Rothamsted Research

where knowledge grows

Agroecology

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

Research Teams

Weed Ecology and Evolution

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.

Pollination Ecology Group

Studying the movement and ecology of insect pollinators in agricultural landscapes and the consequences for their population dynamics and crop and wildflower pollination.

Perennial Biomass Crops

Focussing on optimising the sustainable yield and biomass composition of perennial non-food crops (especially willows) for bioenergy, biofuels and other industrial products.

Rothamsted Insect Survey

Rothamsted is proud to celebrate 50 years of monitoring aphid and moth populations. In the spirit of openness and collaboration, the resulting data openly available to scientists, farmers and the public. 

Insect Migration and Spatial Ecology

Using entomological radars, tethered-flight systems and large-scale field sampling programs to study the movement ecology and population dynamics of insects over large scales.

Radar Entomology Unit

A specialised radar entomology unit that provides technological solution performs cutting edge research in agricultural sciences, particularly in insect movement and spatial ecology.

Department Articles

Rothamsted wins Silver at the Chelsea Flower Show

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.

Publications

Peer reviewed publications from the Agroecology Department

See also

The State of Britain's Larger Moths

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. 

Wheldrake: 601 species in two years

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.

Hungry hungry beetles

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 humble willow basket to be remembered at First World War event

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.

State of Nature report: views from Rothamsted Research

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.

Seek and you shall find: bees remain excellent searchers even when sick

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.

Better off alone: biodiversity among soil microbes can be bad news for crops

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.

Researcher gets on soapbox to explain blackgrass threat

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.

Radar tracking reveals the ‘life stories’ of bumble bees

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.

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Studentships vacancies

  • 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.

  • How long does it take for recovery of soil processes from excess nitrogen deposition?

    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.

  • Interactions between migration and disease in an invasive crop pest

    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.

  • Blotches on the landscape: unleashing the plant microbiome to control Septoria diseases.

    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.

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Department People

title First Name Last Name Department Location
View Ms Maider Abadie Agroecology Harpenden
View Mrs Lynda Alderson Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Timothy Barraclough Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr James Bell Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Madeleine Berger Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection, Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Aimeric Blaud Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Dan Blumgart Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr March Castle Agroecology, Plant Biology and Crop Science Harpenden
View Dr Sergio Cerezo Medina Agroecology
View Prof Lars Chittlea Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Ian Clark Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr David Comont Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Sam Cook Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Duncan Coston Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Laura Crook Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Jennifer Cunniff Agroecology
View Mr Tom David Agroecology
View Dr Femke De Jong Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Andrea Dixon Agroecology
View Mrs Imogen Durenkamp Plant Biology and Crop Science, Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Steve Freeman Agroecology, Sustainable Soil and Grassland Systems Harpenden
View Mr Peter Fruen Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Qingling Fu Agroecology
View Mr Philip Gould Agroecology
View Mr Alex Greenslade Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection, Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Mike Hall Agroecology, Plant Biology and Crop Science Harpenden
View Dr Steven Hanley Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Richard Harrington Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Alison Haughton Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Sandy Hey Plant Biology and Crop Science, Agroecology
View Dr Penny Hirsch Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Gao Hu Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Richard Hull Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Frances Jones Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Chris Jones Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Angela Karp Agroecology Harpenden
View Mrs Tracey Kruger Plant Biology and Crop Science, Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Rodney Lacret Pimienta Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Jason Lim Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Claudia Lowe Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr William Macalpine Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr James Makinson Agroecology
View Mr Andrew Martin Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Timothy Mauchline Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Myles Menz Agroecology
View Miss Helen Metcalfe Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Melissa Minter Agroecology
View Dr Ramiro Morales-Hojas 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 Paul Neve Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Lieselot Nguyen Agroecology Harpenden
View Mrs Susan Parker Agroecology
View Miss Aislinn Pearson Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Sally Ponting Agroecology
View Mr Oscar Ramos Rodriguez Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Donald Reynolds Agroecology, Computational & Systems Biology Harpenden
View Ms Alice Roberts Agroecology
View Miss Rachel Rossiter Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Heather Ruscoe Agroecology Harpenden
View Ms Susanne Schreiter Agroecology
View Dr Ian Shield Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Christopher Shortall Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Matthew Skellern Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr David Steele Plant Biology and Crop Science, Sustainable Soil and Grassland Systems, Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Philip Stepanian Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Jonathan Storkey Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Jennifer Swain Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Mark Taylor Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Marco Thoma Agroecology
View Mr Martin Torrance Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Paul Verrier Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Charlotte Wainwright Agroecology Harpenden
View Mr Shang Wang Agroecology
View Mr Nigel Watts Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Trish Wells Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Carly Whittaker Agroecology Harpenden
View Dr Joe Woodgate Agroecology Harpenden
View Miss Karen Wright Agroecology Harpenden
View Ms Nicola Yates Agroecology Harpenden