Our recommended list system has been critical to the improved genetic potential of the crop varieties we grow in this country.
Each list provides a solid multi-site, multi-year evaluation of individual varieties before they are recommended to farmers.
For many years, the main basis for variety recommendation was that a new variety be equal to or superior to those currently in the market.
Farmers identified the improved genetic potential and used it to help maintain efficiency
To do this, the evaluation system uses a series of control varieties which change over time and new candidate varieties are judged against these.
Farmers identified the improved genetic potential and used it to help maintain efficiency.
This became increasingly important as Irish and European trade was fully opened up to competition from international imports.
The political influence
The political environment in which EU crop producers must now operate is hugely influenced by political decisions. Policy measures such as farm to fork, sustainability, the climate bill, etc, give rise to new requirements regarding pesticides, fertiliser constraints and biodiversity.
The future may dictate that we need other traits evaluated, which can help to reduce dependence on pesticides and contribute more to water quality
These now form backdrops to the political decisions that influence crop production policy in the EU. So, do our recommended lists need to change to reflect these?
For many years, the primary selection criteria for varieties on recommended lists were yield potential and standing power.
The future may dictate that we need other traits evaluated, which can help to reduce dependence on pesticides and contribute more to water quality.
These technologies become increasingly important as we lose families of chemistry and as nature fights back against humankind’s interference
While there are some measures that farmers can take to influence dependence on insecticides and herbicides, there is little that can be done in the battle against diseases without the help of genetic resistance.
Our ability to achieve many of these longer-term objectives simultaneously will be very limited, unless there is policy movement on gene-editing and other new breeding techniques. These technologies become increasingly important as we lose families of chemistry and as nature fights back against humankind’s interference.
Keeping seed produced
Our seed certification system, also operated by the Department of Agriculture, has been very important to the delivery of the new and improved varieties identified by the recommended list system.
Having high-quality seed, giving us access to these varieties, also provides many advantages and safeguards to growers.
The rapid spread of blackgrass is testament to the risks of non-certified seed and the Irish Seed Trade Association operates a series of higher voluntary standards in the certification process.
This is higher than the obligatory legal requirements set in EU law and it is put there because it is demanded by customers who are striving to keep their farms clean and free from unwanted grass weeds, in particular.
With imported seed often posing an even greater risk, it is increasingly important that we find ways to secure clean land for seed production
However, this is becoming an increasingly big challenge as tillage is concentrated in the same land which is increasingly infested with weeds that must be avoided for certification. This is seriously adding to the challenge of getting suitable land for seed production in this country.
As grass weeds such as sterile brome, canary grass and blackgrass proliferate (there are not very few fields that do not already have wild oats) they make seed production in such fields challenging because of the zero-tolerance requirement in the voluntary standard.
With imported seed often posing an even greater risk, it is increasingly important that we find ways to secure clean land for seed production to safeguard the high-quality seed standards of the varieties we choose to grow.