The Agroecology Group is focused on contributing to the understanding, development, and establishment of sustainable and resilient agri-food systems.

The group combines excellent domain-based science with a holistic, transdisciplinary approach that integrates research from agroecosystems to value chains in support of the transformation to sustainable farming and other land use systems in Scotland, Europe and globally.

Integrated cropping systems focusses on the agronomic, economic, and environmental aspects of crop production at field and farm scales. The aim is to develop tools and practices for resilient, carbon-neutral, diversified cropping systems that produce food, feed, fuel and fibre sustainably. Drawing on expertise in ecology, plant science, entomology, pathology and agronomy, our research tests new crop types, alternative cropping practices and integrated farm management approaches for their effects on agroecosystem biodiversity, functional ecology, ecosystem services and resilience to environmental change.

Sustainable agroecosystems considers the sustainability of agricultural production systems in their widest sense, including the contribution of non-agricultural land, at farm, regional and national scales. Building on life cycle, spatial and landscape ecology, ecosystem analysis and social-ecological approaches, we monitor, evaluate and forecast the performance of land use systems, predicting the outcome of existing practice and to design, test and promote sustainable alternatives.

Agri-food systems addresses the relationship between crop production and the value-chain with the objective of developing agri-food systems to optimise performance crop quality while also addressing current system “lock-ins” preventing sustainable agricultural production. The research includes fundamental investigations of key beneficial elements of crop production (for example plant physiology and genetics, plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), and the soil microbiome). This informs the co-creation and development of new approaches, methods and products with industry, including the refinement of evaluation tools to quantify consequent sustainability impacts across scales.

The Agroecology Group takes a leading role in working collaboratively to conduct excellent science, share knowledge and have impact in sustainable land management.

Working across disciplines and with stakeholders in land use, agriculture and value chains to co-develop research needs and test innovative solutions.

  • Ecosystem service monitoring – applying new sensing technology to understand the environmental determinants of pollination and fruit set in the CherryBerry project.
  • Novel products – development of processes with a short value chain to commercialise neutral spirit production from peas “Against the Grain”. This created a valorised circular economy for an on-farm distillery via production of the world’s first climate positive gin and vodka, plus high protein coproducts for animal feed. Contact: Pete Iannetta
  • Underutilised crops – The RADIANT project is using multiactor-engagement approaches to understand and develop dynamic value chains that safeguard and optimise the socio-economic potential of underutilised crops. Contact: Pete Iannetta
  • On farm trials – We work with farmers to test different crop combinations and agronomy for improved intercrop performance and biodiversity, as part of the DIVERSify and SEAMS projects. Contact: Ali Karley
  • Living labs – We use living labs as places to experiment on the ground, focussing on co-design with land managers, scientists, industry, public agencies and citizens. For example, in the Global CFaH project we are working with local communities and food producers in small island settings to co-design, deliver and evaluate interventions to increase local sustainable food production for better household nutrition and health. Contact: Ali Karley
  • Farmer Clusters – A network of Farmer Clusters is being established across Europe as part of the FRAMEwork project. Contact: Graham Begg
  • IPM Demo Hubs – As part of an EU-wide multi-actor network, a network of farmers has been created who are moving towards the adoption and demonstration of advanced IPM practices on their farms. Contact: Graham Begg
  • LEAFInnovation Centre at The James Hutton Institute –  co-ordinated by the Agroecology Group in close partnership with the Farm.
  • Umut Katal (2023-27), The development of lanD use rIsk AssessMEnT tools to identify and deploy lEgume-based crop-Rotations for more-sustainable feed- and food-systems across scales (DIAMETER). Co-funded by DEFRA and the EC, this project is co-supervised with Prof. David Styles & Dr Colm Duffy, National University of Ireland Galway (IE).
  • Alice Walker (2022-26), Assessing Scotland’s Pollinator Strategy: A ‘real-world’ approach. Funded by NERC through the Edinburgh Earth, Ecology and Environment Doctoral Training Partnership and co-supervised by Dr Gail Jackson, University of Edinburgh (UK) and Dr Lorna Cole, SRUC (UK).
  • Tamanna Jithesh (2022-26), Realising the environmental benefits of faba beans (Vicia faba L.) via optimised nutrition and nitrogen fixation. Funded by a UKRI-BBSRC Collaborative Training Partnerships (CTP) with the Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO). Co-supervised with Jim Monaghan (as lead) of Harper Adams University (UK).
  • Rafael Diogo Caldeira Duarte (2021-25), Legume-Polyphenol and -Lectin non-nutritional factors and their role in determining the fUnctional diverSity of soil- and gut-microbes (Legumes-PLUS). Co-funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT, Portugal), and co-supervised by Prof. Marta Vasconcelos, University Catholic Porto (PT).
  • Diana G Tixi (2019-23), A ‘real-world’ approach to predicting the impact of land-use policies on pollinators. Funded by the Macaulay Development Trust and University of Greenwich, and co-supervised by Dr Sarah Arnold, NIAB (UK) and Prof. Richard Hopkins, University of Greenwich (UK).
  • Grace Wardell (2019-22), Exploring the ecological and evolutionary impacts of novel agricultural probiotics on native microbial communities. A studentship co-funded with Sheffield University, and co-supervised with Dr Elenora Harrison, Sheffield University (UK).