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Research Programme

Our focus is to underpin the sustainability of Irish cropping systems with high impact research focussed on improving competitiveness, profitability, product quality of existing systems, while investigating the potential of high-value alternatives.

To achieve this the field-based capabilities of the department are balanced with expertise in molecular biology, genomics-based breeding and disease diagnostics. Exploiting public/private partnerships the programme delivers and disseminates research-led knowledge to stakeholders to assist the industry address both near-term and long-term challenges. The below list provides some insight into our current programme of activities:

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) 

  • Understand the population structure of Irish grass weeds and profiling their resistance to herbicides in order to develop effective IPM practise
  • Design and deploy DNA based diagnostic approaches for pest profiling and abundance estimation
  • Investigate the incidence of leatherjack infestation following removal of chemical-control measures and identify novel control strategies
  • Quantify the importance of arable margins in controlling weed and pest incidence in cropping systems
  • Develop novel BYDV management strategies to offset the increased loss of chemical-based control measures
  • Evaluate the uptake and optimisation of IPM across the crops sector
  • Develop and appraise economic and environmental impact of IPM-based disease control strategies for cereals and potatoes

Sustainable Production

  • Investigate grower’s perceptions and experiences on a range of crop establishment systems from ploughing to direct drilling through focussed surveys (capturing agronomic, financial and environmental data) that will determine the factors which influence grower’s decision making
  • Determine the diverse impact on crop performance and soil structural quality of crop establishment systems through rotation systems
  • Quantify the importance of specific break crops (e.g. oilseed rape, faba beans, peas) via varietal selection and design of best practises to support their economic viability in rotation
  • Identify the suitability of alternative protein (e.g soya, lentils, lupins) and more climate resilient (e.g. quinoa) crops to Irish conditions
  • Understand the genetic control of key traits impacting forage quality and self-incompatibility in forages
  • Develop soil cadmium risk assessment models and deploy mitigation strategies and soil amendment recommendations to reduce uptake in medium to high risk soils for oats, potatoes and other horticultural crops
  • Enhance current understanding of cadmium bio-availability in Irish soils to allow predictive modelling of designed remediation strategies
  • Contribute to the development of novel rapid and portable detection systems for cadmium in soils, plant tissues and fertilisers
  • Develop new potato varieties with increased disease resistance and environmental adaptation that are commercially relevant for both domestic and export markets across fresh and processing categories in collaboration with IPM Potato Group Ltd.
  • Design and deploy genetic tools and genome-wide selection approaches to accelerate breeding strategies and support genetic improvement in potato, ryegrass, cereals and Sitka spruce
  • Monitor the evolution of cereal and potato pathogens to tailor current control solutions
  • Evaluate the efficacy of near-market fungicides for the control of cereal and potato diseases

Low input, climate resilience systems

  • Investigate parameters of crop growth, development and yield formation under environmental stress conditions to identify measures with the potential to increase resilience to extreme weather events
  • Evaluate pre-commercial cereal breeding collections to identify material better suited to Irish conditions, with a focus on low-input, climate resilience traits
  • Characterise genetic markers linked with key cereal agronomic traits of importance (e.g. disease resistance, flooding tolerance)
  • Investigate the potential of the plant microbiome to stimulate plant growth and improve overall crop resilience to a/biotic stresses
  • Identify effects of moisture stress at different developmental stages of crop growth on order to design management practices that mitigate impact of future climate forecasts
  • Ascertain profitable means of integrating cover crops into existing cropping systems
  • Improve nutrient use efficiency of crops through management techniques that support yields in light of future restrictions on fertiliser inputs
  • Understand future market needs and climatic environmental adaptations necessary to supply sustainable potato varieties both domestically and globally

High value opportunities

  • Explore alternative market opportunities for current crop derived/waste streams post-processing for production of novel sources of high value protein and/or bio-refining
  • Identify means of achieving malting specifications for barley, particularly for distilling use,  that are more consistent in light of increasing demand
  • Characterize the quality and variability of alternative Irish-grown grains aiming for higher value outlets.