The aim is to assess the relative yield, yield stability, morphological attributes and their response to environment, harvest index and seed quality of novel genotypes and varieties produced by novel breeding methods in relation to conventional varieties.
This work is providing a test of the hypothesis that a radical change in plant morphology and/or breeding method is necessary if the agreed high potential yield is to be consistently fulfilled. The novel types could only be evaluated, particularly for broad adaptation, by a joint effort. The main economic advantage of a variety with high stable yields would be reduced imports of soya or reduced subsidy to maintain existing production of EEC-grown protein. Also, field beans require much less input of energy per unit of protein than cereals, and a reliable bean variety would encourage the saving of nitrogen fertiliser on a much increased scale. The bean is a promising alternative crop now that cereals are in surplus.
During 1983 and 1984 the seed-producing participants of the project multiplied the novel genotypes and produced types of varieties by novel breeding methods which, it had been agreed, were of special interest for entering in the joint trials. The final plan, agreed on 21.11.84 was for 19 varieties to be entered in 13 trials, representing 12 locations in North-West Europe (Ebmeyer 1987).
The novel genotypes comprise varieties with a determinate habit, others with increased numbers of ovules per pod, or closed flowers or white flowers and tannin-free seeds. Some entries nodes, pods and seeds, and harvest index.
Trial designs were randomized blocks with four (or occasionally three) replicates. Special attention was given to appropriate seed rates and to the avoidance of inter-plot competition by the use of buffer plots between tall and short varieties.