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Geoff Squire

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Recent publications

Staff picture: Geoff Squire
Ecological Sciences
+44 (0)844 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK

  • Global issues in sustainable systems, ecological resilience, food security and environmental impact (EU, Scottish Government)
  • Gene movement and persistence in higher plants (Defra, EU).
  • Energy cycling, trophic interations and biodiversity (Scottish Government, BBSRC, universities).
  • Integrating European knowledge sets on geneflow, pest management and ecological impact (EU SIGMEA, PURE, AMIGA, etc.).
  • International liaison and advice on food production, biodiversity, biotech crops and geneflow, for example, EFSA (Environmental Risk Assessment Guidelines), World Trade Organisation (GM dispute), European biosafety committees.
  • Coordination of research on Sustainable Crop Systems funded by the Scottish Government.
  • Coordination of the Agroecology research group at the Hutton.
  • EU member states - advice on research on environmental impacts (for example, France, the Netherlands).
  • Visiting Professor, SIMBIOS Centre.
  • UK, Scotland - advice to government and growers on optimising multiple outputs or ecosystem services (e.g. production and environment).
  • LEAF - Linking Environment and Farming through the Institute's LEAF Innovation Centre
  • The Living Field educational and outreach project - sustainable croplands

Current research interests 

  • Sustainable systems
    The arable-grass ecosystems of the north-east Atlantic maritime - the ancient croplands around Scotland's coasts - formed the case study of a major project on sustainable food and agriculture (2006-2011) which continues under present government funding. The questions are -  'what is the present state of the system, and how can management ensure its continued existence?' We examine past change in the arable-grass maritime, the present state of soil, biota and agronomy; limitations through declining supplies of nitrogen and phosphorus, soil erosion and loss of biodiversity; and the options for balancing the health of the system with economic offtake. The work involves the most comprehensive status assessment of arable-grass production systems in Europe and has led to the establishment of the Institute's long term research platform - the Centre for Sustainable Cropping. Partners: many colleagues in the Institute; collaborators in SAC, BioSS, MLURI, and many European groups. Funding: Scottish Government; augmented by EU FP6 and FP7.
  • Organism biology
    The biological basis of systems is explored through experiment and modelling. An energy-based approach to carbon and nutrient flows is fused with a 'trait-based' approach to biodiversity and function. The aim is to build a theoretical and practical framework for system design, environmental risk assessment and landscape engineering. Modelling is collaborative with colleagues in the Agroecology Group at the Institute and at BioSS, local universities and european organisations such as the Josef Stefan Institute in Slovenia. Funding: Scottish Government, EU, research councils.

Past research 

  • Geneflow and GM risk assessment
    The Institute was among the first to emphasise the 'landscape' dimensions of geneflow among crops, volunteers, ferals and wild relatives. Between 1998 and 2008, research grants supported a multidisciplinary group with the ecological, molecular and biometrical skills to take an international lead, later developed through the EU SIGMEA project on GM coexistence. In parallel, between 1999 and 2005, we were part of the independent scientific consortium that conducted the Farm Scale Evaluations (FSEs) of GM herbicide tolerant crops. The FSEs exposed the urgent need for ecological baselines and criteria against which major innovations should be assessed. Advisory work in geneflow and GM risk contiues through the European Food Safety Authority (2010 GM environmental risk assessment guidelines) and research committees on biosafety and GM risk (EU-wide, member states). Original funding: Defra, Scottish Government, research councils, EU.
  • Vegetation dynamics and cross-institute integration
    During the second half of the 1990s, the Scottish Government funded a series of integrative  projects that aimed to bring together the complementary skills and field sites of the Macaulay Institute, BioSS, SAC and SCRI. My responsibilities included coordinating the Vegetation Dynamics Group that brought together mathematical, physiological and molecular skills to achieve a concerted approach to understanding plant communities.  The research formed the basis of a scientific framework for examining the impacts of change on managed systems. Funding: Scottish Government.
  • Tropical crops, food security and climate
    A framework for relating the phenology and growth of tropical crops to weather and climate was the achieved objective of a sustained period of research in the 1970s and 1980s. Periods in the environmental physics group Nottingham were interspersed with study in the tropics, first in Malawi (early 1970s), then through visits to various countries of east and central Africa including Zimbabwe and Kenya, to Malaysia (early 1980s) and India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Output included some influential papers on physiological time and temperature and some of the earliest reports and papers on the effects of climate change on crop production in both temperate and tropical production systems. Funding: Overseas Development Administration (1970s), various world and european funders (1980s).
  • Undergraduate and doctoral A BA in Botany at Oxford (general Biology in Year 1) followed by a PhD in cellular plant physiology at Lancaster formed the basis of a career in research. The doctorate studies concentrated on the stomatal guard cells and other leaf epidermal cells, working in part with the microscopy group to capture some of the first micrographs of and through stomatal cells (example right of phase contrast microscopy).


  • Squire, G.R., Hawes, C., Valentine, T.A., Young, M.W. 2015. Degradation rate of soil function depends on trajectory of agricultural intensification. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 202, 160-167.

  • Lu, Y., Wang, R., Zhang, Y., Su, H., Wang, P., Jenkins, A., Ferrier, R.C., Bailey, M., Squire, G. 2015. Ecosystem health towards sustainability. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability 1(1):2.

  • Squire, G.R., Lecomte, J., Husken, A., Soukup, J., Messean, A., 2013. Contributions of pollen and seed to impurity in crops – a comparison of maize, oilseed rape and beet. In: Genetically modified and non-genetically modified food supply chains: Co-existence and traceability, 23-34. Ed Y Bertheu. Blackwell.

  • Deng, W., Iannetta, P.P.M., Hallett, P.D., Toorop, P.E., Squire, G.R., 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.

  • 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 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  •  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.
  • Squire, G.R., Breckling, B., Dietz 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, 111-115. (doi:10.1007/s11356-010-0376-1)
  • 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.
  • Hawes, C., Squire, G.R., Hallett, P.D., Watson, C.A., Young, M. 2010. Arable plant communities as indicators of farming practice. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 138, 17-26. (doi:10.1016/j.agee.2010.03.010)
  • Messean, A., Squire, G., Perry, J., Angevin, F., Gomez, M., Townend, P., Sausse, C., Breckling, B., Langrell, S., Dzeroski, S., Sweet, J. 2009. Sustainable introduction of GM crops into european agriculture: a summary report of the FP6 SIGMEA research project. OCL 16(1), 37-51. (doi:10.1684/ocl.2009.0241) PDF file of this article (1089kb).
  • Squire, G.R., Hawes, C., Begg, G.S., Young, M.W. 2009. Cumulative impact of GM herbicide-tolerant cropping on arable plants assessed through species-based and functional taxonomies. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 16(1), 85-94. (doi:10.1007/s11356-008-0072-6)
  • Hillier, J., Hawes, C., Squire, G.R., Hilton, A., Wale, S., Smith, P. 2009. The carbon footprints of food crop production. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 7, 107-118.
  • Hawes, C., Haughton, A.J., Bohan, D.A., Squire, G.R. 2009. Functional approaches for assessing plant and invertebrate abundance patterns in arable systems. Basic and Applied Ecology 10, 34-47. (doi:10.1016/j.baae.2007.11.007)
  • Cullen, D.W., Squire, G.R., McNicol, J.W, Jacobs, H.H., Osborne, J.L., Ford, L., Ramsay, G., Scrimgeour, C., Young, M.W. 2008. Development and validation of gas chromatography and real-time quantitative PCR for the quantification of landscape-scale gene flow from varieties of high erucic (HEAR) oilseed rape. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 88(13), 2253-2264. (doi: 10.1002/jsfa.3340)
  • Karley, A.J., Hawes, C., Iannetta, P.P.M., Squire, G.R. 2008. Intraspecific variation in Capsella bursa-pastoris in plant quality traits for insect herbivores. Weed Research 48, 147-156.
  • Begg, G.S., Elliott, M.J., Cullen, D.W., Iannetta, P.P.M., Squire, G.R. 2008. Heterogeneity in the distribution of genetically modified and conventional oilseed rape within fields and seed lots. Transgenic Research. (doi:10.1007/s11248-008-9166-7)
  • Debeljak, M., Squire, G.R., Demsar, D., Young, M.W., Dzeroski, S. 2008. Relations between the oilseed rape volunteer seedbank, and soil factors, weed functional groups and geographical location in the UK. Ecological Modelling 212, 138-146 (doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2007.10.019)

Geoff Squire's previous publications in journals including Ecological Modelling, Journal of Applied Ecology, Journal of Experimental Botany, Oikos, Nature, New Phytologist, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and Proceedings of the Royal Society can be found at the Agroecology Group's research web page.

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  • Phone: +44 (0)844 928 5428
  • Craigiebuckler Aberdeen AB15 8QH Scotland
  • Invergowrie Dundee DD2 5DA Scotland
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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.