Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe talks to Dr.Steven Morrison

STEVEN Morrison is a scientist of growing repute at one of the few remaining UK centres of excellence in agricultural research.

Though only 27, Steven has spent a number of years working at AFBI (Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute) and has lived in the Hillsborough area for 22 years attending both Hillsborough Primary and Wallace high school.

Now a Higher Scientific Officer, Steven was appointed to the staff a few months after gaining his doctorate from the Queens University of Belfast. Today Dr. Morrison's research work covers a range of topics of practical value to NI farmers.

Upon graduating in agriculture he was one of the first postgraduate students to gain AgriSearch part sponsorship to assist in covering the cost of postgraduate research at Hillsborough, leading to a PhD. Without the support of Ulster farmers through AgriSearch, Dr. Morrison's expertise might have been lost to another industry.

I wake up around 7.30am shower and have breakfast before my sister leaves her daughter at our house for me to take her to the local primary school. Once I drop my niece off I head to my office around 8.30am.

The first thing I do is check emails which can be from fellow researchers or industry representatives from across the world enquiring about projects or collaborating with ongoing studies. Following this I usually then meet with the members of the heifer unit to discuss any issues from the numerous ongoing projects. Then I go into research mode. I work in Agriculture branch of AFBI, which was formerly the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland. The principle focus of the Branch is scientific research into sustainable agricultural production systems and their associated environmental impacts.

Currently, important issues include maintaining the efficiency of primary production at a time of rapid and dramatic change in the availability and cost of feed and other resources, while maximising the benefits obtainable through improved utilisation of farm manures, crop residues and dirty water. The foremost environmental issue of climate change has intensified public interest in exploiting renewable energy resources and reducing livestock production-related gaseous emissions and both features are key objectives of current Agriculture Branch research programmes. The Branch also continues to contribute significantly to research on animal health, animal welfare and food quality issues.

On a typical day I could be visiting farms throughout Northern Ireland in the morning, setting up research projects or collecting information. In the afternoon, I could be speaking to a group of farmers/industry representatives during a tour of Hillsborough's research facilities or in a boardroom meeting with potential funders of new projects.

During the remainder of the day I could be working on scientific papers, preparing a presentation for an international conference or designing the next project focused on improving the sustainability of Northern Ireland agriculture. Coupled with my PR coordinating responsibilities for AFBI, I am a member of the AgriSearch PR committee. Farmer run and farmer funded, AgriSearch promotes research into issues of practical value to Northern Ireland milk, lamb and beef producers.

I normally finish work between 5.30 and 6.30pm. If the weather is agreeable, I like to play golf, as often as possible with the remainder of my spare time spent socialising with friends and family. After catching up on the day's news and sport and reading the local papers, I head to bed around midnight.

Ulster Star