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Arable farmers favour local variety trials over national demonstrations when making crucial decisions about what varieties to grow next season, says a survey. Regional trials’best for cropvariety decisions’

• Local knowledge and performance

• Assess different disease situations

• Growers see valuable opportunities

Arable farmers favour local variety trials over national demonstrations when making crucial decisions about what varieties to grow next season, says a survey.

The online questionnaire by plant breeders Limagrain UK saw an overwhelming majority (86%) of respondents say they regard information gained from regional variety demonstrations as more relatable than from national events.

“This is mainly because local events offer the chance to see how new and existing varieties perform in local soils, climate, and disease situations,” says Limagrain UK cereals and pulses product manager Tom Barker.

“Indeed,43% of farmers responding to the survey have attended a regional event with variety trials in the past 12 months, compared with just 28% that have attended a national event, such as Cereals or Arable Scotland.”

Major factors

Around one quarter of arable farmers have taken part in an online trials webinar, such as those organised by NIAB TAG or the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, according to the survey.

Some three- quarters of growers are prepared to travel up to an hour or more to attend a regional variety trial, Alongside the location, date and time, the quality of technical information on offer is a major factor influencing the decision to attend.

Growers value the opportunity to gather technical information on individual varieties, and how to grow them, says Mr Barker. But the ability to compare treated and untreated plots is also important.

So too is seeing how varieties perform under seasonal pressures. Other areas of interest include; late versus early drilling comparisons, different methods of establishment, alternative fungicide programmes and trace element or micronutrient work.

Most interest

“It is also clear from the survey that growers take information from a range of sources when making variety decisions, says Mr Barker. This includes independent bodies, breeders, agronomists, and seed merchants.”

Winter wheat varieties are generally of most interest, followed by winter barley, spring barley, oilseed rape and then minor crops. The vast majority (93%) would confidently select a variety based on what they had seen or learned at a variety trial.

“We organised the survey to find out what growers want from trials events, and how we can tailor them to their needs in the future,” says Mr Barker.

“It shows that growers base their varietal decision making on what they see or learn at demonstrations and trials, with regional events once again proving their worth as a place growers can go to gain knowledge and understanding of varieties.”