AFBI-Teagasc-QUB Partnership providing practical solutions to grassland farming

Date published: 13 May 2020

Over the next few weeks we will be releasing a series of articles on practical solutions to grassland farming as identified through a highly successful partnership between AFBI, Teagasc and QUB over the past number of years.

Professor Trevor Gilliland (formerly of AFBI)

In 2002, Professor Trevor Gilliland formerly from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Dr Michael O’Donovan from Teagasc, established a postgraduate collaboration with Queens University Belfast (QUB), with the aim of equipping agricultural graduates with the research skills needed to become experts in grassland and grazing systems.

In total 13 PhD students have now been supervised through AFBI and Teagasc, in conjunction with QUB, which is the awarding body for the PhD program.  Almost all were sponsored by the Walsh Fellowship fund.  Through this AFBI-Teagasc-QUB partnership the students conducted most of their experimental work at Teagasc Fermoy, Co. Cork, but also travelled to the Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute, Hillsborough, Co Down and to the Queen’s University Belfast campus in Belfast, to get specialist training and take part in student seminars.

The main supervisors within the programme include:

Professor Trevor Gilliland, formerly Head of Agriculture Branch, AFBI Hillsborough and who is an internationally recognised expert in grassland research.  Trevor was the AFBI/QUB link supervisor on all the PhD’s and took a lead role for AFBI in this AFBI-Teagasc-QUB PhD programme.

Dr Michael O’Donovan is Head of Grassland Science and leader of the Teagasc team. Michael is a leading scientist specialising in research aimed at keeping Irish dairying as competitive as possible by effectively using grass as the base feed. Michael was the Teagasc supervisor for Nicky Byrne and Tomas Tubritt.

Dr Deirdre Hennessy is a Lead Scientist based at Teagasc, Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork specialising in grass-white clover milk production systems, grassland management and grass growth prediction. Deirdre was the Teagasc supervisor for Stephen McAuliffe.

Dr Brian McCarthy is a Lead Scientist, also at Teagasc Moorepark, specialising in grazing systems research and focusing on investigating the impact of grass ploidy and the inclusion of white clover into grazing swards on spring milk production systems.  Brian is the Teagasc supervisor for Clare Guy and Bríd McClearn.

Prof Andy Meharg is Chair of Plant & Soil Science at QUB, with a long research history of investing how grasses and grass-like species interact with soils & the environment.  Andy is the University‘s academic supervisor on all the PhD’s.

Over the coming weeks you will be able to read about some of the key findings from some of these PhD programmes through short overview articles in the press and on the AFBI website.  The articles will focus on providing practical solutions and advances for sustainable grassland-based farming in Ireland.  The opening article from Brid McClearn highlights how mixed swards can be used to produce more milk.  Clare Guy reveals how white clover can enhance grazed grass production.  Nicky Byrne informs us about ‘what cows want’ from a grass-based system.  Stephen McAuliffe reports the benefits of grass-clover swards at the farm system level and Thomas Tubritt concludes the series of articles by revealing that cows have preferences for different grass varieties.

Read Article 1: Mixed swards make more milk by Brid McClearn

Read Article 2: Can white clover boost sward productivity by Claire Guy

Read Article 3: Grasses for grazing, what cows want by Nicky Byrne

Read Article 4: Sustainable swards for a sustainable future by Stephen McAuliffe

Read Article 5: Picky eaters: Cows prefer certain grass varieties by Thomas Turbritt

A mark of success of the PhD programme is evidenced by how these students are now taking their knowledge and skills into agricultural research or into key support roles for the agricultural industry.

Prof Andy Meharg, QUB
Prof Andy Meharg, QUB

Dr Brian McCarthy, Teagasc
Dr Brian McCarthy, Teagasc

Dr Deirdre Hennessy, Teagasc
Dr Deirdre Hennessy, Teagasc

Dr Michael O’Donovan, Teagasc
Dr Michael O’Donovan, Teagasc


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