INCREASED disease resistance could finally be at the top of farmers’ lists when it comes to choosing new cereal varieties, rather than focusing entirely on yield.
That was the message which Professor Fiona Burnett of SRUC gave at Cereals in Practice, held at Saphock Farm, Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, last week, where cereal variety trial plots with demonstrations took place.

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Visitors to Saphock were able to listen to experts on the latest varieties and see some of the trials being carried out on the unit

“We have been promoting integrated pest management for years but finally we are now seeing that the majority of growers are picking up on it,” said Prof. Burnett.
“Breeders have produced varieties with relatively good disease resistance but have not had the full support from farmers because they concentrate more on increased yields. However, with diseases becoming harder to control and input costs increasing, farmers are beginning to look more closely at varietal resistance.”
Prof. Burnett also added that if varieties are in an IPM programme they can be much better, with more flexibility in timing and dosages of pesticides.
The increase of barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) particularly in spring barley crops in the south of the country was underlined by Andy Evans of SRUC, who said that a warmer climate and mild winter had resulted in aphids increasing the spread of the disease.
He said: “There is consequently no protection for aphids and this could potentially give a yield loss of two to three tonnes per hectare. As well as this, a high proportion of aphids are now resistant to the pyrethroid sprays which are used to control them so the problem can only grow.”
Dr Simon Oxley who heads Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s recommended list said that new wheat varieties such as Hardwicke – recommended for the north of the country – and LG Sundance which are coming onto the market, give better resistance to diseases like septoria, yellow rust and brown rust.
“These new varieties suitable for growing in Scotland offer better untreated yields, with Sundance giving a 90% untreated yield and a 7.3 septoria resistance score, while Hardwicke has a 86% untreated yield and a septoria resistance score of 5.9.”
The impressive new spring malting barley, Laureate – which has overtaken three other new varieties which have been on the recommended list for longer and has a dual purpose of both malting and brewing – was praised by Dr Steve Hoad, also from SRUC.
“Laureate has a striking yield difference of 12% over Concerto,” he said. “A lot of money has been invested into the variety and it looks like we will see a transition in the next few years, with plenty seed available for next year.”

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However, Dr Hoad said: “It could get to a dominant position, taking 70% to 80% of the market like Concerto has done in recent years. It’s a transition of Laureate and Concerto which we will have to rely in the next two to three years.”
With regards to Brexit and the uncertain future of agri-science funding, those from SRUC commented that they were working internationally and therefore funding was very important to them. They also went on to say that their research was vital in helping farmers create a bigger drive for their businesses.
Prof Burnett added: “An event like today is very important as it engages with the public and improves communication within our industry.”

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Three crop mixes which are grown for biomass production, from left; peas, oats and Italian ryegrass; vetch, oats and rye; vetch, oats and Italian ryegrass