NEWS: Winter wheat Skyfall and perennial ryegrass AberGreen are NIAB winners

11 Jun 2015

NIAB has awarded its Cereals Cup to the winter wheat variety Skyfall from RAGT and its Variety Cup to the perennial ryegrass Abergreen from IBERS and Germinal.

NIAB chief executive Dr Tina Barsby presented the awards to RAGT’s UK senior wheat breeder Celia Bequain and IBERS’ Director Professor Mike Gooding at the 2015 Cereals Event.

“Congratulations to both RAGT and the IBERS/Germinal teams. Varieties of all types of crops are reviewed on an annual basis by NIAB’s technical staff as candidates for the Variety and Cereals Cups. There were a number of strong contenders this year for both, with the winning varieties Skyfall and AberGreen showcasing the strength and diversity of UK’s premier plant breeding programmes,” said Dr Barsby.

NIAB Cereals Cup

The Cereals Cup, last awarded in 2009, is awarded to varieties that show outstanding merit and value in their marketplace, and can be awarded to relative newcomers to the market, particularly if they represent a step forward for the crop. It was first awarded in 1953 to the spring barley Proctor and past winners have included Einstein winter wheat in 2005, Pearl winter barley in 2004 and Claire winter wheat in 2001.

NIAB cereal crop technical specialist Clare Leaman explained that Skyfall was an obvious contender for the Cereals Cup, representing a significant step forward in winter wheat in closing the yield gap between nabim Group 1 and feed varieties. “Skyfall is the first variety since the spring barley Quench in 2009 that has met our strict Award criteria, with its combination of orange wheat blossom midge, PCH1 eyespot resistance, yield and approved breadmaking quality.”

RAGT’s Celia Bequain said “We are truly honoured to receive NIAB’s recognition of Skyfall’s attributes and benefits to the UK industry. Skyfall is a very exciting variety which has already raised much interest from both growers and millers. It is the first RAGT UK adapted variety to originate from our integrated approach to crossing, selection and screening and brings much needed genetic diversity to the UK’s bread quality sector.

“The growing interest in Skyfall and NIAB’s recognition reinforces the importance RAGT places on Pan European wheat research and the need to select for specific adaptation to the important UK market. The breeding of Skyfall should give confidence to the industry in the efforts we are making to breed genetically diverse, competitive varieties that offer the grower the best returns on investment. We are currently developing many more varieties across Europe which we hope will have as good a success story as Skyfall.”

NIAB Variety Cup

The Variety Cup, first awarded in 1986 to the cauliflower White Rock, acknowledges varieties that have made a major contribution to crop productivity through improved quality, disease resistance, grower return or commercial success, and can be drawn from the entire spectrum of horticultural, ornamental and agricultural crops. It was last awarded in 2011 to the carrot Eskimo.

NIAB forage crop technical specialist Simon Kerr highlighted AberGreen’s significant higher yield and quality characteristics in both simulated grazing and conservation management systems as major contributors to the variety taking the top spot. “AberGreen was promoted this year from provisional to full recommended after eight years of testing, and immediately fulfilled one of the Cup’s specifications for the ‘most improved, high quality, fully recommended variety’. It shows strong grazing performance in the summer and autumn, as well as having good ground cover scores and Crown Rust resistance, and is a very worthy winner.”

IBERS’ Professor Gooding said “I’m delighted that AberGreen has been chosen by NIAB as a winning variety. Our aim is to create grasses which exemplify IBERS’ aim of breeding for the ‘public good’, and are amongst the best on the Recommended List but with added benefits such as increases in water soluble carbohydrate which deliver animal performance improvements to agriculture in addition to environmental benefits.”

Bred at IBERS Aberystwyth University, and marketing through Germinal, AberGreen is one of the latest-developed High Sugar Grass varieties. It is the second perennial ryegrass variety to be recognised with the award of the NIAB Variety Cup, following the very first Aber High Sugar Grass AberDart in 2003. With its higher water soluble carbohydrate content but without a proportional increase in protein, AberGreen is described as close to the optimum forage protein-to-energy balance for efficient livestock production.