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Natural pest control services in UK agroforestry

   Faculty of Health and Life Science

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  Dr S Zytynska, Dr A Varah, Dr J Hodgson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Combining tree rows into crop fields (alley-cropping agroforestry) can benefit natural pest control services by recruiting and establishing population of natural enemies, e.g. predators and parasitoid wasps, that consume insect pests. The continued use of pesticides has reduced natural enemy populations while pests themselves are evolving pesticide resistance. We also face increased chances of pest outbreaks due to a changing climate. We thus need to find alternative, non-chemical, solutions for pest control in our fields as well as providing increased resources to support beneficial natural enemies. This project will identify important species interactions that lead to increased pest control, explore how these can be exploited in cropping systems to maximise benefits, and understand how this knowledge can influence future policy making (in collaboration with Fera Science). The student will spend time both at Liverpool and the Natural History Museum in London, gaining from the diverse expertise available at both institutions.

We will survey invertebrate communities in field sites across the UK using standardised collection methods, such as flight interception traps, pitfalls, or suction sampling within both the crop and the tree rows. Additional ecosystem functions can also be assessed using rapid ecosystem assessment methods, such as artificial prey removal or predator marks on plasticine caterpillars to estimate predation rates. We can test specific interactions (e.g. competition effects) under controlled conditions in our greenhouse or growth chamber space. Also, in collaboration with project partners at Fera Science, we will explore how to incorporate the project outcomes into decision-making tools for farmers and policy-makers.

The ideal candidate will be enthusiastic about working outside, be able to identify common invertebrates, and have an interest in agricultural policy. Training will be provided in experimental design, data collection and statistical analysis using R, and invertebrate identification including using molecular methods for cryptic species.


Notes and how to apply are available here:

Funding Notes

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2021.

UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2020/21 UKRI rate £15,285)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2020/21 rate £4,407)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)

Note - UKRI funding only covers UK fees (£4,407 at 2020/2021 rate). A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2020/21 entry were £23,650 per annum.


Varah, A., Jones, H., Smith, J. & Potts, S.G. (2020) Temperate agroforestry systems provide greater pollination service than monoculture. Agriculture, ecosystems & environment, 301, 107031.

Zytynska, S.E. & Meyer, S.T. (2019) Effects of biodiversity in agricultural landscapes on the protective microbiome of insects - a review. Entomologia Experimentalis Et Applicata, 167, 2-13.

Senft, M., Clancy, M.V., Weisser, W.W., Schnitzler, J.-P. & Zytynska, S.E. (2019) Additive effects of plant chemotype, mutualistic ants and predators on aphid performance and survival. Functional Ecology, 33, 139-151.

Singh, A., Weisser, W.W., Hanna, R., Houmgny, R. & Zytynska, S.E. (2017) Reduce pests, enhance production: benefits of intercropping at high densities for okra farmers in Cameroon. Pest Manag Sci, 73, 2017-2027.

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