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Minister announces changes to Crop Variety Evaluation

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, has announced proposed changes to Crop Variety Evaluation programme following completion of an in-depth review by the Department.

As part of Ireland's Statutory obligation under EU Legislation for the marketing of agricultural plant varieties, the Department carries out National List trials on all of the major crops being grown in Ireland including cereals, grasses, oilseed rape and potatoes.

In addition to the Statutory function carried out with respect to National List trials, the Department goes a step further and carries out an enhanced programme of Recommended List trials.  These trials provide a comprehensive guide for Irish farmers in choosing the most suitable varieties for growing in Ireland.

The Crop Variety Evaluation work provides an independent service whereby farmers can be confident that the recommended varieties perform well under a wide range of growing conditions.  The contribution of improved varieties to increased production of wheat and barley is significant.  Today, Ireland is among the highest yield of cereals per hectare in the world.

Among the key recommendations of the review are restructuring within the Department to reduce costs, greater collaboration with Teagasc, changes to the cereal and grass trialling protocols and introduction of some cost recovery.

The Minister said "It is important that every avenue is explored to make savings, improve efficiencies and, most importantly, to improve the competitiveness of Irish agriculture production through the availability of the best varieties of cereals and grasses. Crop variety trialling costs will be reduced by over 20% by amalgamating two Divisions within my Department - Crop Variety Evaluation and Seed Certification Divisions - and redeploying a number of staff to other areas of work. My officials are in on-going discussions with Teagasc on making changes to both the grass and cereal evaluation protocols."

It is planned to introduce the new protocols in 2010. The grass trials will put greater weighting on grazing reflecting the increasing emphasis on low cost extended grazing systems for dairy and beef production. For cereals, the Department has agreed to include a number of Teagasc BETTER tillage farms as sites for trialling which will facilitate improved knowledge transfer to the commercial cereal growers.

The review recommends a contribution from industry towards the annual costs of providing the service. Charges for crop variety evaluation are in place in other EU Member States. The Department will continue to carry a proportion of the burden of cost.

The Minister concluded by saying that "My officials have commenced a series of consultations with all of the stakeholders on implementing the recommendations of the review."

Date Released: 11 November 2009