Growing populations are placing an ever-increasing demand on agricultural systems to provide sufficient foods, particularly in the developing world. However, many conventional agricultural practices have proven to be unsustainable due to their negative impacts on wider natural resources and biodiversity. An alternative approach is ecological intensification, which utilizes existing ecosystem services to promote sustainable yield improvements.
Although there is a growing body of work on ecological intensification, most of this has focused on existing western conventional systems, aiming to reduce their intensity. Comparatively, little work has been done to explore the potential for small holder farming in developing nations to transition to larger scale operations sustainably using ecological intensification practices. Using a case study system chosen in conjunction with the PhD applicant, the project will explore the potential for habitat management interventions and on farm innovations to improve crop productivity by encouraging pollination, natural enemy pest control services or more productive soils. The project is fully transdisciplinary and will examine a range of ecological, economic and social impacts resulting from these management interventions and test their potential for wider application in developing countries. The project will give the successful applicant an excellent background in complex applied research and will provide a challenging but high impact research project that would be ideal for a career in research or policy.
The ideal candidate will have a strong understanding of a crop system that is currently undergoing intensification, capable of working directly with local farmers, a strong background in either ecology, economics or social science, strong written and spoken English. The project supervisors will provide full training in the latest methods. Project field work should be conducted in the candidate’s case study region but the candidate will be expected to based at the University of Reading in the UK to train and develop their ideas with the supervisors.
Applicants should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelors Degree or equivalent in a relevant subject.