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Does crop diversification influence the physical and chemical traits that attract pests and beneficial insects?

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, February 10, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Crop diversification strategies such as intercropping and agroforestry are increasingly promoted as a means to enhance the sustainability of agriculture and ensure a stable food supply. One of the ways in which crop diversification promotes yield stability is by reducing pest abundance and damage and enhancing the diversity of associated beneficial insects such as pollinators and natural enemies of herbivores. However, the effectiveness of crop diversification strategies for pest control varies and is often context dependent. One possible but largely unexplored reason for such variability is the effect of heterospecific vs conspecific neighbours on chemical and physical traits of the focal plant which determine its attractiveness to pests and beneficial insects.

This project will explore differences in defensive traits (e.g. chemical and physical defences and volatile organic compounds that attract beneficial insects) in target plants surrounded by heterospecific vs conspecific neighbours and the effects of variation in above traits on insect herbivores, pollinators and natural enemies of herbivores. The project will involve a combination of meta-analysis of published studies and conducting experiments on herbaceous and woody plants (e.g. intercrops of legumes and maize in Africa and monocultures and mixed stands of trees in the Satakunta forest diversity experiment in Finland).

The project will be jointly supervised by Prof. Julia Koricheva (Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London) and Prof. Phil Stevenson (Department of Natural Capital and Plant Health, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew). The student will have the opportunity to gain a wide range of quantitative, analytical and field-based skills in chemical ecology, plant ecology, entomology, statistics and research synthesis.

This PhD project will be supervised jointly by:
1. Prof. Julia Koricheva, Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London
2. Prof. Phil Stevenson, Kew Gardens

Applicants are invited to contact supervisor(s) by email ahead of submitting their application. Further information about applying for a postgraduate course at Royal Holloway can be found here:
https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studying-here/applying/postgraduate/how-to-apply/

Applications should be submitted online:
https://admissions.royalholloway.ac.uk/#/HEapplicationForm////////1

Funding Notes

Shortlisted eligible studentship applicants, will be notified within two-three weeks of the application deadline. Formal studentship interviews will usually be held within three-four weeks of the application deadline.
The funding for the project will cover home/EU tuition fees and a yearly stipend.

References

Muiruri E., Barantal S., Iason G., Salminen J-P., Perez-Fernandez E., Koricheva J. 2019. Forest diversity effects on insect herbivores: do leaf traits matter? New Phytologist 221: 2250-2260.

Kostenko O., Muder P.P.J., Courbois M., Bezemer T.M. 2017. Effects of plant diversity on the concentration of secondary plant metabolites and the density of arthropods on focal plants in the field. Journal of Ecology 105: 647-660.

Moreira X., Abdala-Roberts L., Parra-Tabla V., Mooney K. 2014. Positive effects of plant genotypic and species diversity on anti-herbivore defences in a tropical tree species. Plos One 9(8): e105438.

How good is research at Royal Holloway, University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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