‘Challenge seed suppliers for as much variety information as possible’

The role of variety testing and why it’s important for growers to use the information when deciding on a variety was highlighted by Seedtech’s Tim O’Donovan recently.

Speaking at a recent Irish Seed Trade Association (ISTA) seminar in Co. Carlow, O’Donovan stressed the importance of variety choice and how it can have a huge impact on crop yield and quality.

“A variety that comes into the country that hasn’t gone through the Irish system rarely – if ever – makes it over time. It generally lets someone down with a bang.

A badly made variety choice is hard to correct. You can generally overcome mistakes with sprays and fertilisers, but a badly made variety choice can leave you in the lurch.

Screening varieties in Ireland

O’Donovan highlighted the fact that we must screen our own varieties in Ireland and cannot depend on research carried out in other countries.

The wet weather diseases aren’t really tested until they hit our shores. There is a unique high-input, high-output system in Ireland. We’ve got the highest yields, but we also have the highest inputs.

“We grow more plants because we have the rainfall and suitable temperatures. We also have a longer grain filling period in the summer.”

certified seed
Tim O’Donovan, Seedtech, and Donal Fitzgerald, Goldrcrop, presented a joint paper on certified seed standards and how the certification scheme is helping to deliver new varieties

O’Donovan added that “the law of the lever” comes into play in Ireland. The long grain filling period can lead to lodging. This is one of the most important characteristics that varieties are screened for in the trials.

The seed companies in Ireland carry out trials with new varieties.

“We’re taking small plots of wheat, barley and oats. We’re testing them and bringing them to larger plots. They go on to the field for demonstration and then to produce basic seed.

Every year, we’re managing thousands of plots to find new varieties. There’s a mountain of knowledge generated.

“All of the screening trials take varieties out before they go to the department trials. One or two varieties out of every 10 that we test go through to department trials.”

Know your varieties

O’Donovan stated that farmers should go and see these trials and get to know the different varieties.

Come and see the varieties at the open days. All of the companies have open days and it’s important to look at the varieties. The feedback from people is very important for the seed trade to progress forward.

“It’s important to challenge whoever you’re buying seed from or the department for as much information as possible,” he concluded.