My PhD research focuses on perennial agroecosystems on several scales. Perennials have been championed as one way to attain sustainable food security. Woody perennials can create topographically complex, diverse, and long-lasting food production systems, which have potential to produce food while mitigating many of the sustainability problems associated with intensive annual production. But the agronomic, environmental, and nutritional properties of woody perennial systems (especially in the temperate North) have not been extensively studied as a category.
- Global food contribution of perennial crops. How much do woody perennials contribute to global food security? What proportion contribute core nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) compared to economically but not nutritionally important luxury products (coffee, cocoa, spices)?
- Perennial management – environment and yields. What are the best management practices for woody perennial agriculture? How do these compare to BMPs for annual agriculture? Studies of management practices in perennial agriculture have not been analyzed systematically. I am collecting published and grey literature studies that involve soil management and ground cover, and if possible, doing a meta-analysis across species.
- Nutrition from perennial polycultures. Advocates have argued that polycultures that are based on traditional knowledge and/or mimic natural forest systems produce better nutrition than common annual staple crops. A realistic assessment of nutrition from a variety of such perennial systems in different climates around the world is not yet available in the peer-reviewed literature. This project will do a nutritional analysis using integrated assessment methods for a number of polyculture assemblages representing different climates and diets in different parts of the world.
- Agricultural erosion/desertification and reforestation mapping. Historians and archeologists have noted soil degradation and erosion as one of the causes of decline for civilizations. Degraded agricultural landscapes may have potential for increased food production through “restoration agriculture,” but how extensive is this potential? A spatial mapping exercise combining soil, climate, and settlement density and will be used to find areas that have high potential for restoration through perennial agriculture.
- Ecological field study in mature perennial polycultures. Woody perennial polyculture systems involving innovative management on commercial scales are gaining in popularity in North America but have received little scientific empirical attention. Direct empirical comparisons of ecosystem services involving soil properties, arthropod presence, and genetic diversity between woody perennial and annual agriculture are scant in the literature. I am working towards conducting an observational field study in sites with matched pairs of management scenarios as possible: perennial orchard and an adjacent annual cropland/pasture. If possible, pairs with single-species perennial orchards and multi-species perennial polycultures will be included.
- Values of perennial farmers. Do farmers that invest in long-term, woody perennial crops think about themselves and their environments differently? What are the environment and stewardship related values expressed by farmers that grow perennials conventionally and using various forms of polyculture management?
- Evolution and ecosystem services. Contemporary evolution may be generating or maintaining ecosystem services through adaptation and gene flow. These evosystem services operationally connect evolutionary ecology to conservation science in scenarios where rapid changes are taking place. We provide a framework and some promising examples of evosystem services in our paper in TREE
- Ecological interactions that mitigate pesticide resistance. Two projects involve modeling the mitigation of pesticide resistance though eco-evolutionary processes
- Farmed salmon and sea lice – the effects of refuge populations of sea lice in wild salmon on the evolution of resistance on farms
- Terrestrial agriculture – the effects of pest predators on the early evolution of resistance
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