Mr Disgusted of Falmouth Has His Say


ARABLE EXTRA. More variety information, please! - FOL Today FOL Today


Tuesday 22 August 2000

The variety information available to cereal and forage growers at this stage of the season is inadequate and inappropriate, says West Country farmer Stephen Brooks.

Mr Brooks fired off a comment on the FOL Today Arable View What is the future of NIAB to the effect that the figures on cereals available on the NIAB Varplan were no use to farmers like him.

"The fungicide treatments used on the NIAB trials plots are real belt and braces jobs. No real cereal grower would ever consider using the rates and mixes that are used there", he told FOL Today.

"As a working dairy and mixed farmer, I need to know what will happen if Iím too busy with another job to get on at just the right time, or if the contractor doesnít turn up on time, or if I simply get it wrong!"

Mr Brooks wants the untreated yields to be published early alongside the fully treated figures to help him make decisions for the coming autumn.

"NIAB and the HGCA must show untreated yields - nationally and for the regions", he claimed. "The south west needs bomb proof disease resistant varieties that show outstanding untreated yields".

"What I am particularly looking for is a feed wheat that will be good for home feeding with a robust yield and very few inputs - ideally just one or two sprays - that will let me get on with the job of looking after the cows".

"Genghis, for instance, looked very good for that job, but they left it off the final list. I want to see all the information, so I can choose what is best for me".

NIABís national cereals specialist, Richard Fenwick, who looks after the Varplan data for FOL and others, says he has a lot of sympathy for Stephen, but is constrained by the logistics and economics of the present system.

"There is only a limited amount of data that we can get turned round quickly and published in a form that is easily readable", he explained.

"We simply couldnít get all the variations on the data that everyone would like at the time that they want it, and in a form that they can use it".

"I have to admit that we have always worked on the assumption that maximum yield figures are what most people want, but we are now aware that that is not always the case".

"The times they are aíchanging, and all of this kind of thing is up for discussion as we look at the future of the Lists, the trials and everything else".

Stephen is also concerned that the forage and maize Lists are not appropriate for farmer use.

"The information is woeful, and fails to serve NIABís main customer - the farmer".

"The forage and maize lists arrive one year after harvest - thatís disgusting. The grass tables themselves show no disease ratings, no water soluble carbohydrates - no digestibility mid season".

"The merchants have this information in their handbook - privy only to them unless you trap their fingers in a vice.. If ever there were a restrictive practice - this is it!"

"This is not really my field", admitted Richard Fenwick, "but the fact is that this information is paid for by the merchants, and they have the right to make use of it".

"All I can suggest is that Stephen should go to a merchant and ask to see the figures he is interested in".

Contact Stephen Brooks at, or Richard Fenwick at