Meet the Scientist - Dr Lisa Black

Date published: 24 November 2016

Area of Expertise:

I am originally from Lancashire, England and studied Applied Biology at Liverpool Polytechnic, specialising in Ecology and Agronomy. On completion of my degree I spent some time working for an agrochemical company assessing fungicide and Plant Growth Regulator (PGR) efficacy in cereal and legume trials.

I started my PhD in 1987 in the Plant and Soil Science Department of Aberdeen University working on N cycling in a Sitka spruce ecosystem.  In 1992 I travelled to Northern Ireland to start work as a Queen’s University Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Newforge.  I worked in a number of research areas including N cycling in grazed grassland soils, characterisation of mushroom compost and the evaluation of the development of resistance of cereal pathogens to fungicides.

In 2003 I started work at Crossnacreevy, primarily working in cereal variety evaluation for NI and the UK.   AFBI excel at cereal variety evaluation and carry out trials in 5 different cereal crops as part of the UK-wide AHDB trialling system.  The winter barley trial located at Limavady has produced the highest yields in the UK trialling system 3 years running and the winter wheat trial located there in 2015 was described as one of the best ever!  An important part of my work is utilising the variety trials to provide KT opportunities for NI cereal growers.

Dr Lisa Black pictured far left
Dr Lisa Black pictured far left
Although cereals are a relatively small sector in Northern Ireland, our yields can be outstanding and our trials really test the varieties in terms of straw strength and disease.  The wet and blustery weather in NI provides an ideal climate for the development of high levels of the most important cereal pathogens in wheat and barley.

AFBI, in collaboration with Teagasc and UCD, is part of an all Ireland monitoring project (MonPESC) to determine the extent of resistance of Septoria in winter wheat and Rhynchosporium in barley to current fungicide chemistry.  This project has highlighted the importance of using varietal resistance in the face of reducing fungicide efficacy against, in particular, Septoria in wheat.

AFBI is also a partner with Teagasc and UCD in a DAFM funded project called Cereal Improvement through Variety choice and understanding Yield Limitations (CIVYL).  This project has produced winter wheat and spring barley growth guides for the whole of Ireland based on results gathered from reference crops at three locations, one being at AFBI Crossnacreevy.  The project will also produce one of the largest databases on cereal agronomic data to date and includes data from Ireland (DAFM), Northern Ireland (AFBI) and UK (AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds).  

In a return to my roots I will be involved in a multidisciplinary, cross-branch project on soil health.  This exciting new DAERA funded project will commence in April 2017 and will run for 4 years.  The recent Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy for Northern Ireland entitled ‘Delivering our Future, Valuing our Soils’ identifies improving the health of Northern Ireland’s agricultural soils as a central focus of the strategy.  The aim of this new project is to identify how best to determine soil health by measuring a range of biological, physical and chemical parameters in a range of grassland and arable soils with known history.  There will be particular focus on use of organic manures and we will be utilising long-term experimental plots on both arable and grassland sites.   The project will also benefit from collaboration with AHDB, Teagasc and UCD and aims to be part of a wider push on achieving sustainability by improving awareness of soil health.  Effective Knowledge Transfer is a key objective, and this will be achieved in collaboration with CAFRE Advisors at a range of planned events throughout the duration of the project. 

In addition to project work, AFBI Crossnacreevy also provides cereal trial expertise and we currently have a range of trials in various crops for a number of commercial customers.

Facts about Dr Lisa Black:

Favourite book(s)?
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte;Espedair Street – Iain Banks

Do you have a pet?
Yes - Several

What is are they and what are their names?
Sasha the rescued Collie/Retriever; Neko & Mario the rescued Toms; Thumper & Cotton – our rabbits/lawn mowers; Tank full of guppies – no names.

What are your hobbies?
Forest runs, dog walking and crochet.

What 3 things would you put on your bucket list?
Climb some of Everest; Paddle down the Amazon; Retire.

If you weren’t in your current position what job/career would you like to be doing?
Work in an animal rescue centre.

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