Chairman of Stormont’s Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has said that the AFBI Loughgall site should be made a ‘centre of excellence’ given the success of its plant breeding and horticulture programmes and the effective way in which it already links in with the farming community.
The Loughgall site, which rests within Mr Irwin’s constituency, has an international reputation, providing specialist advice to farmers across the Province.
Mr Irwin stated: “The grass breeding programme here at AFBI in Loughgall in my opinion is one of the top grass research facilities in Europe and has provided local grassland farmers with an extensive range of varieties which are well suited to local conditions. Other aspects of the work, including the programmes on mushrooms and apples provide a great service to local industry, both here and in the Republic.
“For Northern Ireland beef and dairy farmers, grass is one of our natural feed products which can always be relied on. With farmers depending so heavily on grass crops as the primary feed source, it is important that the science behind grass and its impact on weight increase in cattle and milk production in dairy cows, is maximised to its full potential.
“Scientific trials conducted by AFBI Loughgall have shown certain grass varieties have produced an impressive 50% increase in grass yields and given the intense competition and financial strain on milk and beef production at this time, this increase in grass yields reported by AFBI is a significant step forward and adoption of these new grasses, combined with improved grassland management could make a major impact on local farms.”
He concluded: “The importance of this scientific research is invaluable to our industry and I have made the case on many occasions that this research should be prioritised by DARD and safeguarded given the very real benefits it brings to our agri-food production base.”