Varieties and genetics research for cereals and oilseeds

Our Recommended Lists (RL) trials provide information on the performance cereals and oilseeds varieties. AHDB also supports pre-breeding research to help deliver novel and improved traits to the varieties of the future.

The crop genetics challenge

The crop production environment is highly changeable. Because plant breeding takes many years, a sustained investment in research and trials is required. Through strategic collaboration, the industry can ensure that varieties of cereals and oilseeds continue to meet farmers’ agronomic needs and the requirements of a diverse grain market.

AHDB research focuses on:

  • Ensuring a successful route to market for new cereal and oilseed varieties with appropriate agronomic and quality characteristics (e.g. via the RL)
  • Maintaining crop profitability (e.g. maintaining or enhancing yield and quality)
  • Improving environmental sustainability (e.g. supporting the adoption of IPM)
  • Monitoring and investigating changes to varietal performance (e.g. caused by pathogen population change)
  • Delivering variety data in easy-to-use formats (e.g. via online tools)

Current crop genetics research activity*

Recommended Lists for cereals and oilseed (RL)

The basis of the RL first edition (1944) was a narrative description (by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany) of 16 wheat varieties. Since that time, the variety trialling project has evolved. Now managed by AHDB, it involves more than 400 trials – spread from Cornwall to Aberdeenshire – delivering vast amounts of data for 11 crops each year.

AHDB Recommended Lists for cereals and oilseeds (2021–26)

UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS)

UKCPVS continually monitors cereal rusts and mildews in UK varieties. When a change in virulence (ability to cause disease) is detected, the project determines the significance for resistance in RL varieties, in addition to varieties in trials and breeding programmes.

About the UKCPVS project

Scenario modelling for wheat cultivars

To simulate wheat yields under various scenarios, including climate change scenarios, this studentship project will develop and validate a model (Sim Farm 2030). It will apply cutting-edge, machine-learning, data-driven techniques to model the yield of wheat cultivars, as a function of meteorological (e.g. temperature and precipitation) and environmental (e.g. pollution and soil) variables. The final model will guide decision making (e.g. in crop breeding) and potentially reduce the requirement for costly variety trials.

A model for wheat cultivars and optimisation for climate scenarios – Sim Farm 2030 (PhD 2020)

Varietal resistance to cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB)

Despite clear benefits of varietal resistance/tolerance to pests, no varieties are available for the control of any pest in oilseed rape. However, studies have identified potentially useful genetic variations in CSFB adult feeding damage in laboratory-based ‘choice experiments’ and in the field. Furthermore, a laboratory screen for resistance against CSFB larvae found substantial differences in the frequency of adult emergence between the 40 lines tested, with some lines producing few or no viable adults.  As these results show the potential to breed varieties with greater resilience to CSFB, this project will:

  • Assist the identification and sharing of CSFB-resistant/tolerant germplasm (between breeders/researchers)
  • Develop protocols and genetic markers for resistance/tolerance traits
  • Facilitate the movement of key traits into market-ready varieties

Varietal resistance to cabbage stem flea beetle (CSFB)

Control of male fertility in wheat

A cross between two varieties increases the yield of the resultant offspring (hybrid vigour). Because of the need to ensure effective pollination and avoid self-fertilisation, the process is challenging. This project aims to develop systems to control and improve fertility in cereal crops. The study has identified key genes in barley and wheat that are critical for pollen development. The researchers will characterise fertility traits in various genetic pools to confirm their consistency. CRISPR gene editing is also being used – on a representative gene (HvTF1) – to see if the technique can produce plants similar to those modified via conventional methods.

Developing systems to control male fertility in wheat for hybrid breeding, enhanced pollen production and increased yield

Other current projects

Identification of fusarium resistance within UK oat breeding lines (PhD 2015)

Wheat germplasm for enhanced competition against black-grass (PhD 2020)

Yellowhammer: A multi-locus strategy for durable rust resistance in wheat

Farm-based organic variety trials network

*A report is submitted at the end of each project. After review (which can take several weeks), the final project report is published on the corresponding project page. At this stage, the project is official complete.

All crop genetics research projects

Information on all crop genetics research projects is available in our research archive:

  • In the ‘Sector’ drop-down box, select ‘Cereals & Oilseeds’
  • In the ‘Topic’ drop-down box, select ‘Varieties, breeding and genetics’

Visit our research archive

Recent crop genetics research articles

Reports of early wheat brown rust

Management of yellow rust in rapidly developing wheat

Does RL data back up pod shatter resistance claims? (news)

Rusts in winter wheat: UKCPVS update and new AHDB watch lists (January 2024)

RL trials and septoria: a changing view of genetic potential

Learn about the verticillium disease rating calculations (December 2023 news)

The new Recommended Lists (RL) is leaner and meaner (November 2023)

Speeding up cereal disease surveillance (May 2023)

Rust in peace: pathogens versus cereal varieties

Podcast probes RL review

Limited arrivals bring big boost to the Recommended Lists

Major review of the AHDB Recommended Lists gets underway

How damaging are wheat lemon blossom midges?

Sign up to the RL Harvest Results service

Lower nitrogen milling wheat PhD

A ‘ubiquitous’ future for early crop disease detection?

Septoria: ‘Cougar’ effect in RL winter wheat trials

Help us improve Recommended Lists (RL) services

Breeding wheat to beat yellow rust

How the RL will deliver for industry (five-year strategy)

PhD investigates the ‘hare’ (wheat) and the ‘tortoise’ (black-grass)

What is the value of BYDV resistance/tolerance in cereals?

Over half of winter wheat varieties resistant to yellow rust at the young-plant stage

Latest Recommended Lists features a record number of variety traits

Variety blend tool for winter wheat

Septoria disease rating dip revealed by early RL dataset release

Flea beetle fight gets fresh funding injection

Barley rhynchosporium resistance research advanced by PhD

Crop genetics research in action

Our Strategic Cereal Farms put cutting-edge research and innovation into practice on commercial farms around the UK.

Trials cover a variety of topics, including testing how varieties can help lower fungicide inputs in a cost-effective way.

Managed lower inputs at Strategic Cereal Farm West