A newly introduced candidate winter barley variety on the AHDB Recommended List (RL) is gaining attention due to its early maturity and resistance to both type 1 and type 2 barley yellow mosaic virus (BaYMV) as well as soil-borne diseases.

Named Aretha, this variety not only yields high but also matures early, potentially becoming the earliest maturing variety on the AHDB RL.

Bred in Germany, Aretha is notable for its tall straw, which helps in forming a weed-suppressing canopy and ensures high straw yields.

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It also scores well for lodging resistance and is resistant to both BaYMV type 1 and type 2, which is increasingly important as awareness of Type 2 grows among farmers.

Lincolnshire-based seed supplier Cope emphasised the need for more BaYMV resistant varieties.

Although the agricultural sector has long managed BaYMV type 1, the impact of type 2 is less understood, according to the supplier.

Gemma Clarke, Cope’s managing director said: “Like type 1, BaYMV type 2 is a soil-borne disease that can be devastating, reducing yields by up to 50%

“It is often misidentified as a nutrient deficiency and can only be detected through soil testing.”

Symptoms of the virus appear in early spring after a cold period, spreading in distinct patches that expand annually.

The virus can remain in the soil for two decades, making the choice of variety crucial for effective management.

Due to the recent wet autumn, seed production areas have decreased, with wheat and barley seed areas down by 12-15% across the UK and winter bean areas by 30%, explained Ms. Clarke.

She added: “Despite these challenges, the UK is expected to have sufficient seed for major species without needing to import, as was necessary in spring 2024.

“However, growers are advised to order early to secure their preferred varieties, as popular wheat and barley varieties may run short.

“A limited amount of Aretha winter barley seed will be available due to early access, reinforcing the need for early orders."