not to say that these older varieties will not still perform on farm, of course they will and they will continue to be grown for a few years yet. To me the RL is about the top performing varieties. If all varieties continue to be listed we will continue to have an ever lengthening RL and this serves no-one any good.
One only has to look at the Forage Maize listing system to see how easy it is get things wrong.
I hope you find this useful, please do comment if you so wish.
Thanks for reading