|Bill Clark has worked with NIAB for many years, but it wasn’t until he joined as the Commercial Technical Director in March this year that he realised the breadth of work NIAB was involved in.|
It’s a bit like the question ‘what did the Romans ever do for us - apart from roads, sanitation, education, aqueducts, medicine...’
Ask a farmer or adviser what NIAB does and the majority will probably say ‘varieties’ and a few may say seed testing. They’re not wrong. Not only is NIAB is HGCA’s largest Recommended List trials contractor and carries out National List trials, but within our organisation are people who ‘know’ varieties – how to manage them and how to optimise inputs to get the best from them. NIAB TAG Network members, nearly 3,000 of them, fund additional variety trials across the country including how varieties respond when grown according to local farm practice.
NIAB has a long history in varieties and seeds, but has also developed a wide range of expertise in an increasing number of areas. Not only does NIAB ‘do’ plant breeding, it teaches people from all over the world how to do it too. NIAB works with scientists from CIMMYT – the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico, the John Innes Centre in Norwich and major plant breeders from all around the world. We’re working with ‘synthetic wheat’, or ‘new wheat’ as I prefer to call it – recreating the modern wheat plant (Triticum aestivum) by crossing durum wheat with goat grass (Aegilops tauschii) by conventional breeding rather than GM. It offers a whole new range of disease resistances and quality characteristics to breed into new varieties.
So what about pathology? When you hear about the new ‘Warrior’ yellow rust race or the new brown rust race on Stigg, how do we know that these are new races and something to be concerned about? And how good are SDHI fungicides on these new races – and should you be concerned about resistance problems in Septoria? NIAB TAG has all the answers and carries out the research on behalf of the whole industry.
As Network members – what does NIAB TAG do for you? Apart from detailed variety information, national and regional conferences, national research results, agronomy updates, new product guides, advice based on the largest independent research network in the UK....
And what’s that new NIAB Innovation Farm all about? Alongside a new conference centre in Cambridge opening in Summer 2013 NIAB Innovation Farm provides a major educational platform for industry, researchers and government, complementing NIAB TAG’s activities and taking agricultural science to a wider audience – part of NIAB’s plans to ensure we are at the forefront of practical crop science. Oh - and the Centre of Excellence for UK Farming (CEUKF) and Farming Futures - the award-winning communications initiative on climate change and sustainable agriculture... NIAB is a partner in those too!
NIAB Cambridge Open Day (26th June) seminar programme includes: