NIAB has awarded its Centenary Cereals Cup to the winter wheat variety Robigus, naming it the most influential UK wheat variety from the past 100 years.
NIAB technical director Bill Clark, plant breeder Dr Phil Howell, and cereal variety specialist Clare Leaman considered 100 years of cereal varieties grown in the UK and assessed them in terms of agronomic value, market influence and lasting impact, most notably in their use in plant breeding programmes.
Mr Clark said: “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.”
Robigus was a nabim Group 3 variety which featured on the HGCA Recommended List between 2003 and 2011. Originally bred in The Netherlands by Wiersum Zelder, it was selected at an early stage by CPB Twyford, now KWS UK. A cross between two breeding lines, it brought in novel yield and agronomic traits from wild emmer wheat.
Accepting the Cereals Cup, Andrew Newby, KWS UK managing director said: “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 Riband and Consort both enjoying greater commercial success. It is its legacy as a parent however, that marks it out as worthy of recognition.”
Dr Howell said that Robigus was a successful commercial variety in its own right, combining high yield, bright grain and generally good disease resistance. Its resistance to orange wheat blossom midge, in addition to these other characters, meant that it was widely used by breeders in crosses, which is why it stood out as the winner.
Dr Howell added: “It was such a popular parent that 40 of the 80 Recommended wheat varieties since 2014, including RGT Gravity, LG Skyscraper, Gleam and LG Spotlight, trace back to Robigus. It is primarily for its contribution to the UK and European wheat pedigree that NIAB has awarded Robigus the title of ‘the most influential variety of the past 100 years’ and the 2019 NIAB Cereals Cup.”