PhD – UNIVERSTY OF READING, CRANFIELD UNIVERSITY, NIAB EMR AND SYNGENTA – Enhancing the sustainability and improving quality of apple production through ecosystem service management

FoodBioSystems DTP – PhD Project

Project Title:
Enhancing the sustainability and improving quality of apple production through ecosystem service management
Lead Supervisor:
Michael Garratt, University of Reading, Centre for Agri-Environmental Research

Paul Burgess
Cranfield University

Michelle Fountain

Claire Brittain

Project Description:
One of the main sustainability challenges faced by farmers today is effectively managing crop pests. This is a particular problem for fruit production where new and emerging pests are presenting a particular challenge for growers. Sustainable solutions are being sought including making better use of wild natural enemies and insect pollinators to improve crop yield and quality, increase output and profit for growers and reduce negative impacts on the environment. Natural enemies and wild pollinators, such as bees and hoverflies, however require habitats which are not always common in intensive agricultural landscapes. We need new and effective ways of managing farms and landscapes to provide habitats to support biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides.

The aim of this project is to understand what benefits flower margins established in apple orchards can provide in terms of boosting beneficial insects, improving crop yield and reducing negative environmental impacts. The project is a collaboration between the University of Reading, Cranfield University, NIAB EMR and Syngenta as well as working closely with the UK apple industry to carryout state of the art research to address an industry relevant challenge. This study will involve working in a network of apple orchards in Kent UK where habitats have been created to support pollinators and natural enemies. Work will involve biodiversity surveys, crop assessments and cost-benefit analysis to understand the potential value of habitat creation to the UK top-fruit industry and help develop tools to support sustainable crop production.

This project will provide the opportunity to work in a leading agro ecology research group studying sustainable food production. It will also provide excellent experience working with a number of applied research institutions as well as industry partners giving excellent academic and industrial experience.

Training opportunities:
This project provides unique training opportunities. The student will receive training and hands on experience in biodiversity surveys insect taxonomy, agronomy, cost benefit analysis and biophysical modelling. The PhD will also involve research placements with NIAB EMR and Syngenta

Student profile:

The student will have a relevant MSC in ecology, agriculture or environmental science. They will have entomological experience and an understanding of agronomy or food production systems. Previous work with natural enemies or pollinators will be an advantage. They will have experience doing fieldwork and previous experience working on farms or in agricultural landscapes is desirable.

Funding particulars:
This project is co-funded by Syngenta and will also involve close collaboration with the UK top fruit industry.

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