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Nick Birch

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Staff picture: Nick Birch
Ecological Sciences
nick.birch@hutton.ac.uk
+44 (0)844 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Invergowrie
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK

My long term research goals

Policy led environmental research with practical outcomes for global agriculture:

I develop and use a multi-disciplinary, ecosystems approach to optimise key ecological services (Integrated Pest Management/IPM, biocontrol) for Scottish, UK and international crop protection, conserving and ultilising on-farm biodiversity.

By understanding the role of biodiversity in agro-ecosystems, key functional groups of predators and parasitoids are being enhanced using novel biocontrol techniques, to reduce the need for pesticides under policy  91/414 EEC.

On-farm floral biodiversity is also being enhanced in agro-ecosystems to promote both biocontrol and pollination of crops. A raspberry-legume on farm research platform has been set up for long term studies with Dr P. Iannetta and Dr G. Begg (The James Hutton Institute), Dr N. Sotherton (Game Conservancy and Wildlife Trust),  and Prof S. Wratten (Agriculture and Life Sciences Faculty, Lincoln University, New Zealand).

Current research contracts and grants:

I coordinate The James Hutton Institute IPM research for two new EU and one new Defra Hortlink funded projects, starting 2010-11. Total grant award value is > £10 million.

I lead and manage several externally funded projects (Scandinavian, EU and UK) with a total value to the James Hutton Institute of > £1.4 million (2005-2016).

  • EU PURE: I coordinate the James Hutton Institute's scientific inputs on development of IPM for major crops in Europe. Total project value £12 million.
  • AHDC SCEPTRE: I co-lead the UK entomology inputs on development of IPM for fruit and vegetable crops. Total value to the James Hutton Institute £100K 
  • I co-lead IPM research in the EU project AMIGA, developing novel ways to assess the biosafety and use of GM crops more sustainably within Integrated Pest Management systems. Total value to the James Hutton Institute £400,000.
  • TSB (breeding soft fruit with new pest resitance traits based on physical barriers): I am a specialist entomology advisor on raspberry pests and related IPM for this project.
  • Defra Hortlink: Developing Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) for Protected Raspberries. Role: The James Hutton Institute entomology leader. Total value £1.3 million.
  • Bioforsk, Norwegian Government: Developing sustainable IPDM for vegetable crucifers.  Role: The James Hutton Institute chemical ecology leader. Total value £1.7 million.
  • AHDB/HDC: SAC and James Hutton Institute PhD. Developing novel control strategies for cabbage root fly. Role: Consultant The James Hutton Institute. Total value £113,000.
  • IP development and technology transfer: One of first SCRI patent holders (natural product pesticides from wild legumes; 13 regional and worldwide patents with BTG, 1988-94).
  • Co-developer of first SCRI comercial IPM technology for raspberry growers (raspberry beetle trap; first SCRI commercial IPM product, launched 2009 for growers and 2010 for gardeners).

Honorary positions

  • Nominated expert for EU European Innovation Partnership ‘Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability’ focus group on Integrated Pest Management: Brassica field vegetables (from January 2014)
  • Visiting Professor and International Scholar, Division of Entomology, University of Idaho, USA
  • Panel member for EFSA (GMO biosafety; non-target impacts)
  • Fellow of Royal Entomological Society, London
  • Fellow of Linnean Society, London
  • Lecturer, Dundee University
  • Science Ambassador, Scotland
  • Co-Convenor, International Organisation for Biological Control
  • Committee Member, LEAF Scotland Advisory Group

Current research interests 

Agroecology systems studies (fundamental to applied)

Sustainable use of functional biodiversity (ecological services - focus topic biocontrol as part of Integrated Pest Management) to meet challenges of climate change, environmental impacts of new crop protection strategies (reducing pesticide usage, developing more durable pest-resistant crops, semiochemicals, enhanced biocontrol of pests) and changing food security issues.Photograph of raspberry beetle trap

My research delivers practical outcomes and policy aides for sustainable agriculture which is faced with challenges of climate change, food security and pesticide reductions.

Examples include:

a) Novel IPM for soft fruit and field vegetables Integrated Pest Management) tools for minimising pesticide applications and promoting functional biodiversity in agro-ecosystems  (biocontrol agents, pollinators, soil health). I now lead and coordinate a major EU funding bid for The James Hutton Institute  (12 million euros) as part of an international consortium to develop new IPM strategies for major crops in Europe. This is the largest single EU agriculture project, because IPM is now central to the EU's crop protection policies under 91/414/EEC.

Image of the cover of the GMO ERA Project final reportb) GM environmental risk:benefit asessment methods for EU and developing countries. A multi-disciplinary approach centred around chemical ecology has been developed at The James Hutton Institute, involving international collaborations in UK, Norway, France, Switzerland, Brazil, Kenya and Vietnam.

The ecological methods underpinning this GM research over more than 10 years have more recently been generalised to study multi-trophic interactions in food webs (raspberries grown in fields versus protected tunnels) and also to optimise IPM strategies for major crops including vegetable crucifers, soft fruit and cereals.

Approach and implementation:

Chemical ecology of insect-plant interactions leading to ecosystem services for sustainable agriculture (Scottish Government WP 1.3., 1.7).

My IPM expertise and experience  includes research on legumes, vegetable brassicas, maize (GM with Bt gene), potato, tomato and  soft fruit (blackcurrant, raspberry, strawberry).

  • Crop protection systems based on IPDM: High value and health-promoting soft fruit (Scottish Government WP 1.3, Defra Hortlink); Potato (CPC germplasm evalauation for pest resistance; chemical ecology with SLU); Arable / biodiversity interactions (Scottish Government WP 1.7, LEAF).
  • Multi-trophic interactions, focussing on  climate change and novel crop protection strategies: Plant metabolic responses to insect attack, linking above-below ground interactions, genetic resistance to pests  and biocontrol (Scottish Government WP 1.7, Bioforsk collaborations, 2007-2013). Model crops studied: Soft fruit, crucifers.Photograph showing Bt maize in Kenya
  • Developing strategies for Integrated Pest Management (Scottish Government WP 1.3, Defra Hortlink, LEAF Scotland and UK, Bioforsk).
  • Lead SCRI Hortlink research ‘Integrated Pest and Disease Management for High Quality Protected Raspberry Production’ (Defra).
  • IOBC convenorships of International Working Groups:  (i) 'Breeding for Pest and disease Resistance' (IOBC wprs); (ii) 'GMO Environmental Risk Assessment' (IOBC Global).
  • GM environmental risk:benefit and biosafety policy formulation: EU Legal Department, EU Plant Sciences Committee, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (GM crop case studies in Kenya, Brazil, and Vietnam - three CABI books and invited Royal Society of Chemistry  review; resulting in eight policy-related  refereed reviews and book chapters; see below).
  • Member of Scottish Steering Committee, LEAF  (Linking Environment and Farming).
  • Lecturer for Dundee University: BSc Hons (final year): 'Sustainable Pest Management'.
  • PhD examiner for Dundee University, Durham University, Caridiff University, SLU Uppsala, Lincoln University, New Zealand. Photograph showing recording from raspberry beetle antenna
  • Science Ambassador and Techfest Scotland presenter: Schools (nursery-Advanced Higher, university, public understanding of science, agriculture policy, knowledge transfer.
  • Technology transfer: Developing and promoting sustainable IPDM strategies for UK, EU and developing country farmers.

Past research 

  • Soft Fruit Integrated Pest and Disease Management (IPDM) – Plant Breeding for Pest Resistance; Use of semiochemicals in IPDM; Biocontrol agents; Sustainable Crop Protection with minal pesticides.Photograph of 2-spot ladybirds eating aphids
  • Insect-plant ecology – Above-below ground interactions utilising molecular ecology, chemical ecology and insect behaviour (model cropping systems: raspberry, crucifers).
  • Tri-trophic modelling for optimal deployment of pest-resistant GM crops (Defra).
  • GM crop biosafety: Co- coordinator of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation / ETH, Zurich / University of Minnesota 'GMO Guidelines Project' : Section leader: Non target Impacts Assessments in Kenya, Brazil, Vietnam.
  • EU Consultative Expert on Bt and other pest-resistant GM crops.
  • EU Scientific Evaluator (FP5,6,7).Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of raspberry aphid
  • International collaborations with ETH Zurich; University of Minnesota; ICIPE, Kenya; EMBRAPA, Brazil; Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Vietnam; National Environmental Research Institute, Denmark; INRA, France; Bioforsk, Norway; Agroscope Switzerland.

Bibliography 

Recent publications

  • Birch, A.N.E.; Williams, R.N.; Gordon, S.C., (In press) Raspberry aphid., In: Ellis, M.A.; Converse, R.H.; Williams, R.N. & Williamson, B. (eds.). Compendium of Raspberry Diseases and Pests. American Phytopathological Society, St Paul, USA, 2nd edition.
  • McLellan, C.R.; Worton, B.J.; Deasy, W.; Birch, A.N.E., (In press) Modelling larval movement data from individual bioassays., Biometrical Journal.
  • Arpaia, S.; Messean, A.; Birch, N.A.; Hokannen, H.; Hartel, S.; Van Loon, J.; Lovei, G.; Park, J.; Spreafico, H.; Squire, G.R.; Steffan-Dewenter, I.; Tebbe, C.; Van Der Voet, H., (2014) Assessing and monitoring impacts of genetically modified plants on agro-ecosystems: the approach of the AMIGA project., Entomologia, 2, Article 154, 79-86.
  • Pritchard, L.; Birch, P.R.J., (2014) The zigzag model of plant-microbe interactions: is it time to move on?, Molecular Plant Pathology, 15, 865-870
  • Andow, D.A.; Lovei, G.L.; Arpaia, S.; Wilson, L.; Fontes, E.M.G.; Hilbeck, A.; Lang, A.; Van Tuat, N.; Pires, C.S.S.; Sujii, E.R.; Zwahlen, C.; Birch, A.N.E.; Capalbo, D.M.F.; Prescott, K.; Omoto, C.; Zeilinger, A.R., (2013) An ecologically-based method for selecting ecological indicators for assessing risks to biological diversity from genetically-engineered plants., Journal of Biosafety, 22, 141-156.
  • Askarianzadeh, A.; Birch, A.N.E.; Ramsay, G.; Minaeimoghadam, M., (2013) Study of wild Solanum species to identify sources of resistance against the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae (Sulzer)., American Journal of Potato Research, 90, 66-70.
  • Brooker, R.; Aalders, I.H.; Ballingall, K.; Begg, G.; Birch, A.N.E.; Elliott, G.; Ellis, C.; Freitag, T.; Hawes, C.; Holland, J.; Holmes, B.; Hough, R.L.; Karley, A.; McCracken, D.; Mitchell, R.; Stockan, J.; Zadoks, R.; Albon, S.A.; Hester, A.J.; Pakeman, R.J., (2013) Biotic and biophysical underpinning of ecosystem services in the Scottish context: a review., Published online as an outputs from WP 1.1 of the Ecosystem Services Theme of the SRP.
  • Perry, J.N.; Arpaia, S.; Bartsch, D.; Birch, A.N.E.; Devos, Y.; Gathmann, A.; Gennaro, A.; Kiss, J.; Messean, A.; Mestdagh, S.; Nuti, M.; Sweet, J.B.; Tebbe, C.C., (2013) No evidence requiring change in the risk assessment of Inachis io larvae., Ecological Modelling, 268, 103-122.
  • Matthews, K.B.; Artz, R.R.E.; Birch, N.; Blackstock, K.L.; Brooker, R.; Brown, I.; Cummins, R.; Flanigan, S.; Hallet, P.; Irvine, R.J.; Kenyon, W.; Pakeman, R.J., Prager, K.; Slee, B.; Squire, G.; Stutter, M.; Sutherland, L.; Thomson, K.; Towers, W.; Vinten, A., (2012) Developing agri-environmental measures for the next Scottish Rural Development Programme: a summary of relevent research findings from the James Hutton Institute., Report to the Scottish Government, Natural Resources Division, SRDP Technical Working Group (Agri-Environment), 11pp, 25 June 2012.
  • Matthews, K.B.; Artz, R.R.E.; Birch, N.; Blackstock, K.L.; Brooker, R.; Brown, I.; Cummins, R.; Flanigan, S.; Hallet, P.; Irvine, R.J.; Kenyon, W.; Pakeman, R.J., Prager, K.; Slee, B.; Squire, G.; Stutter, M.; Sutherland, L.; Thomson, K.; Towers, W.; Vinten, A.J.A., (2012) Developing agri-environmental measures for the next Scottish Rural Development Programme: a summary of relevent research findings from the James Hutton Institute., Report to the Scottish Government, Natural Resources Division, SRDP Technical Working Group (Agri-Environment), 11pp, 25 June 2012.
  • 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., Journal of Experimental Botany, 62, 3251-3261.
  • Bjorkman, M.; Klingen, I.; Birch, A.N.E.; Bones, A.M.; Bruce, T.; Johansen, T.; Meadow, R.; Molmann, J.; Selijasen, R.; Smart, L.; Stewart, D., (2011) Phytochemicals of Brassicaceae in plant protection and human health - influences of climate, environment and agronomic practice., Phytochemistry, 72, 538-556.
  • Birch, A.N.E.; Shepherd, T., (2010) Integrated pest and disease management for high quality raspberry production., Defra Horticulture LINK Annual Report, 85pp.
  • Mitchell, C.; Johnson, S.N.; Gordon, S.C.; Birch, A.N.E.; Hubbard, S.F., (2010) Combining plant resistance and a natural enemy to control Amphorophora idaei., BioControl, 55, 321-327.
  • Shepherd, T.; Birch, AN.E., (2010) Fooling the bugs - using plant volatiles as chemo-attractants in integrated pest management schemes., Annual Report of the Scottish Crop Research Institute for 2009, pp41-42.
  • Pritchard, L.; Liu, H.; Booth, C.; Douglas, E.; Francois, P.; Schrenzel, J.; Hedley, P.E.; Birch, P.R.J.; Toth, I.K., (2009) Microarray comparative genomic hybridisation analysis incorporating genomic organisation, and application to enterobacterial plant pathogens., PLoS Computational Biology, 5(8), e1000473.
  • Williams, R.N.; Birch, A.N.E.; Gordon, S.C., (2009) Raspberry fruitworm., American Phytopathological Society, USA, 2nd edition.
  • Andow, D.A.; Van, Tuat, N.; Hilbeck, A.; Underwood, E.; Birch, A.N.E.; Tam, D.Q.; Fitt, G.P.; Giband, M.; West, J.J.; Lang, A.; Quyen, L.Q.; Hong, LT.T.; Lovei, G.L.; Nelson, K.C.; So'n, N.H.; Huan, N.H.; Hai, N.T.; Cuc, N.T.T.; Huynh, N.V.; Uyen, N.V.; Van Lam, P.; VanToan, P.; Sujii, E.R.; Hao, T.A.; Hoa, T.T.C.; Quang, V.D.; Wheatley, R.E.; Wilson, L.J., (2008) Challenges and opportunites with Bt cotton in Vietnam: Synthesis and recommedations., In: Andow, D.A., Hilbeck, A. & Van Tuat, N. (eds.). Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms, Volume 4, Challenges and Opportunites with Bt Cotton in Vietnam. CABI International Press, Wallingford, Chapter 13, 330-344.
  • Hilbeck, A.; Arpaia, S.; Birch, A.N.E.; Chen, Y.; Fontes, E.M.G.; Lang, A.; Hong, LT.T.; Lovei, G.L.; Manchini, B.; Cuc, N.T.T.; Van Huynh, N.; Van Tuat, N.; Van Lam, P.; Van Toan, P.; Pires, C.S.S.; Sujii, E.R.; Lai, T.K.; Underwood, E.; Wheatley, R.E.; Wilson, L.J.; Zwahlen, C.; Andow, D.A., (2008) Non-target impacts and biological diversity risk assessment., In: Andow, D.A., Hilbeck, A. & Van Tuat, N. (eds.). Environmental Risk Assessment of GMO's, Volume 4. Challenges and Opportunites with Bt cotton in Vietnam. CABI, Wallingford, Chapter 5, 115-137.
  • Van Huynh, N.; Birch, A.N.E.; Songa, J.; Van Dynh, N.; Lam, T.T., (2008) Potential effects of transgenic cotton on non-target insect parasitoids in Vietnam., In: Hilbeck, A., Andow, D.A. & Van Tuat, N. (eds.). Environmental Risk Assessment of GMO's, Volume 4. Challenges and Opportunites with Bt cotton in Vietnam. CABI, Wallingford, Chapter 8, 212-235.

  • Email: info@hutton.ac.uk
  • Phone: +44 (0)844 928 5428
  • Craigiebuckler Aberdeen AB15 8QH Scotland
  • Invergowrie Dundee DD2 5DA Scotland
A Scottish charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in Scotland No SC374831.
Registered office: The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie Dundee DD2 5DA. Charity No SCO41796

Printed from /staff/nick-birch on 31/05/16 10:45:21 PM

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.