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PhD Project: Assessing the impact of Integrated Pest Management on the economic and environmental sustainability of crop farming

Primary Supervisor: Robert Lillywhite (University of Warwick)

Secondary supervisors: Dr Lael Walsh (Teagasc, Dublin, Republic of Ireland)

Start date: 4 October 2021

Location: Primarily based at Teagasc, Ashtown Research Centre in Dublin

Funding: The project is fully funded for four years with all Home fees paid (UK and Republic of Ireland students) and an annual stipend of at least £15,609 (tax free paid monthly in advance).

This PhD is available for UK/EU applicants only. The award will cover Home level tuition fees only so students from the EU would need to fund the difference in Home level tuition fees and Overseas level tuition fees if not eligible for home level fees. Tuition fee information

Application deadline: Tuesday 31st August 2021

Project description:

This project is a collaboration between the University of Warwick and Teagasc in Ireland The aim is to understand the role of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on the economic and environmental sustainability of crop farming, focusing on horticulture and cereal crops. Research will be a mixture of field, desk and survey data with the results used to inform management decisions designed to meet the aims of the EU Green Deal, to reduce fertiliser and pesticide use in European farming.

Project outline:

We are seeking a qualified, enthusiastic and highly motivated student for a 4-year PhD project funded by Teagasc under the Walsh Scholarships Programme. The project is part of a collaboration between Teagasc and the University of Warwick. The project aims to understand the role of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on the economic and environmental sustainability of crop farming, focusing on horticulture and cereal crops.

The research is primarily driven by the need to implement the EU Green Deal in Ireland although the outcomes will be relevant to many European farming systems. The EU Green Deal is a roadmap towards sustainability and contains provisions to ensure a more healthy and sustainable EU food system. These include a 50% reduction in pesticide and fertiliser use by 2030. Since pesticides and fertilisers are important in maintaining yield and quality of crops this is an ambitious and challenging target.

IPM is a strategy that focuses on the control of pests (insects, weeds and pathogens) using a combination of cultural approaches, resistant cultivars, biocontrols, habitat manipulation and, as a last resort, chemical pesticides. The transition from control using just pesticides to control using IPM is difficult as it requires an understanding of multiple approaches and how they interact to provide the optimum control of pests. Key to improving the uptake of IPM on Irish farms will be the ability to accurately measure pesticide usage and IPM practices, and identify factors that may impact these, as well as understand trade-offs between pesticide reduction and economic and environmental performance.

The project aims are to a) identify environmental and economic indicators for field horticulture and collect data, b) develop survey tools of existing IPM practices to understand how reductions in pesticides might be achieved on Irish and English cereal and horticulture farms in order to assess progress on IPM adoption, c) use advanced econometric models to determine the impact of IPM adoption on economic and environmental sustainability, d) evaluate results and propose approaches that will allow Irish arable and field horticulture to meet targets on pesticide reductions.

Applicants should have a First or upper Second Class Honours degree or M.Sc. in an appropriate discipline (e.g. agriculture/biology/physical geography/economics or a related discipline) and the project will suit a student who seeks a better understanding of pest control in intensive crop production but who also enjoys the challenge of interdisciplinary research, data collection and analysis.

The advisory team includes Rob Lillywhite (University of Warwick), Lael Walsh (Teagasc), Fiona Thorne (Teagasc), and Philip Jones (University of Reading). The student will be registered with the University of Warwick, but most of their time be spent at Teagasc Ashtown Research Centre in Dublin.

Key experimental skills involved: Agriculture, Crop production, Agronomy, EU Green Deal, Pesticides, IPM, Environment, Sustainability.

Eligibility

The University’s standard entry requirements are as follows:

  • You must hold an upper second class UK honours degree (2:1) or M.Sc. in an appropriate discipline (e.g. agriculture/biology/physical geography/economics or a related discipline) or equivalent - Overseas Qualifications: UK equivalency
  • You must be able to provide 2 satisfactory academic references
  • Submit an English Language test certificate (if appropriate). Please note: It is a requirement that overseas students will show that their ability to understand and express themselves in both written and spoken English is sufficiently high for them to derive the full benefit from the PhD. Please note that the requirement for admission is IELTS 6.5 (with no component below 6.0) or equivalent. More information can be found at:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/apply/english/

How to apply

  • Informal project enquiries can be made to Robert Lillywhite via email:Robert dot Lillywhite at warwick dot ac dot uk
  • Complete the online application form - selecting course code: P-C1PB - PhD Life Sciences
  • Upload a transcript from your current or previous study and any other documents that you feel would support your application.
  • Ask your referees to submit a reference for you. Note: when you submit your application, an email will automatically be sent to your referees requesting a reference for you. This email will contain a secure link for your referee to upload a reference for you.
  • The deadline for applications is Tuesday 31st August 2021

For further information about applying to Warwick see the application FAQ's page”