Our mission is to understand the ecological mechanisms that deliver sustainable crop production. We have expertise in movement and spatial ecology of pests and pollinators, above and below-ground functional biodiversity and weed ecology.
The Department specialises in experimental and quantitative ecology and produces high impact research from plot to continental scales. Our science is supported by a unique combination of facilities including the Rothamsted Insect Survey (National Capability), eight 'Classical' experiments as well as a 330 ha research farm, unique Vertical Looking and Harmonic Radars and insect behaviour and field labs.
Over 30 staff and students are clustered into five research groups.
Head of Department: Dr Angela Karp
Departmental Secretary: Karen Wright
Globally, weeds are a major constraint to crop production and food security. Research within the weed ecology and evolution group at Rothamsted is focused on understanding the ecological and evolutionary forces that underpin the establishment, persistence and spread of weedy (and invasive) plant populations in agro-ecosystems.
Our display on using flowers to minimise pesticide use and enhance biodiversity wins RHS award
Rothamsted scientists, Dr Sam Cook and Dr Jason Baverstock, have been awarded a Silver Flora Award by the Royal Horticultural society for their display on using flowers to minimise pesticide use and enhance biodiversity, in the Discovery category at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Peer reviewed publications from the Agroecology Department
The 2013 publication of the State of Britain's Larger Moths, in collaboration with Butterfly Conservation, highlighted the negative trend in moth populations in the UK but painted a mixed picture for individual species.
RIS light-traps don't just catch moths. Julian Small at Wheldrake (Yorkshire) has been identifying as much of the catch as possible and, in two years, has notched up 600 species of insect and a spider.
Carabids are ubiquitous in many landscapes, but can they lend a helping hand in agriculture? Do their eating habits serve a role?
Department Press Releases
The University of Hertfordshire’s Everyday Day Lives in War Centre and Rothamsted Research are holding a free event to celebrate the importance of the humble willow basket during the First World War on Saturday 12th November 2016.
The ‘State of Nature 2016’ report on trends in UK wildlife between 1970 and 2013 concluded that, across all taxa, 56% of species have declined in this period in all major habitats except urban and marine environments.
Despite the fact that a greater proportion of species associated with grassland, heath and coastal habitats declined over this period than farmland species, Mark Eaton (a lead author of the report from the RSPB) chose to focus in media interviews on agricultural intensification as the main driver of these post-war losses of UK biodiversity. This conclusion was based on a review of the literature and expert opinion on the drivers of population change of individual species using data from the previous State of Nature report published in 2013.
Honeybees learn the position of landmarks around their hive as they explore, which helps them find their way to rewarding flower patches and home again. When they first venture outside the hive, or when a beekeeper moves them to a new location, honeybees perform ‘orientation flights’ to explore and to identify landmarks efficiently.
A recent study found that decreased biodiversity of Pseudomonas, a genus of soil bacteria, is associated with a reduced severity of the fungal disease ‘take-all’ in second year wheat. The work revealed that disease incidence was linked to the wheat variety grown in the first year, and that this also had a profound effect on Pseudomonas species community structure. Now researchers have found that the useful activity of Pseudomonas strains that suppress take-all disease is severely reduced when additional Pseudomonas strains are present.
Soapbox Science is a platform for promoting women and the science that they do. From the Weed Ecology group at Rothamsted Research, technician Laura Crook took part in an event at Milton Keynes shopping centre.
Scientists have tracked the flight paths of a group of bumble bees throughout their entire lives in what is thought to be the first lifetime tracking study of any animal in such detail. The new study used a radar to show how individual bees explore their environment and search for food. The findings showed that individual bumble bees differ greatly in the way they fly around the landscape when foraging for nectar and pollen.
Characterising and predicting the impact of infection with deformed wing virus (DWV) on honey bees and bumble bees.
In social insects, such as pollinators, infectious diseases challenge the survival and effective function of both the individual and the entire colony. While pests and pathogens have been implicated in honey bee colony losses, concerns are increasing for the impact of emerging infectious diseases (EID) on wild pollinators and associated pollination service provision. Deformed wing virus (DWV) is vectored by the Varroa mite and is an EID in European honey bee colonies. It is known to reduce the flight performance of apparently healthy honey bees and its presence has been attributed to over-winter colony failure. DWV has recently been recorded in wild bumble bees, but little is known about its effects on mortality and behaviour.
The past 60 years have seen dramatic changes in the amount of atmospheric pollutants being deposited on semi-natural habitats. Between 1960 and 1990, industrialisation and the intensification of agricultural pollution led to large increases in the deposition of nitrogen (as well as sulphur) leading to acidification and eutrophication. This had a negative impact on plant diversity but also impacted the underlying below ground soil processes.
Many insect pests have the ability to migrate vast distances in remarkably short periods of time. This has significant implications with regards to their geographical spread and the transmission of the diseases they carry. There is a complex interaction between insect migration and disease, with evidence that the latter is capable of either promoting or suppressing migration potential. Understanding this interaction is experimentally challenging yet particularly important in pests that have recently invaded new territories and with which new migration routes may evolve.
Wheat is one of the world’s most important crops, but is prone to fungal diseases including Septoria tritici blotch (STB) and Septoria nodorum blotch (SNB). Fungicides have been the traditional way of tackling plant diseases, however, expansion of their use is not feasible and alternative strategies must be explored. One potential avenue of investigation for control of these diseases is utilisation of the plant microbiome, which is known to be important for plant health. This project aims to understand how these two major disease-causing fungal pathogens of wheat are influenced by, and influence the wheat microbiome, and whether the microbiome can be manipulated to suppress Septoria diseases. We will utilise a library of 70 fully genome sequenced wheat associated bacteria as well as fungal mutants with affected virulence phenotypes. As such, we will dissect fungal-bacterial-wheat interactions and gain a holistic understanding of microbial function in this pathosystem.
Getting to the roots of black-grass control: Crop-weed allelopathic interactions in Alopecurus myosuroides
Alopecurus myosuroides (black-grass) is a major threat to UK crop production. The evolution of resistance to herbicides in black-grass means there is an urgent need to develop novel control strategies. There is much interest in the potential for allelopathic interactions (the production of biologically active compounds by plants to inhibit growth of their competitors) to provide novel solutions for black-grass control. You will work with an interdisciplinary team to explore plant ecological and evolutionary interactions, chemical ecology and soil ecology. You will develop skills in plant, chemical and soil ecology underpinned by modern approaches in quantitative biology, analytical chemistry and soil metagenomics. You will develop fundamental scientific knowledge about basic ecological interactions, applying this knowledge to one of the most pressing issues in UK crop production. You will have the opportunity to work with one of the UK’s leading farm management consulting companies to realise the potential of your findings in agronomic field trials.
|title||First Name||Last Name||Department||Location|
|View||Miss||Madeleine||Berger||Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection, Agroecology||Harpenden|
|View||Mr||March||Castle||Agroecology, Plant Biology and Crop Science||Harpenden|
|View||Mrs||Imogen||Durenkamp||Plant Biology and Crop Science, Agroecology||Harpenden|
|View||Mr||Steve||Freeman||Agroecology, Sustainable Soil and Grassland Systems||Harpenden|
|View||Mr||Alex||Greenslade||Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection, Agroecology||Harpenden|
|View||Mr||Mike||Hall||Agroecology, Plant Biology and Crop Science||Harpenden|
|View||Dr||Sandy||Hey||Plant Biology and Crop Science, Agroecology|
|View||Mrs||Tracey||Kruger||Plant Biology and Crop Science, Agroecology||Harpenden|
|View||Mr||Andrew||Moss||Computational & Systems Biology, Plant Biology and Crop Science, Agroecology, Business Information Services, Sustainable Soil and Grassland Systems, Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection||Harpenden|
|View||Ms||Vanessa||Nessner Kavamura Noguchi||Agroecology|
|View||Dr||Donald||Reynolds||Agroecology, Computational & Systems Biology||Harpenden|
|View||Mr||David||Steele||Plant Biology and Crop Science, Sustainable Soil and Grassland Systems, Agroecology||Harpenden|