347 crop varieties – 175 cereal; 105 grass and clover; 25 winter oilseed rape; 20 forage maize; 14 potato; and eight spring bean varieties – are currently on trial by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Having an independent body to evaluate crop varieties is essential and the Crop Variety Evaluation (CVE) programme ensures that this task is carried out particularly well.

The trials are carried out at three main centres, including: Backweston Farm; Ballyderowan Farm; and Kildalton Agricultural College, as well as 25 commercial farms.

AgriLand travelled to the DAFM trials open day, which was run in conjunction with the Irish Seed Trade Association (ISTA).

Eleanor O’Gorman pictured at the open day. Image source: O’Gorman Photography

Variety testing

Varieties are treated as they would be on commercial farms. Observation plots are also present, which are not treated for disease and high-nitrogen plots allow crops to be tested to their limits. Anything that doesn’t make the cut is taken out of the trials the following year.

The department’s Seamus Kearney addresses cereal growers at the open day. Image source: O’Gorman Photography.

Varieties are tested for a range of different characteristics and levels of disease resistance. The different locations allow crops to be examined under varying conditions.

Varieties are tested for characteristics such as:
  • Straw height;
  • Resistance to lodging;
  • Straw breakdown;
  • Earliness of ripening;
  • Disease resistance;
  • Grain quality.

Varieties that don’t make the cut against the control varieties – which set the standard – will be discontinued from trials and won’t make the recommended list.

Varieties are also tested for suitability to different markets. For example, feed and milling wheat, as well as malting and distilling barley.