The University of Georgia’s newest pecan variety will be released next spring and has shown good resistance against scab disease so far, according to Patrick Conner, a horticultural scientist at the UGA Tifton Campus.“We always say ‘so far’ because the scab pathogen does tend to adapt to trees over time,” Conner said. “Currently, this variety has no scab in our sprayed orchards, and only trace scab in our unsprayed orchards.”The Avalon variety has been patented by UGA, and four nurseries in Georgia are currently licensed to sell Avalon trees. Conner said the variety is unique because of its size and quality combined with high scab resistance.“That combination of big size, high quality and high levels of scab resistance is fairly unique,” Conner said. “Most highly resistant cultivars are either small in size, or they don’t have the commercial quality we like to see.”The Avalon variety’s biggest benefit is the decreasing number of times growers will have to spray fungicides, which will save a lot of money. Conner said that growers of the Desirable variety, Georgia’s most widely grown variety, were spraying 12 to 20 times a season, depending on rainfall.“This variety would need only a couple of sprays per year,” Conner said. “It’s more profitable because you’re avoiding the expense of the fungicides.”Conner said the new variety will also help growers fight scab during a very wet growing season.“Even with full spray coverage on Desirable trees, in a really wet year, you could still get severe damage and crop loss,” Conner said. “Avalon gives you some assurance during a really wet year.”Avalon was developed by crossbreeding two scab-resistant varieties. Separately, the varieties lacked sufficient quality, but together they produced seedlings that performed much better. More than 100 seeds were planted from the cross.“We evaluated the trees in the field without spray,” Conner said. “The Avalon tree was the only one that had the combination of good nut quality and high levels of resistance. It’s really just a matter of making a cross, and then looking at enough seedlings to find all the traits you’re looking for.”Conner said that the Avalon variety should be adaptable to any part of the state. It will be most important to south Georgia growers because of the higher scab pressure in the southern part of the state that makes growing traditional varieties, like Desirable, very difficult.Pecans are a valuable Georgia commodity, worth more than $361 million in farm gate value in 2015, according to the Georgia Farm Gate Value Report, published by the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.“I’m hopeful that Avalon will allow growers to plant something besides Desirable that would need far fewer spray applications,” Conner said.
Source: Pension Protection Fund, JLT Employee BenefitsThe combined shortfall plummeted immediately post-referendum but has since recoveredJLT director Charles Cowling said earlier this month that the positive picture “masks ongoing challenges for a number of companies with large pension schemes”. “Actuarial valuations currently being conducted are likely to show a need for significant increases in cash funding,” he added. “This will come as a difficult message for both schemes and sponsors, at a time when the tension between funding deficits and paying dividends to shareholders has already spilled over.”The UK as an asset management hub Source: FE Analytics, Bank of EnglandEquity markets are up significantly in sterling terms, while Gilt yields are broadly flatThe MSCI Europe index has gained 18% in the past two years in euro terms, with the FTSE All Share up almost 12%. Sterling investors made additional gains due to the weakness of the UK currency: in sterling terms the MSCI Europe rose 31.5%, and the FTSE All Share gained 24.6%.The UK 10-year government bond yield has been volatile over the same period, but as of this week was at a broadly similar level (1.5%) to where it was two years ago. UK prime minister Theresa May signs the letter triggering Article 50Steven Andrew, fund manager at M&G, said: “The UK economy has surprised forecasters and investors with a strong resilience since the EU referendum in 2016. In spite of predictions of recessions and a nationwide slowdown, UK growth has been materially stronger than expected and businesses have continued to grow at an aggregate level.“While caution is still warranted as the UK negotiates the terms of its departure from the EU, the resilience of the market provides a number of opportunities for investors. Ongoing uncertainty during the negotiations will cause market volatility, which in turn presents attractive opportunities for patient investors in the UK market. In time, uncertainty will reduce and a number of assets will continue to demonstrate strong underlying fundamentals.” Scheme fundingThe Brexit referendum was not kind to UK defined benefit (DB) pension schemes. According to estimates from JLT Employee Benefits, the combined shortfall of private sector DB funds reached £503bn (€574bn) at the end of September 2016.However, asset returns and a weaker currency helped many schemes recover to much healthier positions. At the end of February JLT estimated the shortfall to be just £105bn, while the Pension Protection Fund’s monthly figure reported a combined deficit of £72bn. David Davis and Michel Barnier at a Brexit press conference in October 2017One of the main concerns – at least among UK-based asset managers – has been retaining access to the EU market. London is seen as an important access point for non-EU companies, and UK managers run hundreds of billions of euros on behalf of EU clients.Data from the European Fund and Asset Management Association (EFAMA) seems to suggest that the UK has yet to be significantly affected in terms of its market share.Luxembourg and Ireland continue to dominate in terms of assets under management – the two countries were home to €6.6trn between them at the end of last year. Source: Investment AssociationHow much UK investors have allocated to non-UK domiciled funds, and vice versaThe latest Brexit-related news and features from IPE are available here . Today marks one year since UK prime minister Theresa May signed the letter to the European Union triggering Article 50 of the country’s constitution and confirming the its decision to exit the bloc.Since then there have been tense negotiations, much political blustering and – finally – some agreements.As it stands, the UK will cease to be a member of the EU as of 29 March 2019. Politicians on both sides have agreed to a transition period running until the end of 2020, and talks are expected to start soon about the future trading relationship.IPE has looked back over the past year to discover what the decision to leave has – and hasn’t – done to Europe and the UK’s pension and investment markets. Source: EFAMAAs European assets have grown in the past two years, the split across the biggest markets has barely changedThe next few years could see this picture change. Already, a number of asset managers have begun moving staff out of London and expanding their EU presence – Jupiter, Aberdeen Standard and M&G most notably. In addition, cities such as Paris, Frankfurt and Copenhagen are positioning themselves to be able to accommodate financial services companies that choose to move away from the UK capital.Cross-border assetsData from the UK’s fund management trade body, the Investment Association, also indicates that investors outside the UK have not yet chosen to pull their money out of UK-domiciled funds.Similarly, UK investors have not pulled money out of non-UK based funds to any noticeable extent. Investment marketsDespite a big drop in stock markets immediately following the June 2016 referendum result, equities continued to rally through 2017, posting multiple records.