Major review of the AHDB Recommended Lists gets underway

The first phase of a major review of the Recommended Lists for cereals and oilseeds (RL) is taking place this winter.

Initially, people are being asked to complete a questionnaire as part of efforts to improve the variety trialling project.

The announcement follows a strong endorsement of the RL by levy payers in spring 2022, where the project scored 4.2/5.0 for importance during the Shape the future process, and a pledge by the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds sector council to conduct a major review of the RL in its five-year sector plan.

Jenna Watts, AHDB Head of Crop Health and IPM, said: “We need to hear from farmers to help us hone the RL so it continues to fit the complex decision-making needs of modern farming businesses.

“This is a thorough review and will leave no stone unturned. It will cover many aspects, from the type and nature of the trials to the way data is analysed and variety decisions are made. It will also investigate how results reach farmers and ensure that the RL continues to deliver the best value to industry.”

Typically, the main RL project runs in five-year phases, with a large-scale public review conducted during each project phase to inform subsequent activity.

During the previous project phase (2016–21), AHDB conducted the ‘Look Ahead’ review. This highlighted the importance of the whole variety package rather than the more traditional focus on yields. In response, the RL changed the way it assessed many traits, including disease resistance and lodging traits. It also led to the development of enhanced digital formats, providing powerful ways to view RL data, such as through the RL app and variety selection tools.

The questionnaire, which can be accessed on the AHDB website by clicking on the QR Code, focuses on levy payer requirements. However, in-depth discussions will also take place at stakeholder meetings and focus groups over the winter to capture the wider requirements of the industry.

A dedicated review steering committee has been established to lead the project and provide recommendations to AHDB on potential improvements to the RL.

Patrick Stephenson, independent crop consultant, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds sector council member and chair of the RL wheat crop committee, has been appointed to lead the review steering committee.

Patrick said: “This review looks forward and aims to keep the RL robust in the face of numerous challenges facing the industry. With constraints on budgets and small-plot trials, it is not possible to do everything. However, the review will help us focus activity. I am particularly keen to squeeze every ounce of value out of data to make the RL even more relevant to farmers.”

The questionnaire is open until 17 February 2023, with initial results due to be published next spring.

The results will inform the next phase of the review, which involves planning and costing the actions required to improve the RL over the short, medium, and long term.