NIAB Outlines Proposed Changes for Cereals DUS Testing

6 Jul 2008

Leading plant breeders and officials from Defra PVS visited NIAB recently, to discuss proposed changes to the National List testing process for winter wheat. NIAB has been trialling a new system which would no longer require the submission of 300 ears as part of DUS testing.

Instead, it is proposed that the submission of ear rows should be replaced by a sample from the breeder, of threshed seed weighing 500 g and the bulk submission reduced in size to 1.5 kg. In DUS year 1, plots grown from the selected seed sample would be assessed for distinctness and uniformity, in both the main trial and the vernalisation trial. Seed from the 1.5 kg bulk submission would be authenticated against the selected seed. Plots will be assessed for distinctness and uniformity in the same way that ear rows were scored, using more easily seen ‘B’ characters in the field and detailed ‘A’ characters in the laboratory. In DUS year 2, a single plot will be drilled using the selected seed sample. Uniformity will then be assessed over the two years of DUS testing.

Jennifer Wyatt, responsible for Seed Certification and Agricultural DUS testing at NIAB, said “We have liaised closely with plant breeders and PVS, about potential changes being made to the present testing process after seeing it used in France. If approved, the new system could start from this autumn. She added: “We listened closely to what plant breeders said last year when the idea was first proposed and so far, the feedback has been very positive.”

NIAB hosted an Open Day for plant breeders and PVS officials, as well delegates from the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government, to illustrate plot findings and the likely impact of moving to a plot system. It was also attended by the British Society of Plant Breeders.

Jack Edgley, Defra PVS team leader for National Listing and Plant Breeders’ Rights, said these were innovative proposals that needed the support of plant breeders before we could implement any changes. He said: “Getting the plant breeders out there in the field, looking at some of the problems, and listening to our proposals, is the best way of taking these things forward. NIAB hosted this event for Defra and I think it has gone very well.

“We have asked BSPB, which represents 99% of cereal breeding in the UK, to discuss this with their membership and they will put forward a comment either agreeing to this scheme, or not. I think we are optimistic they will support the proposal and if that is the case, we will instigate it for the next round of applications which will be this autumn.” Mr Edgley said it would be a more cost effective system as it no longer required the time-consuming threshing out of 300 single ears which was done by hand.

Jim Duncumb, European Registration Manager for Syngenta Seeds, said he had found the Open Day very helpful.

He said: “What we, as breeders, are looking for is a system which from our point of view is fair and cheap. I’ve learnt about the proposals from the National List and Seeds Committee: the new system for plots rather than ear rows and the new standards proposed. It has been good to see how this has been applied in the field on an experimental basis.

“I am very much in favour of the proposed changes for both the financial benefit as well as more technical and operational reasons.”

Further information is available from Jennifer Wyatt