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Hutton Seminar Series: An ecologist's view on cropping systems

Hutton Seminars
29 October 2018, 10:30am
at James Hutton Institute, New Seminar Room (Dundee) and Macaulay B (Aberdeen)
for scientists, students, researchers and anyone interested
Hutton Seminar Series 2018 badge

Several decades of ecological research have demonstrated the benefits of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning, services and stability. Plant diversity experiments for example have shown that more diverse plant communities are more productive than monocultures. This positive biodiversity effect is due to differences in plant-plant interactions between monocultures and mixtures. In this seminar, Dr Christian Schöb presents ecological research where we assessed the role of plant-plant interactions for ecosystem functioning, in particular in alpine plant communities. He then moves on to studies assessing the environmental and evolutionary context-dependence of these plant interactions, demonstrating that facilitative interactions are more likely under stressful conditions and after joint evolutionary history, while competitive interactions are predominating under more benign conditions. Demonstrating the underlying mechanisms of the benefits of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning he will then put this ecological understanding into the context of cropping systems. What lessons can be learned from ecology when designing cropping systems and what kind of research are we currently doing to test some of the hypotheses drawn from applying ecological concepts to agriculture?

Christian Schöb is Professor of Agricultural Ecology at ETH Zurich. His research focuses on biodiversity patterns, their mechanisms and their role in ecosystem processes. He is interested in knowledge transfer for agricultural systems, which is reflected in his work on the role of positive and negative plant interactions in productivity and other ecosystem services in cultivar and species mixtures of crops. Christian Schöb has a PhD in Plant Ecology from the University of Bern (2008). During his first postdoc at the Spanish National Research Council in Almería, Spain, between 2010 and 2012 he studied facilitative interactions of alpine cushion plants and their context dependence. From 2012 until 2014 he was SNF Advanced postdoc fellow at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, working on biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships with weed species and barley cultivar mixtures. In 2014, he was awarded an SNF Ambizione fellowship and started his independent research group on Plant Interactions at the University of Zurich. Research here focused on the evolutionary consequences of plant interactions. Since 2017 he is SNF professor at the Institute of Agricultural Sciences at ETH Zurich, with main research activities in the evolutionary and environmental context dependence of plant interactions in crop species mixtures. Christian Schöb published 45 research articles in peer-reviewed journals and is dedicated to disseminate research findings through the wider public through public lectures, exhibitions or social media posts.

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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.