Knowledge for a sustainable world

BSc (Hons), PhD
Professor Nick Birch
Visiting Professor of Integrated Pest Management

Visiting Professors

Natural Resources Institute, Faculty of Engineering & Science

+44 (0)1634 88 3199

I joined SCRI (now the James Hutton Institute; JHI) in 1985 from the Chemical Ecology group of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London.

I previously studied Applied Biology at Cardiff University before completing a PhD at the University of Southampton on host plant resistance to aphids in wild Vicia species related to the faba bean, supervised by Prof. Steve Wratten and Prof. Frank Bisby.

My research at JHI has evolved from studying the chemical ecology of plant-insect interactions and breeding for pest resistance in brassicas and soft fruit crops to wider interests in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This includes the use of biopesticides and biocontrol agents and the environmental risk assessment of GM crops with pest resistance traits. More recently I joined the JHI Agroecology Group led by Dr Graham Begg, working on aspects of agroecology that span scales from field to farm and landscape. This involves working with modellers to optimise the use of IPM at farm to regional scales, linked to strategies to reduce pesticide inputs and benefit pollinators (IPPM).

I have strong links with multi-disciplinary collaborators in the UK and Europe via several EU projects including PURE and ENDURE. I also represent Scottish interests on the UK Pesticide Forum (HSE), helping to develop the UK’s National Action Plan for the sustainable use of pesticides and IPM uptake by farmers.

My interests in GM crops have focussed on the environmental risk assessment of pest-resistant crops and their compatibility with current or future IPM strategies, aiming to reduce pesticide use and promote biodiversity in different agroecosystems.

Nick is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Entomology and a Fellow of the Linnaean Society. He is an Honorary Professor at the Universities of Greenwich and Idaho.

Overall my approach is to work in multi-disciplinary teams (entomologists, ecologists, phytochemists, modellers) to understand agroecosystems and use this information in the development of sustainable agricultural systems for different cropping systems. I have continued my interests in chemical ecology and insect behaviour, with applied focus on developing IPM tools and strategies, mainly for soft fruit and vegetable crops. This has included the use of pest-resistant crops (conventionally bred and GM), design of novel pest monitoring traps using biomimicry of host plant visual and olfactory cues, use of biocontrol agents to suppress aphid pests of raspberry and environmental risk assessment of pest-resistant GM crops (as a member of the EFSA GMO Panel). More recently I have started working more closely with agroecologists and spatial modellers to develop IPM and pollinator strategies at farm and catchment scales (developing future ‘area-wide IPPM’ systems). This work links to JHI’s broader focus on developing systems for sustainable agriculture (RESAS and EU funded research) and he works closely with industry (biocontrol and biopesticide companies) and with farmers.

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