Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced that the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) site at Crossnacreevy will remain open for the foreseeable future.
Ms McIlveen has agreed that Distinctiveness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS testing) for new grass and forage varieties will continue at the facility on the outskirts of Belfast, which had been previously proposed to close as part of a review of AFBI’s operations.
“I am delighted to announce that following a recent feasibility study I am endorsing the recommendation that grass and clover DUS testing should remain at the Crossnacreevy site meaning the facility will remain open for the foreseeable future.
"Improving the yield and utilisation of grass is key for the competitiveness of our industry as highlighted in the recent report of the Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy Expert Working Group and is a focus of work within AFBI,” Ms McIlveen said.
In 2015, AFBI carried out a review of its scientific functions as part of its 2020 Strategy to maintain and enhance AFBI’s reputation for scientific excellence and to increase its revenue from commercial activities.
Among the proposed changes was the closure of the plant and crop testing facility.
However since then a detailed feasibility study has been undertaken on the provision of grass and clover DUS testing and today’s announcement means that this key service for the forage plant breeding industry across the UK, will continue at Crossnacreevy.
DUS testing ensures new plant varieties are distinct from all existing commercially available varieties, uniform and stable to type. DUS is a requirement for National Listing and Plant Variety Rights. It must be carried out on all crops, with the testing distributed throughout the devolved administrations in the UK. AFBI is the designated Technically Qualified Body in the UK centre for assessment of DUS (Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability) in grass and clover species.
Finally, the Minister added: “I am also pleased to hear that AFBI is developing proposals on a new grass variety evaluation system in partnership with industry. A component of this proposal would involve Recommended List work at AFBI Crossnacreevy something which I have been advocating.”
Notes to editors:
1. 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.
2. DUS testing for grass and clover is currently carried out by AFBI at Crossnacreevy. As part of work on AFBI’s future estate, an evaluation has been undertaken, using a business case approach, on site location options for DUS testing going forward. Taking into consideration the relative costs of the options, the risks associated with them and relevant non-monetary issues, the preferred option is for the current DUS programme to be retained at the AFBI Crossnacreevy site.
3. A new variety of grass or clover cannot be marketed in the EU unless it is on the Common Catalogue, a compilation of all Member States’ National Lists, to ensure that new, high performing varieties are available to farmers. Plant Variety Rights allow breeders to control sale of seed and collect royalties.
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