Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI)

A glacial depositional landscape with drumlins with an east/south east aspect. The soil is clay loam overlying Silurian shale and greywacke covered with grass and MS sword. A range of biomass crops were planted during spring 2023. The plans below show which crops are being trialled at this hub site and the updates further down the page keep you up to date with their progress and performance.

Address AFBI Hillsborough, Large Park, Hillsborough, NI, BT26 6DR.
Latitude, longitude 54.45193, -6.07249
Grid ref J 24344 57594 (of field)
What 3 words ref for entrance ///chairing.revise.headliner

Site Plans

Hillsborough Site PlanHillsborough Soil Sample Locations


Mean Annual Precipitation (mm) From 1991 – 2020. Mean = 918
Mean Annual Temperature (°C) 9.28 °C
Altitude ~120 m
Exposure Average wind direction 200.784 angular degrees, average windspeed 13.44 km/h range = (81.488 – 0).
Topography Glacial depositional landscape with drumlins.
Aspect East / Southeast.
Soil type The soil is a clay loam (42% sand, 24% silt and 34% clay), Cambisol (WRB), overlying Silurian shale and greywacke (Christie, 1987).
Current vegetation coverage Mainly all grass and MS sword.
Other relevant site info

Project plans/actions

Which biomass crops

Planted (as of August 2023)

  • SRC willow (6-way mixture) (~0.5 ha)
  • Miscanthus giganteus – Miscanthus Nurseries (~0.5 ha)
  • Miscanthus ‘Athena’ – Terravesta (~0.5 ha)
  • SRC Poplar (0.137 ha)​
  • SRF Poplar (0.125 ha)​
  • SRF Eucalyptus (0.114 ha)
  • SRF Alder (0.028 ha)
  • Black Locust Turbo (0.034 ha)
  • Black Locust Turbo Obelisk (0.031 ha)
  • Sida hermaphrodita (10.5 m x 7.7 m, 0.008 ha)​

To be planted:

  • Reed Canary Grass​ (10.5 m x 7.7 m, 0.008 ha)​
  • Switch Grass (upland ecotype)​ (10.5 m x 7.7 m, 0.008 ha).
  • Switch Grass (lowland ecotype) (10.5 m x 7.7 m, 0.008 ha)​

Variety trials​ planted:

  • SRC willow (2023)
  • Miscanthus (2023)​
  • Hemp (0.15 ha). [Separate AFBI trial planted nearby, not a Biomass Connect trial]

Variety trials​ to be planted:

  • Grasses (2024)
  • Hemp (2024) [Separate AFBI trial planted nearby, not a Biomass Connect trial]
Planting goals/aim Planting commenced spring 2023
Agronomic dates (planting, harvesting schedule)

Planting spring


  • SRC willow (cutback – 2024 – harvest 3 years later) (Or full harvest 2026)
  • Miscanthus giganteus (Late winter/early spring 2024)               ​
  • Miscanthus Terravesta ‘Athena’ (Late winter/early spring 2025)
  • SRC Poplar (unsure of which cultivar or is it going to be a mix? Rotation period to be confirmed)​
  • SRF Poplar (8 years?)
  • SRF Eucalyptus
  • SRF Alder ​(5-8 years)
  • Paulownia
  • Black Locust 1
  • Black Locust 2
  • Sida (late winter 2024)
  • Reed Canary Grass​ (early spring 2024).
  • Switch Grass (either winter 2023 or late winter/early spring 2024)​
  • ​Arundo (late winter/early spring 2024).

Some of the energy crops will have small amounts harvested for small scale lab-based AD trials.

Management methodology (spray off, nutrient additions, ploughing, site prep, others)

Leaving land as heavily grazed grassland over winter (due to regulations in NI we cannot leave land furrowed). Stale seed beds will then be created ~6 weeks before planting. This will include spraying (glyphosate 360g/l product at 4-5 l/ha), then ploughing followed by rotavating. Seed bed will be left and then sprayed (360g/l at 2 l/ha) once weeds are in 3-4 leaf stage and rotavated once more as close to planting as possible.

Once planting has been undertaken the plots will be monitored closely for weeds. And pre-em measures can be undertaken.

Following the guidance of the experts, SRF plots can be mulched at the base (bio mulch mat), tree protectors and spot sprayed if necessary.

SRC willow and poplar – post emergence sprays if necessary.

Pre-em spraying of glyphosate can be utilised for the seeded and rhizomatous crops if necessary. Also, post emergence spraying with authorised products for each individual crop and mechanical weed removal/ inter-row cultivation.

Machinery to be used  

General Info

Field management history The field has been previously permanent pastural grassland.
Other site detail of note  


Hub Site Update – AFBI Hillsborough – July 2023
July 2023 – Hub Site Updates The big breakthrough for the AFBI site in Northern Ireland was finally getting all the phytosanitary certification approved so that the Eucalyptus plug plants […]
Hub Site Update – AFBI Hillsborough – June 2023
May & June 2023 – Hub Site Updates 7th – 9th May, Willow variety trial planted Still awaiting word from RRes Harpenden regarding delivery of Eucalyptus plugs and the Sida […]
Hub Site Update – AFBI Hillsborough – May 2023
April and May 2023 – Hub Site Updates Eucalyptus has yet to be delivered / planted due to complications with importing tree species across borders. The Alder had been sourced […]
Willow Planting at AFBI Hub Site
Willow Planting at the Biomass Connect AFBI Hub Site in Northern Ireland
Hub Site Update – AFBI Hillsborough – March 2023
March 2023 – Overview of progress to date Remedial ground-work The grassland site was in good condition ahead of taking management control. Grazing of the grassland continued until glyphosate was […]
Hub Site Update – AFBI Hillsborough – February 2023
February 2023 We have sprayed the grass with glyphosate, where there was multispecies sward, we’ve sprayed with Glyphosate and Doxstar. We are looking to plough and cultivate next week to […]
Hub Site Update – AFBI Hillsborough – January 2023
January 2023 Risk Assessments for grazing, browsing and crop damage threats were undertaken. Planning to spray Near and Far White Hill with glyphosate in 2 weeks time to kill the […]
Hub Site Update – AFBI Hillsborough
December 2022 The land area has been fenced (stock proof) and is secure from outside influence. The site has been sprayed for docks and clover (Doxstar Pro). The site is […]



54.4518165 -6.07485 A F B I, Large Park, Hillsborough, UK