Sustainability, regeneration and biodiversity in agriculture

This research cluster is developing improved methods of cultivation, with nutrient recovery, low carbon agriculture, soil conservation and planting regimes, to enable long-term sustainability, achieving net zero-carbon, and healthier food.

Underpinning this has been a long-term systematic experiment (LTE) at Harnhill Farm - ongoing for 11 years - in which three regimes (plough, minimum till, and direct drill) and three crops have been monitored across 18 plots. This platform is used by our research cluster, to measure outputs from annual harvest, soil biology and worm density and micro-nutrients in soil and plant uptake enabling us to connect outputs, nutrients, soil health and cultivation methods. Soil health remains at the centre of our research in sustainable agriculture. By using this term, we are acknowledging that we regard soil as a living ecosystem and not just an inert base for agriculture. Measuring the reliance of the soil to changes within agricultural management, food security and climate change is a key research goal. Our research on the agri-ecology of woodland, field margins and hedgerows centres on their potential for biodiversity enhancement and carbon sequestration.

Cluster members:

Professor Tom MacMillan

Professor Mark Horton

Associate Professor Nicola Cannon

Dr Xianmin Chang

Dr Felicity Crotty

Dr Ian Grange

Dr Kelly Hemmings

Dr David O’Connor

Dr Henry Webber



Highlight projects

Current doctoral and MScR research projects

Shengjun Xu, PhD

‘Unmanned aerial vehicle for mapping weeds in field’

Caitlin Willis, PhD

‘Investigating insecticide resistance in UK populations of oil seed rape pests’

Lloyd Cockram PhD

Efficacy of farm swales in removing metaldehyde and other pesticides from surface water’

Sally Westaway PhD

‘Assessing the ecosystem services provided by trees on farmland’

Helen King MScR

‘Pollinator-plant interactions within semi-natural species-rich grassland versus planted agri-environmental wildflower seed mixes’

Jane Thatcher MScR

‘Horticultural no-dig soil health’

Yolande Booyse MScR

‘How does the intensity of tillage operations influence soil health and diversity?’