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Research Programme

The objective of the Crop Research Programme is:

To develop cost effective crop production systems, including crops for energy and bio-processing, which improve competitiveness, profitability and product quality, and minimise impact on the environment.

This objective is achieved through the implementation of research projects conducted in three sub-programme areas:

  • Crop Agronomy & Sustainable Crop Production Systems
  • Crop Improvement & Biotechnology
  • Energy crops and Bio-processing

Crop Agronomy and Sustainable Crop Production Systems

The overall objective of this sub-programme is:

  • To acquire knowledge to facilitate the development of productive, competitive, sustainable production systems for Irish arable crops.

To achieve this objective the sub programme focuses on:

  • Crop Yield: Maximising a crop’s yield potential is the primary production objective on tillage farms for both economic and environmental reasons.  The annual increase in Irish tillage crop yields, attributable to developments in varieties and crop production technology, is tending towards stagnation in recent years.  There is a need to develop our understanding of the soil, crop, management and climate factors that limit crop yield.  This will lead to improved agronomic practices to deliver increased crop yield potential.
  • Cost Reduction: To be competitive and economically sustainable in difficult and volatile markets, cost reduction and cost optimization strategies which are compatible with high yields are essential for profitable enterprises.  The costs of crop production in order from greatest to smallest are generally; fertilizer, disease control, seed, cultivations, weed control pest and lodging control.

Crop Improvement and Biotechnology

The objective of this sub-programme is to contribute to the profitability, competitiveness and sustainability of Irish agriculture by providing a platform for the continued development of improved varieties of forage, tillage and alternative crop species and to monitor the population structure of the major fungal pathogens in Irish tillage agriculture in terms of their ability to overcome fungicides and varietal resistance.

The specific objectives are:

  • To breed improved varieties of potato for a variety of markets and end uses.
  • To develop biotechnology-based tools for the genetic improvement of perennial ryegrass, white clover, potatoes and other crop species which will be “reduced to practice” in collaboration with the appropriate plant breeding programme.
  • To identify the genetic components and pathways underlying key traits in perennial ryegrass, white clover and potatoes.
  • To assess the impact of novel transgenic crops in Irish tillage agriculture. This encompasses providing support for policymakers, identifying the key GM traits suitable for the Irish tillage agriculture scenarios and developing management strategies for GM crops.
  • Monitoring the population structure of the most important pathogens in Irish tillage agriculture with an emphasis on their ability to overcome fungicides and varietal resistance.

Energy Crops and Bio-processing

The overall objective of this sub-programme is to develop viable bio-energy systems that will

  • Improve fuel security
  • Maximise sustainability
  • Create new revenue streams for farmers
  • Expand rural employment
  • Increase national wealth

To achieve these objectives the research has focused on the use of renewable biomass as fuel for engines and boilers. These projects have examined the combustion of a range of energy crops as well as grain and straw, the pelleting of these materials to render them suitable for domestic stoves and boilers, and the quality requirements of both liquid and solid biofuels. The development of efficient production of biomass feedstock which is well suited to these bio-energy processes has also been of importance.