Closure of AFBI’s Crossnacreevy site described as ‘worrying’

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The decision by the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to close the Plant Testing Station at Crossnacreevy has been described as ‘worrying’.

Local farmers are being urged to stand up and argue against the AFBI proposal which was revealed yesterday together with a range of DARD cuts to funding.

John Gilbert, chairman of Germinal, the UK and Ireland’s largest privately owned forage seed business, has said the decision to close the site and cease plant variety recommended list trials is extremely worrying for the NI agricultural industry and the local economy overall.

Mr Gilbert added: “The outlook for the local livestock industry for the next two to three years is poor – with a major contributing factor being insufficient grass production and a reliance on expensive bought in feed. Faced with this, the proposal by AFBI to close the only independent centre providing grass variety advice to local farmers is all the more worrying. If we are to compete on a global playing field, then farmers must receive impartial advice on the best varieties, so that they can benefit from the huge economic gains to be made from grassland improvement.

“Furthermore, the proposal by AFBI to move independent testing of grass and clover varieties to the same site at which AFBI is currently breeding its own grass varieties (Loughgall) is not in the best interests of the local industry. Indeed, it is very unlikely that the CPVO (the European DUS Authority for testing plant varieties) would accept a DUS site at the same location where breeding of the same species is taking place.

“We urge local farmers to stand up and argue against these proposed changes, which will impact negatively on their businesses. Funding should remain with areas that are the most crucial for the future success of the livestock industry here. If the independent testing and Recommended List are compromised or ceased completely, the local industry will lose out as they will no longer be able to access information which enables them to choose the best material for their businesses to thrive. We would urge AFBI and DARD to reconsider these proposals as a matter of urgency.”