Project properties

Title Robust cropping systems (@ Droevendaal Experimental Farm)
Group Farming Systems Ecology
Project type thesis
Credits 24-39
Supervisor(s) Dirk van Apeldoorn
Examiner(s) Rogier Schulte
Contact info
Begin date 2016/03/01
End date 2018/12/31
Description Introduction
Most productive modern agro-ecosystems are characterised by an increased homogenisation in space and time. It is hypothesised that as a result of this homogenisation agricultural systems will be increasingly sensitivity to unexpected shocks. Climate change will most likely increase the number of unexpected shocks through an increase of extreme events.
Diverse ecosystems tend to be more stable over time and recent research in resilience theory suggests that stability through diversity is also applicable for social-ecological system. A prudent strategy to deal with this increasing uncertainty is therefore system diversification. In agro-ecosystems diversification can take place across time and space at and at multiple scales. Intercropping, crop rotation, mixed farming and pest-suppressive landscapes are examples of diversification strategies at different scales.
An open question is at what scale a cropping system should diversify. Therefore in 2014 a strip cropping experiment was started. In this experiment we wish to sort out how diversity influences system performance with respect to crop yield, soil fertility and suppression of pest and diseases. The experiment features in many of the FSE-taught course since it integrates the different elements of ecological intensification.
In this research you will investigate the dynamics of pests and diseases at different scales of spatial diversity. In 2016 the experiment will be enlarged to have strips of 3 meter and 6 meter wide and you will investigate how this increase of strip width affects dynamics of pests and diseases. You will for example monitor the spread of potato late blight in the 3 and 6 m wide strips. These observations can be complemented with model simulations on disease dynamics.
Investigate dynamics of pest and diseases at different scales of crop diversity
• monitor diseases over the growing season
• monitor pests over the growing season
• statistical analysis
Used skills Experiences gained
• preparation of a research proposal and field sampling protocol
• working as part of an interdisciplinary project team within a systems experiment
• monitoring of a systems experiment
• hands on experimental work on sampling of diverse agroecosystems
• knowledge on options of diverse agroecosystem
• writing a research report and contribute to a journal manuscript
Requirements Assumed knowledge on:
• agroecology
• basic knowledge of pests and diseases