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For anyone planning to grow forage maize this year, the first decision is whether to use plastic mulch or not.  For many this will be decided by their location.  A lot of sites in Northern Ireland are too marginal to risk growing this crop without the insurance of plastic mulch to warm the soil and protect the young plants until they are large enough to break through.  For those, however, who have good free draining soils on sheltered sites, the decision is not so clear cut.  The question that needs to be answered is “Why would I use the more expensive plastic mulch sowing system if I can often get as good a yield without it?”
Maize varieties sown by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Crossnacreevy in 2013 gave performances that were similar to the average of the past nine years (2002-2010).  This may not sound like good news but it was a massive improvement for open sown varieties compared with 2011 and especially with 2012. For plastic sown varieties, yields were much better than in 2012.
Dr Linda Farmer has recently returned from a short visit to the University of Life Sciences in Warsaw to discuss potential collaborative research on beef quality.
An international research team looking at innovative strategies for using agricultural land for wood fuel production held its 5th meeting at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Loughgall recently.
Dr Jill Euken, Deputy Director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University has visited the Environment and Renewable Energy Centre at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Hillsborough, Co. Down.
AFBI has hosted a visit by Defra’s recently appointed Chief Plant Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spence, at its Headquarters at Newforge Lane.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Veterinary Sciences Division wishes to advise sheep farmers of the likely risk of Nematodirus worm infection in young lambs occurring at this time of year.
Scientists from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) released juvenile wild eels into Hillsborough Lake and the wider Lagan catchment recently in an attempt to enhance the numbers of this species in the River Lagan system. This experimental stocking exercise was carried out using glass eels (young eels) sourced from the River Severn and paid for by the Lough Neagh Fisherman’s Co-operative Society Ltd, owners of the largest wild eel fishery in Europe.
This survey seeks to obtain information on current honey bee husbandry practices.
Following an exceptionally wet winter, the recent spell of settled weather has been welcomed by farmers across Northern Ireland. Fields that were waterlogged throughout February are now, in most cases, able to carry machinery and livestock. However, despite the exceptionally high rainfall during the last few months the winter was mild, and as a result, some farms are currently carrying good covers of grass. In these cases, consideration should be given to grazing these covers before grass growth really accelerates.  Decisions made during the next few weeks have the potential to impact on grass quality well into the grazing season. The AgriSearch and DARD funded GrassCheck project has returned to provide weekly grass growth information and to help farmers make informed and timely grassland management decisions throughout the 2014 grazing season.
A scientist from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Belfast has invented a revolutionary new process which could see carrier bags, packaging and even mechanical components made out of grass.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) recently hosted a major dairy industry conference.  The overall objective of the conference was to examine potential opportunities for growth in the dairy sector within Northern Ireland and to consider the role of research and development in supporting innovation and improved competitiveness.
The recently published Cereal Recommended List for Northern Ireland 2014 provides a comprehensive guide to varieties best suited for use locally. It is based on trials carried out by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) on behalf of DARD as part of the HGCA UK Recommended List trialling system and all the data presented in this article are based on variety performance in Northern Ireland. The yields of recommended varieties and other locally available varieties are presented in Table 1.
This event will bring together farmers, processors, researchers and other dairy industry stakeholders to examine the challenges and opportunities facing the sector in Northern Ireland, including how growth can be achieved through innovation.
The Potato Variety Booklet compiled by AFBI on behalf of DARD approximately every two years has been recently updated and published.  It has been made available as a pdf on the AFBI website: http://eservices.afbini.gov.uk/recommendedvarieties/potatoes/AFBI-Potato-Varieties-2013-14.pdf.
Annika Clements’ article on the work being done in the INTERREG IVB project “SPRES: Oil Spill prevention and response at local scales” was featured in the newsletter of the global International Spill Control Organization (ISCO).
Whilst on holiday recently, Dr. Louise Cooke took up an invitation to visit her counterparts at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture’s New Town Research Laboratories at the University of Tasmania (UTAS).
The new Cereal Recommended List for 2014 is now available from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), Crossnacreevy (028 9054 8000), from Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Direct Offices and on-line at www.afbini.gov.uk. This booklet is a comprehensive guide to cereal varieties best suited for use within Northern Ireland and is based on data collected from the extensive variety evaluation programmes carried out by AFBI Crossnacreevy and part-funded by the Home Grown Cereal Authority (HGCA) (www.hgca.com). Recommendations for spring and winter barley, spring and winter oats and winter wheat are given with a descriptive list for spring wheat varieties.