News and Views - June 2017

AFBI Annual Stakeholder Open Meeting

AFBI’s Annual Stakeholder Open Meeting was held on 1 June at AFBI Hillsborough with over 100 of AFBI’s major stakeholders attending. This year the meeting coincided with World Milk Day and to mark this event, AFBI was pleased to welcome Dr Keith Agnew, Chief Executive of United Feeds Ltd and President of the Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association who provided the keynote address ‘The Importance of Research and Innovation in Dairy Systems’. AFBI speakers also highlighted key areas of current research.


More from Grass at AFBI Loughgall

On a beautiful Armagh day, more than 1,000 farmers, advisors and agri-food industry representatives came to the “More from Grass” event at AFBI Loughgall. Improving the production and utilisation of our best and cheapest feed was the motivation behind this event.


Application process for AFBI’s Free Soil Sampling and Analysis Service in full flow

On 31st May, AFBI launched a free soil sampling and analysis scheme. The scheme, which is funded under the EU’s Exceptional Adjustment Aid (EAA) Package, is being supported by the Ulster Farmers Union and CAFRE and closed on 19th June. As of Friday 16th June 2441 farmers had registered for the scheme. In total 65,175 fields have been offered for soil testing, well in excess of the 20,000 maximum. Although random selection will now determine which 20,000 fields will actually be soil tested, it is nevertheless really encouraging to see the renewed interest in soil testing that has been generated by the scheme.


BSE Status Update

On 25th May 2017 it was announced that Northern Ireland had been recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a region with Negligible Risk Status for BSE.  This is a significant achievement for NI which has been many years in the making and opens up new opportunities for NI beef to access a wider range of global markets.


Celtic Seas Cod Tagging Project

In an effort to better understand the distribution and ecology of cod in the Irish & Celtic Sea, scientists at AFBI, the Marine Institute and Cefas have joined forces to conduct a three year cod tagging programme funded by the European Commission. Despite significant efforts in recent times to help recover the Irish Sea cod stock through fisheries management, the spawning biomass has not responded as required.  To try and understand this issue, AFBI along with partners the Marine Institute, Galway, and Cefas, Lowestoft, have begun a European Commission funded 3 year programme of cod tagging in the Irish Sea and surrounding areas.


AFBI Evaluates ‘Precision Feeding’ Strategies for Dairy Cows

Researchers at AFBI have initiated a major new project to develop precision concentrate allocation strategies for dairy cows.  This three year project is co-funded by DAERA and AgriSearch, and is seeking to reduce production costs by better aligning concentrate feed levels with each individual cow’s changing nutrient requirements in early lactation.


EU invests €8.1 Million to aid Cross-border Environmental Recovery

The Special EU Programmes Body has announced that a new cross border environmental project, that will protect endangered species and restore natural habitats, is to receive €8.1m of funding under the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme. Welcoming the funding Mel Flexen, Project Leader within AFBI, said: “We are delighted to be involved in an exciting new cross border project to improve the conservation status of important peatland and wetland habitats. "


AFBI Eel Roadshow Entertains Toome School Kids

Sixty three pupils from St Mary’s Primary School, Bellaghy and St Oliver Plunketts Primary School in Toome recently received an introduction to the amazing science and biology of eels. AFBI’s Freshwater Fisheries team gave the young audience an insight into the mysteries of the eel and how the largest eel fishery in Europe, which is right on their doorstep, operates and exports to all over Europe.



Exhibition open at AFBI to celebrate John Clarke - a Potato Wizard

An exhibition recently opened in the library at AFBI Newforge to celebrate the contribution John Clarke (1889-1980) made to potato breeding.  The exhibition opening was attended by members of the Clarke family as well as staff from AFBI and AFBI CEO Dr Sinclair Mayne.


AFBI Students 'Share the Science'

How does the inclusion of white clover improve efficiency of dairy production systems? How can we evaluate the social and economic impact of emerging threats within aquaculture security? Answers to these and many other key policy and industry issues were addressed recently at the annual Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) Postgraduate Showcase “Sharing the Science”.


Meet the Scientist - Chris Johnston

I began working at AFBI in August 2012 so very nearly five years ago! My role is Project Leader in Environment & Renewable Energy research based at AFBI Hillsborough. Whilst the research programme that I manage is within Agri-Environment Branch, I am based at AFBI Hillsborough where the majority of the facilities for Environment and Renewable energy reside.



You can meet some of the AFBI Fisheries & Aquatic Ecosystems Branch (FAEB) staff during the Sea Bangor Festival on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th June. Throughout the weekend, Sea Bangor’s maritime themed festival will once again delight all with a host of activities including live music, food stalls, street theatre and impressive displays which the event is known and loved for.  AFBI FAEB staff will be available to meet in the AFBI promotional trailer at the Marina in Bangor over the two days of the festival.

Read more for some interesting facts from FAEB staff .....