IPSAM conference hosted in Belfast

Date published: 05 July 2023

Area of Expertise:

Irish Plant Scientists’ Association Meeting (IPSAM) is back up and running in 2023 with a meeting held on 26th and 27th June.

Delegates, organisers and speakers at the IPSAM 2023 outside Queen’s University Belfast on Day one of the Conference

AFBI and Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) had the privilege of co-hosting this event which brings plant scientists from all over Ireland together to provide a forum for research postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers presenting their findings to promote their future research careers.

The island of Ireland has a vibrant and wide-ranging community of researchers in the plant sciences spanning phytopathology, plant genetics and genomics, ecology, plant phenology, horticulture, forestry, soil-plant interactions, and rhizosphere science. IPSAM’s primary focus is to provide a forum to share research in the plant and crop sciences among the research community, particularly for early career scientists, across the island of Ireland and to foster future collaborations with industry stakeholders.

The ‘Irish Plant Scientists Association’ was initiated in the early 1970s by Matt Harmey, a former Professor in University College Dublin (UCD), and Eric Simon the former Professor of Botany in QUB. The two met at a conference near Wageningen in the Netherlands and regretted that, although close geographic neighbours, they had to go to the Netherlands to discuss common interests. They resolved to establish a common forum for all botanists on the island of Ireland and this resulted in the establishment of the first ‘Irish Botanists Meeting’. These meetings were held annually until 2020 when covid regulations necessitated a two-year break.

Speakers and Chairs of Session One
Speakers and Chairs of Session One
Members were delighted the 2023 event could go ahead in Belfast. To make the most of the opportunity, the hosts decided to hold the conference across multiple venues. Day one of the conference was hosted by QUB’s Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS), and School of Biological Sciences (SBS). This meeting covered a range of topics, from plant pathology to new phenotyping methods, and the soil chemistry underpinning plant growth. This day of presentations was followed by a canapé reception and poster presentation in the School of Biological Sciences foyer where students presented their research in the form of posters. Over 85 delegates joined proceedings to hear presentations from early career researchers, and established scientists.

Professor Elizabeth Magowan (AFBI Director) welcoming delegates to Day Two of the IPSAM 2023
Professor Elizabeth Magowan (AFBI Director) welcoming delegates to Day Two of the IPSAM 2023
The second day of the meeting was held across two AFBI sites. The first session opened in AFBI headquarters at Newforge lane, with a keynote speech from the head of the Sustainable Agri-Food Sciences Division, Professor Elizabeth Magowan. Professor Magowan gave an enthusiastic account of the current research in her division and her visions for the future. She highlighted the importance of plant research to the future of the Northern Irish economy.

Dr Jim McAdam, who retired from AFBI in 2018, was invited to speak on his agroforestry work which has been ongoing since 1988. This work is an interesting example of how sustainable land use and profitable agriculture can coexist to the benefit of the public. The theme of sustainably feeding the island of Ireland ran through many of the sessions at the conference, where researchers were excited to present new techniques in plant sciences which can improve lives across the country.

Dr Lisa Black (Head of AFBI Plant Testing Station) speaking at the final Session of IPSAM 2023 at AFBI Crossnacreevy
Dr Lisa Black (Head of AFBI Plant Testing Station) speaking at the final Session of IPSAM 2023 at AFBI Crossnacreevy
The final session of the meeting was held at AFBI’s Plant Testing Station in Crossnacreevy and coincided with the annual AFBI Arable Crops Open day with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). This session focused on plant varieties, the key research area in AFBI’s Plant Testing Station. Researchers presented work on topics including combating crop stressors and investigating multi-species swards before heading out to the field to see variety testing in action. Dr Lisa Black (Head of AFBI Plant Testing Station) presented an update on the progress in the InnoVar project, a H2020 project spanning 14 countries, and which is coordinated by AFBI. This project aims to incorporate new technologies to the plant variety testing system and improve efficiency

The future of IPSAM looks promising with researchers from all aspects of plant scientists enthusiastically planning upcoming collaborations. As Professor Fiona Doohan (UCD) told the attendees “You have to look to the past, to develop new technologies which will feed the future”.

Notes to editors: 

AFBI’s Vision is “Scientific excellence delivering impactful and sustainable outcomes for society, economy and the natural environment”.

AFBI’s Purpose is “To deliver trusted, independent research, statutory and surveillance science and expert advice that addresses local and global challenges, informs government policy and industry decision making, and underpins a sustainable agri-food industry and the natural and marine environments”.

AFBI’s core areas:

  • Leading improvements in the agri-food industry to enhance its sustainability.
  • Protecting animal, plant and human health.
  • Enhancing the natural and marine environment.

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