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CAER Projects

Harnessing multiple ecosystem services with novel crop rotations

Supervisors - Hannah E. Jones, Andrew Wilby, Simon Mortimer, Simon G. Potts

Project Description - Historically, attempts to satisfy global demand for food was addressed by the expansion of agricultural land. More recently, however, the rate of expansion has slowed and advances in productivity have been achieved on existing land due to high yielding crop varieties, mechanisation, irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers. Although this has increased productivity, this approach has had significant negative impacts on environmental quality and biodiversity.

Moving forward, It is unlikely that further intensification will meet the challenge of global food security. Intensification favours one ecosystem service, the provision of food, at the expense of other regulatory and supporting services, leading to negative feedbacks on production. Furthermore, agriculture is required to meet multiple requirements of society, address rising input costs and become more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

Ecological intensification could maintain or increase current yields whilst minimising environmental damage and negative feedbacks. Increasing diversification both spatially and temporally within production could be a potential strategy to achieve this. However, understanding how diversification affects multiple ecosystem services is required, as is the economic justification, before this approach can become widely adopted.

This project explores multiple ecosystem services under different crop rotations. Using a split plot design at the plot scale, the ability of diverse crop rotations to enhance multiple ecosystem services will be investigated and whether synergies or trade-offs between services exist. Specifically, the ability of diverse crop rotations to enhance yield, pest regulation and biodiversity will be assessed, under a reduced chemical input scenario.