‘Woody plant’ seminar maps the future for the local industry

The organisers and chairs of the event: Mr Hamilton Loney (Northern Ireland Fruit Growers Association), Dr Elizabeth Magowan (Head of SAFSD, AFBI), Dr Richard O’Hanlon (Acting Head of Grassland and Plant Sciences Branch, AFBI), Mr Peter Archdale, Mr Stuart Morwood (Forest Service, DAERA)
The organisers and chairs of the event: Mr Hamilton Loney (Northern Ireland Fruit Growers Association), Dr Elizabeth Magowan (Head of SAFSD, AFBI), Dr Richard O’Hanlon (Acting Head of Grassland and Plant Sciences Branch, AFBI), Mr Peter Archdale, Mr Stuart Morwood (Forest Service, DAERA)

Recently the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) held a seminar to discuss the future research needs of industries reliant on wood based plants in Northern Ireland.

Woody plants are integral parts of the Northern Irish economy and environment.

They provide direct value through the sale of timber and fruit, and indirect value through providing ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, flood alleviation and recreational services. The AFBI led seminar featured presentations from experts representing AFBI, Queens University Belfast and Ulster University in Northern Ireland as well as Teagasc and UCD in Ireland. The seminar centred around the three research themes of forestry, ecosystems services and food production; with the presentations highlighting the current and future challenges and opportunities for woody plant production in Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the event, DAERA’s Chief Forest Officer, John Joe O’Boyle said: “Trees are a vital component of the environment and our forests and woodlands provide a wide range of important ecosystem services for people such as generating economic activity, providing recreation areas for our health and well-being and providing habitat for wildlife.

“Research is key to helping us gain a better understanding of the biology and ecology of these keystone species and how we unite the economy and the environment to contribute to sustainability.”

The event attracted over 40 stakeholders from 18 different organisations representing farming, the environment, forestry, science organisations and policy makers. Dr Richard O Hanlon, AFBI’s acting Head of Grassland and Plant Science, said: “The next step is to draft a prioritization document for woody plant research in Northern Ireland which draws on various stakeholder inputs, and which considers how researchers and stakeholders can best collaborate on future projects to maximise the impact of research for the benefit of Northern Ireland.”