A LITTLE bit of Portadown will be springing up in fields all over the UK, Ireland and further afield thanks to a Portadown teenager.
Sarah O’Reilly has given the name of ‘Seagoe’ to a new variety of grass, which has been bred in Loughgall and promises to be one of the top-selling grasses on the agricultural market.
The 14-year-old, who named the variety after her former primary school, is the niece of David Johnston, a grass breeder at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, situated in the grounds of Loughgall Country Park.
Said David, “I live just around the corner from the country park and Sarah spent a lot of time at our house when she was gowing up and was very aware of what I did in my job.
“When she asked if she could name a variety of grass I told her we would need to get approval for it first - and that approval has just recently been granted.”
Sarah’s ‘Seagoe’ variety joins a list of other locally developed and named grasses including Moy, Portstewart, Spelga, Donard, Tyrella and Navan which are to be found on farms in Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the north west USA and even parts of Chile, which is an emerging market.
Said David, “As part of the collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and grass seed company Barenbrug, local named varieties are tried, tested and used across the world. Each variety produced by AFBI at Loughgall is given a unique name after a town or landmark in Northern Ireland.”
The institute, which employs 65 staff and is part of the Department of Agriculture, is this year celebrating 60 years of grass breeding at Loughgall. Although the institute tests thousands of new varieties, David points out that only a small percentage of these grasses are selected for the market - so Seagoe’s success is something to be celebrated.
Seagoe’s selling points are its very high silage yields and high digestibility. David explained, “It has been grown and tested and has proved to be very productive. It produces really big yields, it has very good disease resistance and is good for grazing and making silage.”
The grass, which has been out on a trial basis, is expected to become one of the top selling varieties in the market, with lots of positive feedback coming from all over the UK and Denmark.
And with more than 70 per cent of agricultural development in Northern Ireland grass-dependent, David points out that grass is one of the province’s most valuable assets. However, patience is certainly needed, as grass breeding is a lengthy process, with 14 years the average amount of time before a bag of grass seed is produced.
Sarah, who was head girl at Killicomaine JHS last year and has just started Portadown College, is delighted that the grass is doing so well - and that her choice of name was approved.
As David explained, certain names such as those ending in ‘gh’, like Armagh or Loughgall, are often rejected as some nationalities such as the French find them hard to pronounce, but Seagoe is safe in that respect.
Sarah , who lives in Kernan and is the daughter of Janice O’Reilly and sister of Steven and Gary, can also take some satisfaction in knowing that local armers will be reaping the rewards of her personally-named grass.