David Johnston, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute’s (AFBI) grass breeding programme leader, retired on 31 July, 2018 after 39 years’ service. At AFBI Loughgall recently, past and present staff from across the Institute, as well as commercial partners, came to celebrate his career and wish him well in retirement.
David has always had a strong interest in grass - his family connections in the grass seed business go back over 100 years. In 1975 he took a summer job in the Grass-Breeding Section at Loughgall and while working there he was encouraged to study for a degree in agriculture at Queen’s University.
Over his career he managed the expansion of the AFBI grass breeding service and has been responsible for breeding over 900 grass varieties, with 40 of these making it through to Recommended List status. AFBI Chief Executive, Dr Sinclair Mayne, speaking at David’s retirement, commented that despite the relatively small investment in grass breeding in AFBI compared to that of the major rival breeding programmes on these islands, under David’s leadership the Loughgall grass breeding programme has exceeded that of all competitors.
AFBI varieties are now bred and tested nationally and internationally with the programme being commercialised through a strong AFBI-Barenbrug partnership, which David was instrumental in maintaining. With over 70% of seed mixtures in Northern Ireland containing AFBI varieties, and extensive use across the UK and Republic of Ireland, it is clear that David’s work has been highly successful and many livestock producers have benefitted. Furthermore, AFBI has had 10 new varieties of perennial ryegrass recommended by NIAB over the past 4 years – higher than any other breeder on these islands.
However, David is more than just a grass breeder. His life revolves around his family, he is actively involved in his local church and worthwhile charities and is a well-respected apple grower in his own right. The staff and management of AFBI now wish David well for a long and active retirement.
Notes to editors:
AFBI carries out high quality technology research and development, statutory, analytical, and diagnostic testing functions for DAERA and other Government departments, public bodies and commercial companies.
AFBI's Vision “Advancing the Local and Global Agri-Food Sectors Through Scientific Excellence”.
All media enquiries to AFBI Press Office
- AFBI's 'Woody plant' seminar maps the future for the local industry 16 January 2019
- Christmas Message from AFBI CEO and Staff 21 December 2018
- AFBI unveils Ballintoy and Gosford – new ryegrasses for spring 2019 21 December 2018
- Meet the Scientist - Dr David Patterson 21 December 2018