The Agroecology Group aims to provide a rigorous scientific basis for sustainable croplands. We examine how plants, animals and microbes may interact to form a dynamic ecosystem supporting long-term economic offtake. Our home base is the maritime croplands of the north-east Atlantic, from where we collaborate in a range of climatic and ecological zones across Europe and beyond. Integral to our enterprise is a comprehensive and unique knowledge transfer chain that links research to applications in management, policy and the public understanding of science. We are active in global debates on food security, biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources. Contact: Geoff Squire 
Our research crosses scales from the individual to the landscape. Individuals are examined through the functional traits and properties that link them to each other and to their surrounds. Groups of individuals form populations that exchange genes and interact for sunlight, water and nutrients. Populations of different organisms - plants, insects, microbes - mediate the movement and transformation of energy and matter in fields and woodland. Fields, woods and other habitat form landscape mosaics through which individuals move and interact. Feedbacks occur between all scales: the landscape evolves because of the working of individuals, including people, while individuals are limited by the constraints of the landscape. Applications include:
We are mainly biologists, quantitative ecologists and mathematical modellers, whose scales of interest range from landscape to community and organism. Graham Begg  is a biologist/modeller working on population dynamics and landscape mosaics. Cathy Hawes , an ecologist, works on functional biodiversity and sustainable crop systems. Alison Karley  is a physiologist, looking at nutrient relations among plants, insects and endosymbionts. Pete Iannetta , ecologist, examines plant traits, notably in weeds and legumes. Geoff Squire  is a biologist, examining the links between individuals and fluxes in systems. Mark Young  provides bespoke GIS and IT solutions to aid databasing, remote recording and modeling. Euan James specialises in nitrogen fixation and legumes, locally an globally. Richard Dye, a software engineer and mathematical modeller, is currently working on landscape modelling in the PURE project.
Recent changes: Nick Birch has moved to the Chemical Ecology group at The James Hutton Institute but works closely with Agroecology on several EU projects; Scott Johnson has taken a position at the University of Western Sydney but retains working links through Technology Strategy Board projects and PhD students.
Technical staff include Gillian Banks and Linda Ford (Scottish Government funding), Anna Skiba (LINK / AMIGA), Carolyn Mitchell  (TSB), Paul Neave (Centre for Sustainable Cropping), Linda Nell (contract). Capabilities include the baseline data at the centre for Sustainable Cropping, major field surveys, controlled environment studies in glasshouse and growth chamber, molecular and biochemical laboratory analyses and plant-insect relations. Technical and scientific staff practise strict quality control procedures for collection, checking auditing and analysis of data. For information on students see below.
Over the last few years the team has built a strong and in many ways unique research infrastructure that is valued throughout the institute and by external collaborators.
The group hosts and supervises students at doctorate, masters and undergraduate levels. Typically 10-15 students are engaged in practical work in the group in any year. All students are registered at universities, including Aberdeen, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, York and St Andrews. We supervise students or link in other ways with universities overseas at Arkansas, Guelph, Idaho, Manitoba, Paris-Sud, Tromso, Trondheim, Wageningen and elsewhere.
Group members regularly lecture on university courses, notably at St Andrews and Dundee Universities, lecture to visiting students and interest groups, and are active in the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience , a joint initiative between The James Hutton Institute and the University of Dundee. Professor Steve Hubbard provides close links and collaborations with universities of Dundee and St Andrews. Professor Janet Sprent, Emeritus, Dundee is closely associated with the group's work on legumes and nitrogen fixation.
Claire McFadden 2012-2015 Ecological engineering for conservation biocontrol of insect pests at field and landscape scales. James Hutton Institute (Graham Begg, Nick Birch), University of St. Andrews (Steve Hubbard)
Amanda Wilson 2011-2014 Determining the impact of agricultural systems on small mammals. James Hutton Institute (Brian Fenton, Graham Begg), University of St. Andrews (Steve Hubbard)
Research is closely tied to outreach and knowledge-exchange through the following channels:
The Agroecology group is funded from three main sources - the Scottish Government, the EU and a range of industrial partnerships. The Scottish Government programme 2011-16 supports strategic research on ecosystem services, biodiversity and ecosystem function in the lowland arable-grass croplands of the north-east Atlantic. The group also contributes to work in the Scottish Government funded Centres of Expertise in Waters  and Climate Change.
The group is part of four EU networks linking more than 60 partners across Europe in major collaborative projects:
UK industrial collaborations take scientific findings to applications on the land and in the processing plant. Current projects include definition and selection of wheat ideotypes for reduced input cropping (Sustainable Arable Link, 2011-2014); biopesticides as replacement for EU pesticide withdrawals (SCEPTRE, now managed through the Chemical Ecology group) and the following two Technology Strategy Board projects - Physical fruit and Beans4Feed.
Many of the skill sets current in agroecology developed at the Institute during the coordinated programmes funded by the Scottish Government in the late 1990s, and were refined through external projects 1998-2008 on the ecological and economic impacts of GM crops. Full details including publications can be found at the Ecological biosafety and geneflow  web pages on the previous SCRI website, or go directly via the following links to the UK’s Farm Scale Evaluations of GMHT crops , the EU ECOGEN project on GM insect resistant crops; the GMO Guidelines  project in Brazil, Kenya and Vietnam (IOBC); the EU SIGMEA project on coexistence ; and a series of major projects on Gene movement and persistence  funded by Defra, RERAD and BBSRC.
The group and close colleagues, took lead roles in the 2006-11 RERAD programmes, notably in the Sustainable Crop Systems workpackage, and the BBSRC (trophic) LINK project (2005-2008).
A sample of recent peer reviewed publications. Please refer to staff pages for complete listings
Hawes C, Evans HF, Stewart AJA. 2013. Interference competition, not predation, explains the negative association between wood ants (Formica rufa) and abundance of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Ecological Entomology, DOI 10.1111/een.12021
Deng W, Iannetta PPM, Hallett PD, Toorop PE, Squire GR, Jeng D-S. 2013. The rheological properties of the seed coat mucilage of Capsella bursa-pastoris L.Medik. (shepherd’s purse) (2013) Biorheology 50, 57-67, DOI 10.3233/BIR-130627
Begg, G.S., Wishart, J., Young M.W., Squire, G.R., Iannetta, P.P.M. 2012. Genetic structure among arable populations of Capsella bursa-pastoris L. Medik is linked to functional traits and in-field conditions. Ecography 35, 446-457 doi:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2011.07030.x
Bingham, I.J., Karley, A.J., White, P.J., Thomas, W.T.B. & Russell, J.R. 2012. Analysis of improvements in nitrogen use efficiency associated with 75 years of barley breeding. European Journal of Agronomy 42, 49-58.
Valentine, T.A., Hallett, P.D., Binnie, K., Young, M.W., Squire, G.R., Hawes, C., Bengough, A.G. 2012. Soil strength and macropore volume limit root elongation rates in many UK agricultural soils. Annals of Botany 110, 259-270.
Deng, W., Jeng, D.S., Toorop, P.E., Squire, G.R. and Iannetta, P.P.M. 2012. A mathematical model of mucilage expansion in myxospermous seeds of Capsella bursa-pastoris L. Medic (shepherd's purse). Annals of Botany 109, 419-427.
James, E.K., Baldani, J.I. 2012. The role of biological nitrogen fixation by non-legumes in the sustainable production of food and biofuels. Plant and Soil 356, 1–3.
Bagavathiannan M.V., Begg G.S., Gulden R.H., Van Acker R.C. 2012. Modelling the Dynamics of Feral Alfalfa Populations and Its Management Implications. PLoS ONE 7(6):e39440
Suárez-Moreno, Z.R., Caballero-Mellado, J., Coutinho, B., Mendonça-Previato, L., James, E.K., Venturi V. 2012. Common features of environmental and potentially beneficial plant-associated Burkholderia. Microbial Ecology 63, 249-266.
Devos, Y., Hails, R.S., Messéan, A., Perry, J.N., Squire, G.R. 2012. Feral genetically modified herbicide tolerant oilseed rape from seed import spills: are concerns scientifically justified? Transgenic Research 21, 1-21.
Johnson, S.N., Young, M.W. & Karley, A.J. 2012. Protected raspberry production alters aphid-plant interactions but not aphid population size. Agricultural and Forest Entomology 14, 217-224.
Sausse, C., Colbach, N., Squire, G.R., Young, M.W. 2012. How to manage the impact of gene flow on oilseed rape grain quality? Simulation case studies of three contrasted landscapes. European Journal of Agronomy 38, 32-42.
Toorop, P.E., Cuerva R.C., Begg, G.S., Locardi, B., Squire, G.R., Iannetta, P.P.M. 2012. Co-adaptation of seed dormancy and flowering time in the arable weed Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse). Annals of Botany 109, 481-489.
Clemente, M.R., Pilar Bustos-Sanmamed, P., Loscos, J., James, E.K., Pérez-Rontomé, C., Navascués, J., Gay, M., Becana, M. 2012. Thiol synthetases of legumes: immunogold localization and differential gene regulation by phytohormones.Journal of Experimental Botany 63, 3923–3934
Birch, A.N.E., Begg, G.S., Squire, G.R. 2011. How agro-ecological research helps to address food security issues under new IPM and pesticide reduction policies for global crop production systems (Invited Review). Journal of Experimental Botany 62, 3251-3261.
Karley, A.J., Valentine, T.A., Squire, G.R. 2011. Dwarf alleles differentially affect barley root traits influencing nitrogen acquisition under low nutrient supply. Journal of Experimental Botany 62, 3917-3927.
Squire, G.R., Breckling, B., Pfeilstetter, A., Jorgensen, R.B., Lecomte, J., Pivard, S., Reuter, H., Young, M.W. 2011. Status of feral oilseed rape in Europe: its minor role as a GM impurity and its potential as a reservoir of transgene persistence. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 18, 111-118.
Bohan, D.A., Powers, S.J., Champion, G., Haughton, A.J., Hawes, C., Squire, G.R., Cussans, J., Mertens, S.K. 2011. Modelling rotations: can crop sequences explain arable weed seedbank abundance? Weed Research 51, 422-432.
Cook, N., Aziz, N., Hedley, P.E., Morris, J., Milne, L., Karley, A.J., Hubbard, S.F. & Russell, J.R. 2011. Transcriptome sequencing of an ecologically important graminivorous sawfly: a resource for marker development. Conservation Genetics Resources 3, 789-795.
Debeljak, M., Squire, G.R., Kocev, D., Hawes, C., Young, M.W. & Džeroski, S. 2011. Analysis of time series data on agroecosystem vegetation using predictive clustering trees. Ecological Modelling 222, 2524-2529.
Bontemps, C., Elliott, G.N., Simon, M.F., Dos Reis Júnior, F.B., Gross, E., Lawton, R.C., Neto, N.E., Loureiro, M.d., de Faria, S.M., Sprent, J.I., James, E.K. and Young, J.P.W. 2010. Burkholderia species are ancient symbionts of legumes. Molecular Ecology 19, 44-52.
Clark, E.L., Karley, A.J. & Hubbard, S.F. 2010. Insect endosymbionts: manipulators of insect herbivore trophic interactions? Protoplasma 244, 25-51.
Hawes, C., Squire, G.R., Hallett, P.D., Watson, C.A., Young, M.W. 2010. Arable plant communities as indicators of farming practice. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 138, 17-26.