Robigus breeding legacy recognised with NIAB Cereals Cup award

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5.7.19

Robigus breeding legacy recognised with NIAB Cereals Cup award

NIAB, the Cambridge-based plant genetics research organisation, has awarded its Centenary Cereals Cup to the winter wheat variety Robigus naming it the most influential variety of the past 100 years.

Robigus was a nabim Group 3 variety which featured on the HGCA Recommended List between 2003 and 2011. Originally crossed in The Netherlands by Wiersum Zelder, it was selected at an early stage by CPB Twyford Ltd, now KWS UK Ltd. A cross between two breeding lines, it brought in novel yield and agronomic traits from wild emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccoides).

The variety was selected for the award by NIAB technical director Bill Clark, plant breeder Dr Phil Howell, and cereal variety specialist Clare Leaman. They considered UK cereal varieties from the past 100 years and assessed them in terms of agronomic value, market influence and lasting impact, most notably in their use in plant breeding programmes.

The award was presented to KWS UK managing director Andrew Newby at the Cereals event held in June. In presenting the award Mr Clark said Robigus was the clear winner because of the legacy it has left as a successful parent.

“It takes a truly exceptional variety to win the NIAB Cereals Cup in a normal year and we can go several years without making an award,” said Mr Clark.

“However, this year is a little special for NIAB as we celebrate our Centenary and we wanted the Cereals Cup to have a role in our celebrations with this once-in-a-lifetime award. There were many worthwhile candidates including Capelle Desprez, Hereward, Riband and Consort wheat and Maris Otter, Golden Promise and Pearl barley. But the variety that stood out was Robigus.”

In receiving the award Mr Newby and KWS wheat breeder Mark Dodds praised the contribution that Robigus has made to variety progression while recognising the investment in breeding that has made this possible.

“There have been many good and some excellent varieties over the past 100 years, but none can match the contribution Robigus has made to variety progression and it is fitting that NIAB has chosen to recognise this legacy with the award of the Cereals Cup,” said Mr Newby.

“Although a popular variety during its seven years on the Recommended List during which time about 200,000 tonnes of seed was produced, roughly equivalent to 1.1 million hectares, it was never the most popular variety of its time with both Riband and Consort both enjoying greater commercial success. It is its legacy as a parent however, that marks it out as worthy of recognition,” he added.

It was Robigus’s combination of attributes that marked it out as a variety with a bright future, recalled Mr Dodds. “At the time Robigus represented a significant yield progression being about 4% higher yielding than both Claire and Consort and it was also the first high-yielding variety to feature resistance to orange wheat blossom midge.”

Plant breeding is a complex activity and part of this is recognising which varieties will produce good crosses. “Many good varieties simply don’t combine well, but Robigus did and had many desirable characteristics. It produced high yields, plenty of tillers, high numbers of grains per ear and large grains. We describe this as good plasticity of yield attributes because they underline consistent performances.”

“Successor varieties from Oakley to KWS Santiago to KWS Kerrin and, this year’s RL candidate, KWS Kinetic, all demonstrate this plasticity of yield attributes so it seems the Robigus legacy will continue for many years to come,” added Mr Dodds.

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