Agriculture, Policy and Development Research Interests

Current Research Interests :
Crop Science
Sustainable cropping systems
Climate Change
 Seed Science and systems
Animal Science 
Animal-derived food products
Human nutrition
Agricultural Development Economics
Agricultural Economics and Policy
Farm Management
Food Economics
Information, Knowledge and Communication
Life-Course Analysis and Livelihoods
Livelihood Diversification
Financial Services for the Poor
Conflict, Forced Migration and Humanitarian Assistance
Gender Issues in Development Practice
Governance and Management of Natural Resources
Conservation and Management of Species and Habitats
Ecosystem Services
The Ecology of Scale

Crops

Crop Science

The Crops Research Group at REading addresses the challenges of sustaining crop production and crop quality in a changing environment. Cropping systems in different parts of the world are under tremendous pressure to meet the demands of a growing population without unacceptable degradation of natural resources and with minimal impacts on the environment. There are also growing concerns over how crops will be affected by climate variability and change and how crop prodction can adapt to future climates. Our research at Reading tackles these big issues using a combination of advanced experimental facilities for crop science, novel crop modelling techniques and the specialist expertise of the staff.  

 

Sustainable cropping systems

Agronomy and phsysiology of a wide range of temperate field crops are studied at the Crops Research Unit, comprising dedicated areas for plot experimentation and well equipped field laboratories on an 11 ha agronomy site. Key foci of our work include:

  • The capture and use-efficiencies of resources including light, water and nutrients. Improving these processes through an understanding of their genetic and physiological basis is essential for sustainable production.
  • End-use quality of crops, particularly of cereals for the baking and energy markets, is a long-standing strength of the unit. The impacts of plant breeding, agronomy and environment on various quality criteria are studied and predicted using a range of modelling techniques

Research is also focused on development of ecological agriculture, integrating cropping and system diversity to improve the resilience of agriculture in the UK and internationally. More complex systems, which move away from monocultures and simplistic rotations, offer the capacity of improving resource use in the field, and stabilising performance against variation in biotic and abiotic stresses including global climate change.

Research outputs are focused on delivering practical, ethical solutions to the pressures of food production, which are relevant to a future of increasingly variable climate and increasing oil price.

Modern attitudes to pest, disease and weed control are driven by the need for effective and sustainable practices. These should be based on concepts developed through an understanding of the biology of these different production constraints. Research in the Crop Protectiong Laboratories aims to provide this understaind in two key topics:

  • Plant parasitic nematodes and root-infecting fungi limit crop productivity, Their significance increases in regions where rainfall is becoming less predictable due to climatic change. Current research focuses on the management of these constrains with the use of biological control agents and natural prducts.
  • Nematodes can act as biological control agents in pest management programmes. They are effective biological control agents for a number of insect pests and slugs. Pioneering research on entomopathogenic nematodes continues on both the practcal aspects of their use as biopesticides and on fundamental studies of their ecolohy and behaviour in natural systems.


Climate Change

Crop production is inherently sensitive to changes in climate, whether human-induced or due to natural causes. Our research seeks to assess the impacts of climate variability and change on crops, and to explore adaptation strategies for crop production in future climates. For this we use novel crop simulation techniques and sophisticated controlled environment facilities. Current research includes:

  • Development of methods to forecast how climate variability and change affects crops
  • Simulation of grop growth, development and yield
  • Understanding the interactions between croplands, the atmosphere and feedbacks to climate
  • Use of seasonal weather forecasts for agriculture

Most research is done in collaboration with climate scientists from the Deparment of Meteorology in the Crops and Climate Groups of the Walker Institute for Climate System Research.

we study many aspects of plant and crop science in tropical and temperate crop species, including cereals, legumes and roots and tubers using the controlled envionments of the Plant Environment Laboratory, a world-class controlled environment facility where crops can be gown under simulated field environments.

We are interested in understanding and identifying physiological processes contributing to tolerance and yield, the genetic basis of these responses (e.g mapping populations, QTL analysis, genetical phenomics) an the application of crop science in the field using participatory research with farmers. Our main research themes are on:

  • Adaptation, i.e matching species and varieties to different and variable environments and cropping systems, and the control of flowering time and crop duration
  • Yield physiology and crop management or agronomy
  • Stress physiology, especially temperature stress. 

 Seed Science and systems

The Seed Science Laboratory undertakes research on a wide range of species, including crops, weeds, trees and wild species.

Current research includes:

  • Anhydrous biology - seed, pollen and spore storage, especially long-term storage of seed in gene-banks (for biodiversity conservation) and medium-term storage of spores (for biological control)
  • Seed storage behaviour, especially of tropical forest tree seeds
  • Physiological quality of seeds (seed vigour), including seed development and the acquisition of good quality by developing seeds in current and future environments
  • Mathematical modelling of seed viability, germination and dormancy.

Generating technology, for example seed-based technology such as improved varieties, is one thing; getting this technology adopted and in to the hands of farmers is another matter. Participatory research, involving farmers' organisations and farmers in the process of technology generation, testing and dissemination, is an important component of modern crop reseach. We are particularly interested in the uptake of varieties, including seed stystems, seed quality and variety release.

 

 

Animals

Animal Science

The Animal Science Research Groups incorporates:

  • The Centre for Dairy Research
  • The Nutritional Sciences Research Unit
  • Biomathematics

and jointly leads the:

  • Food Chain and Health Research Theme.

The remit of the Group is the 'carry out research on animal-derived food products that make a positive contribution to human nutrition and how they may contribute to long-term health, prduced in a welfare-friendly manner whilst minimising environmental and production costs'.

Contact Professor Ian Givens

e-mail d.i.givens@reading.ac.uk

Further information can be found at: www.reading.ac.uk/adp/research/apd-research.aspx

 

Animal-derived food products

This work examines the contribution that milk, meat and eggs can make to energy and nutrient intake by humans. The work looks at both positive aspects such as provision of high quality protein and iron as well as potentilly negative aspects such as saturated fatty acids. Bioactive compounds in these foods, and milk in particular, are studied including those which may reduce blood pressure and cancer risks.

In association with this, there is also involvement in epidemiological studies looking at the effects of long term consumption on various health/disease outcomes. Aspects of organic foods are also a continuing interest.

 

Human nutrition

In collaboration with the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, relationships between anuima-derived food and desirable composition of human diets is an active area of research. This leads to work which may alter the composition of animal-derived foods such as lowering the saturated fatty acid content of milk or enriching poultry meat with long chaing n-3 fatty acids. the relationship between dietary lipids and chronic disease in humans is a key focus. 


 Environmental nutrition

Animals kept for food production inevitably produce substances which are potential pollutants. These include methane from ruminant animals - a potent greenhouse gas, nitrogen from urine and faeces as well as phosphorus. Research is underway on dietary strategies which will improve the effifiency of carbon and nitrogen capture into food products. This invoves detailed studies of processes both in the digestive tract and in the body metabolism of the animal as well as extensive use of mathematical modelling of nutrient flow.

 


Animal health, welfare and sustainability

Highly productive animals are potentially at greater risk of metabolic disorders and reduced reproductive performance. Such disorders as sub-acute ruminal acidosis in dairy cows and the potential of alternative dairy cow breeds to improve sustainability of production and reporductive performance are being investigated

The Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics Research Unit (VEERU)

VEERU is a multi-disciplinary unit which undertakes animal health and production related research and often provides scientific advice to government veterinary departments to support animal health policy decisions.

Contact Dr Tony Wilsmore

e-mail veeru@reading.ac.uk

More details can be found on the website: www.rdg.ac.uk/veeru

 

Veterinary epidemiology and animal health economics

VEERU's work in this area focuses on the spead of animal diseases and the management of disease. VEERU is particularly interested in the links between economics, changing animal production systems, and animal disease. For example, the changing poultry sector and the spread and persistence of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Veterinary services and animal health policy

This work area includes animal health policy research, including animal health and food quality, control of disease epidemics by state veterinary services and animal health issues in international trade. Capacity building for animal health delivery through public and private systems and delivery of livestock services to the rural poor are other topics of interest.

Animal health and production software development

VEERU, along with its collaborator PAN Livestock Service Ltd, has a strong interest in development of herd health and animal traceability information technology. Whilst PAN develops the commercial applications, VEERU contributes by researching the demand for different applications and suggesting solutions to real on-farm and trade related issues. VEERU can also make use of the data made available for the wide scale use of information technlogy in applied research

Economics, Marketing and Management

Reading has an international reputation for research in applied econmics, consumer behaviour, economic modelling, marketing and managemetn. The members of this group are engages in international progects and supervising PhD students from around the wolrd. The depth and diversity of their interest is reflected below. Further information can be found at: www.reading.ac.uk/apd/research/apd-research.aspx

The behaviour motives of agricultural and rural land managers

Researching the behaviour and motives of those who are involved in managing land in all its competing, and often conflicting, uses offers intriguing opportunities. Most empirical studies suggest that profit maximisation is not a universally valid assumption. Land managers fall into distinctive behavioural types. Each type is motivated by a variety of values, with discernibly distinct orders of priorities.

The theories of Reason Action and Planned Behaviour along with the theory of rational choice are means of understanding managers' behaviour and motives, which assists in the process of formulating agricultural and rural policies.

Recent and current research includes: typifying farmers according to their long-term values; understanding behaviours towards the adoption of livestock technologies; how land management strategies of farmers affect the biodiversity of the countryside; and moral hazards in agroecosystems

ContactDr Alison Bailey

e-mail a.p.bailey@reading.ac.uk

Management of agricultural and rural resources

Society's expectations of how the countryside's resources should be managed are changing. Agriculture is the biggest use of land, but must compete with production of fuel, recreational activities, preservation and enhancement of the environment and the landscape, and the provision of living space.

The variouis stakeholders negotiate their interest through both democratic processes and by responding to market forces. There are fascinating research opportunities here.

Recent projects include: development of multi-criteria decision making models to predict the future pattern of land use after the reform of the Common Agricultural policy; the impact of the Single Farm Payment Scheme on the rural environment and land values in the UK and the EU; structural change in farming; quantifying the benefits of pollination services in changing agricultural landscapes

Contact Dr ALison Bailey

e-mail a.p.bailey@reading.ac.uk

Food, agriculture and trade policy

There are few governments around the world that do not intervene in their food, farm or rural sectors. A country's membership of the World Trade Organisation implies compliance with the Ageement on Agriculture and that on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. Intervention is often justified for food safety or food security ( or, increasingly now, security of biofuel supplies); to reverse a decline in farm incomes or to offset an increase in food prices; to achieve a more equitable distribution of land or water resources; to enhance agricultures positive contribution ot the environment (often referred to as 'multifunctionality') or to offset its negative impact on global warming.

Agricultural Development Economics

The Department has a long tradition of research in developing country issues in agricultural and rural development going back to the 1960s.

Recently completed and ongoing research conducted by the Research in Agricultural Development Group (ReAD) includes; valuing developing country intellectual property rights for new plant varieties; designing methods of improved market access among Ethiopian dairy farmers; estimating neighbourhood adoption effects among rice growers in Bangladesh; designing policy for effecting participation among Philippine livestock producers.

contact Dr Garth Holloway

email garth.holloway@reading.ac.uk

Marketing and consumer behaviour

Effective and successful marketing strategies - indeeed the very survival of organisations - relies upon a thorough understanding of consumers. Reading has expertise in helping private companies, governments and charities improve the effectiveness of their marketing activities. Our participatory research in this area makes use of qualitative and quantitative methods, using the latest software tools, to improve our understanding of consumer decision-making

Current research projects include:

  • Sustainable and healthy consumption including organic, local and ethical food choices
  • Change drivers in the consumption of fruit and vegetables in children and young women
  • The effects of qualitative research in the development and implementation of a new business marketing strategy
  • The influence of moral and political drivers in the consumption of healthy diets.

Contact Dr Guiseppe Nocella

e-mail g.nocella@reading.ac.uk

Contact Dr Elena Millan

e-mail  e.s.millan@reading.ac.uk

Economic modelling

Economic modelling, underpinned by economic theory, uses the tools of econometrics and/or programming techniques to investigate a wide range of problems of applied economics. Areas of research include price transmission, efficiency, production, productivity willingness to pay for non-market goods, demand or supply responses, marketing studies, poverty mapping, project planning, and growth. Economic modelling research covers both developing and developed countries, at levels such as, the individual, firm, market, country or the global economy. There is a particularly strong interest in using and extending Bayesian techniques, which includes the analysis of time series, spatial, cross sectional and panel data.

Contact Dr Kevin Balcombe

e-mail k.g.balcombe@reading.ac.uk

Agricultural Economics and Policy

The Agricultural Economics and Policy Group incorporates colleagues from the Centre for Agricultural Strategy.
Research ranges from analysis of agricultural policies (for example, the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy) and their international regulation (through the WTO), through the economic analysis of technical change in agriculture, animal welfare and the economics of livestock disease, the economics of countryside amenity, assessing the barriers to conversion to organic farming, to the modelling of the effect of climate change on agriculture.

contact Dr Chittur Srinivasan
e-mail c.s.srinivasan@reading.ac.uk

www.apd.rdg.ac.uk/AgEcon/research/aepgrg.htm

Farm Management

Research in the Farm Management Unit (FMU) is centred around farming systems and business implications of new scientific knowledge and technological developments and analysis of changes in government policies on environment, markets and socio-economic influences in rural areas. The current projects include: development of models for evaluating farmers' responses to changes in government's agricultural and rural policies; attitudes towards animal welfare and new livestock technologies; livestock farmers' attitudes towards consequential loss insurance; farmers' values and objectives and how they influence farmers' behaviour; farm and environmental impacts of land designations and development of approaches and methods to improve the relevance, quality and use of research and extension in the rural sector.

contact Dr Tahir Rehman
e-mail t.u.rehman@reading.ac.uk
web

Food Economics

The Centre for Food Economics Research (CeFER) is a recognised centre of excellence for food economics research in Europe, with work encompassing all areas of the production, consumption and marketing of food worldwide. The Centre has active links with researchers throughout the world.
Research is concentrated in three main areas: economics of food safety and food quality and the role and impact of food regulation; consumer food choice and related issues concerning food market research, innovation, new product development and diet and health.

contact Professor Bruce Traill
e-mail

Development


A key feature of development research in the school is the application of social science theory and method to the analysis of human and social dimensions of economic and technological change. Staff and postgraduate students are currently engaged in research in the UK and over 20 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Development research is structured around seven main themes and often involves collaboration in interdisciplinary teams with researchers in other units within and outside the University.

Information, Knowledge and Communication

Research in this area uses a range of quantitative, qualitative and participatory approaches to explore people's access to and use of information. Current research includes: institutional arrangements for providing advisory support to land managers and other users of natural resources; the effective use of information and communication technologies in support of urban and rural livelihoods; analysis and management of knowledge and information systems; and scaling up the impact of research through communication and the policy process.

contact Chris Garforth
e-mail pgso@reading.ac.uk

Life-Course Analysis and Livelihoods

In recent years, life-course analysis has emerged as a critical area of social research of interest to academics, policy makers and practitioners. Research currently focuses on how age, as a basic principle of social organisation, shapes livelihood opportunities and development outcomes. Recent research has included a study of rural youth livelihoods in East Africa.

contact Kevin Waldie
e-mail pgso@reading.ac.uk

Livelihood Diversification

Livelihoods of the rural poor are increasingly complex. Rural households rarely engage in single livelihood activities but combine a range of both farm and non-farm activities. Migration to urban centres forms an integral part of many rural households' diversification strategies. Such diversification may be a strategic response based on an individual or household's opportunities and assets, or it may be a coping strategy to try and escape extreme poverty and deprivation. Identifying different livelihood strategies and activities, and analysing the enabling and constraining factors for such diversification, is the focus of research based on longitudinal studies of rural livelihoods and diversification in India.

contact Howard Jones
e-mail pgso@reading.ac.uk

Financial Services for the Poor

Financial services for the poor comprise a great range of different types of financial agents and financial products. Although the poor are usually excluded from formal banking institutions this does not mean they have no access to financial services. The informal financial sector still performs an important role in both developed and developing economies. Identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of different financial service agents and institutions has been an integral part of recent research projects. Work on the informal financial sector has included studies of village moneylenders in India, and the linkages between informal and formal financial service providers in Ghana. Research on the rural banking sector in India, conducted in collaboration with the School of Psychology, has focussed on the identification of attitudinal constraints towards providing financial services to the rural poor, and the role of new training interventions to help address these constraints.

contact Howard Jones
e-mail pgso@reading.ac.uk

Conflict, Forced Migration and Humanitarian Assistance

Many of the world's least developed countries are, or have been, affected by conflict and/or forced migration. Current research examines the implications that conflict and population displacement have on livelihoods and development efforts, on the relationship between humanitarian and development assistance, and on the relationship between post-conflict reconstruction and stabilisation of governance structures.

contact Laura Hammond
e-mail pgso@reading.ac.uk

Gender Issues in Development Practice

Reading has a long tradition of teaching and research in gender issues in international and rural development. Research focuses on differentiation within and between men and women in access to livelihood opportunities and support services in rural areas; food security; gendered experiences of conflict and migration, and approaches to gendered programming of development projects. Methodological approaches include social network analysis, household surveys and qualitative enquiry.

contact Kevin Waldie
e-mail k.j.waldie@reading.ac.uk

Governance and Management of Natural Resources

Sustainable use and management of natural resources requires interdisciplinary insights from both social and natural science. Agricultural and social scientists are working together to improve understanding of how and why users of natural resources make their management decisions, in a wide range of contexts. This understanding is being applied to the design of future research and development interventions, in situations ranging from smallholder irrigated farming in South Africa and community-managed forests in Malawi and Pakistan to women's indigenous poultry groups in Kenya and NGO capacity building and localisation in Nepal and the Philippines.

contact Derek Shepherd
e-mail pgso@reading.ac.uk

Environment


Research on environmental issues related to agriculture and agricultural landscapes is primarilyconducted within the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research (CAER) and associated academic staff in the Department of Agriculture.CAER carries out high-quality scientific research in order to reconcile the often conflicting demands of agricultural production and environmental protection,
particularly biodiversity conservation and management. We conduct applied ecological studies that address
particular problems and their potential solution, and basic ecological studies that use agricultural systems as 'models' to address more fundamental, general questions.
CAER supports three main overlapping areas of research: the conservation and management of species and habitats; the ecology and value of ecosystem goods and services; and the ecology of spatial and temporal scales. Our research projects take place in the UK, Europe and overseas; and we work with a very broad range of partners including Governmental groups, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Universities and Research Institutions, Industry, and members of the agricultural community. Much of our work is conducted with researchers from other disciplines, so that we can address environmental issues alongside other factors that shape agricultural land-use; and we play an active role in University research initiatives in the areas of sustainable agriculture and climate change.
Our researchers have extensive experience working on birds, insects and plants; and a diverse array of habitats in arable, grassland and forested landscapes. In addition to a large number of field sites, we have access to research facilities on the University's farms, and our own laboratories. As a post-graduate student, you would join a vibrant, high quality research group with excellent training opportunities.

contact Professor Ken Norris
e-mail k.norris@reading.ac.uk
web www.reading.ac.uk/caer

Conservation and Management of Species and Habitat

Agricultural land-use can result in population decline and range contraction of vulnerable species; and the loss, fragmentation and degradation of important habitats. In order to conserve key species and habitats we need to understand how agriculture causes such adverse effects, and then develop approaches to land management that restore damaged species and habitats. Having implemented management strategies, we then need to understand how species and habitats respond in order to improve our ability to design effective management in the future. We conduct research on these issues in bird, insect and plant populations; and a wide range of habitats in the UK, Europe and overseas.

contact Dr Simon Mortimer
e-mail s.r.mortimer@reading.ac.uk

Ecosystem Services

Biodiversity provides a range of crucially important ecosystem services, including pollination,natural pest control and soil health (among many others). Our research in this area aims to gain a better understanding of the role of biodiversity in ecosystem service provision; quantify the risks and benefits to ecosystem services posed by changes in agricultural land-use and other processes such as climate change; and design effective ways of managing landscapes to conserve service provision. We have particular expertise in insect pollination, natural pest control and soil organisms; but work with a wide range of project partners on ecosystem service research worldwide.

contact Dr Simon Potts
email s.g.potts@reading.ac.uk

The Ecology of Scale

Different components of biodiversity operate at different spatial and temporal scales. Understanding how agricultural land-use maps onto these scales is the key to managing the linkages between agriculture and biodiversity. This requires novel approaches to link the scales at which agricultural management occurs (field and farm-scales) to the larger scales at which some components of biodiversity function ecologically (landscape-scales). Our research focuses on the integration of field data and models to do this, and involves ecologists working together with mathematicians, statisticians and geographers with a background in geographical information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. Our work in this area spans taxonomic groups, and involves studies in the UK, Europe and overseas.

contact Professor Ken Norris
e-mail k.norris@reading.ac.uk

Research Degrees

Supervision for research degrees is available in all the main areas of research within the School. Applicants are required to submit a research proposal on their chosen topic and, subject to approval, a supervisor is allocated. E-mail pgso@reading.ac.uk for advice on preparing a research proposal. All students are initially registered for a generic higher degree by research. At the beginning of the 2nd year, registration is transferred to an MPhil or PhD depending on progress made during the first year.The University has a formal code of practice for Higher Degree by Research students which ensures that regular supervision and training is received. University-based Graduate Schools have been established and students are encouraged to participate in their activities. This extends the range of transferable skills learned by students as well as allowing interaction with students in other disciplines. Applications are welcome from students wishing to conduct fieldwork overseas and supervisors will usually visit during the field research.Details of recently completed and current research degree topics are available on the School's website.Research students are provided with desk space in the School and have access to up-to-date computing equipment.



 

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