A new project at AFBI Hillsborough aims to find the most suitable energy crops to grow in NI.

Researchers held an open day last Thursday to showcase their new biomass energy crop trials which were planted as part of a UK-wide project, Biomass Connect.

The short rotation coppice and forestry crops planted at Hillsborough include miscanthus, willow, poplar, eucalyptus, alder, and hemp.

The trial site is unique across the island of Ireland as no biomass trial of this scale is planted elsewhere. Over the coming years, the crops will be assessed for their performance in NI conditions, with a range of information resources for growers set to be produced.

The Biomass Connect project was awarded £32m in funding from the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. It is envisaged that the outcomes from the project will be key to achieving significant UK targets set out in a recent Biomass Strategy.

The strategy has set a target to plant an additional 9,600ha of perennial energy crops and 8,900ha of woodland annually by 2030. This will increase to 15,000ha of energy crops and 10,300ha of new woodland a year by 2035.