Knowledge for a sustainable world


Dr Lucie Büchi joined the University of Greenwich in 2018, after 7 years of postdoctoral work at Agroscope (Switzerland), the Swiss national centre for agricultural research. At Agroscope, she developed projects in agroecology and especially on cover crop cultivation in reduced tillage systems, in temperate climates. She also studied biological nitrogen fixation by legume cover crops, and developed a soil cover agri-environmental indicator for monitoring purpose for the Swiss government. At NRI, Lucie Büchi works as a crop ecologist with a focus on the sustainability and management of cropping systems in tropical and temperate climates.

Before that, she completed studies in population biology and genetics, followed by a PhD thesis in theoretical community ecology, at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland).

Dr Lucie Büchi has a strong interest in finding solutions to decrease the impact of agriculture on the environment through innovative cropping practices, with a focus on crop production, nutrient cycling, and soil properties.

Among these, cultivation of cover crops, which are crops used only for the environmental services they could provide, and not for direct economic value, has been at the centre of many previous projects.

Lucie’s main research interests are:

  • production and sustainability of tropical agri-systems
  • adoption of cover crops to diversify agri-systems
  • role of legume cover and food crop species in the rotation
  • interspecific competition between cultivated crops
  • biomass production stability of crops
  • sustainable weed management

2022-2024 ‘Increasing productivity and sustainability in UK viticulture’

Funded by Innovate-UK’s Farming Innovation Programme, led by NIAB-EMR and Gusbourne vineyard, in collaboration with Chapel Down vineyard, Vinescapes and T Denne & Sons


The proposed project will bring innovation by quantifying, for the first time, the impact of cover crops and non-chemical weeding strategies on soil health, production efficiency, and juice quality in UK vineyards. Project outputs will include evidence-based recommendations for growers on the best ground management approaches to suit UK vineyards. Industry-wide uptake of these practices would demonstrate to the public, the horticultural sector and retailers that the viti industry is committed to achieving environmental and net-zero goals. We propose to carry out the first full-scale experiments and commercial trials of cover cropping and mechanical weeding strategies in UK vineyards to identify and tailor optimal soil management approaches for the UK industry. The trial sites will serve as long-term research facilities on commercial holdings in Kent, and our intention is that they host separate but allied future research on beneficial insects and soil pathogens. We intend to commercialise project outputs through an existing route.

2019-2021 ‘Landscape scale genomic-environment diversity data to model existing and novel agri-systems under climate change to enhance food security in Ethiopia’

Funded by BBSRC GCRF, in collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Queen Mary University London and Addis Abeba University

Goal: We propose to perform a high-resolution multi-functional genomic and environmental characterization of Ethiopian highland agri-systems, focusing on Enset and ten regionally and globally important crops that together comprise a range of complementary cropping agri-systems in the Southern Ethiopian highlands, seeking to enhance their role in future resource provision, and generating clear economic and social impact on the livelihoods they support.

2019-2021 ‘Socioeconomic and environmental sustainability of coffee agroforestry’ (SEACAF)

Funded by BBSRC GCRF, in collaboration with CATIE (Costa Rica) and Universidad del Valle (Guatemala)

Goals: 1. Identify and assess trade-offs between intensification (maximising productivity and profits) and sustainability (provision of ecosystem services, climate and market resilience) in coffee monocultures and agroforestry systems
2. How to meet growing demand for agricultural products and sustain livelihoods of farmers, in a context of climate change and market variation, while maintaining ecosystem services that are required for production and society as a whole

2016-2017 ‘Innovation hubs for soil improving cropping systems’ (Hubs46)

There is a need to assess the impact of soil improving cropping systems on farms, to investigate how these techniques can concretely contribute to protecting soil functions.

Sixty fields distributed in two networks in Switzerland were studied to establish the impact of soil improving cropping systems on various agricultural parameters including crop yield, soil organic carbon, soil nutrients, soil structure and soil microbiology. Conventional, no till and organic systems were compared.

2015-2017 ‘Climate change adaptability of agricultural systems in Europe’ (Climate CAFE)

Strategies for climate change adaptation of cropping and farming systems need to be based on detailed understanding of risks and opportunities in order to implement short and long-term options. It is also important to identify and understand synergies and trade-offs between alternative strategies.

Together with research teams in nine other EU countries, we will identify and evaluate a wide range of crop management strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The aim is to develop workable short and long-term strategies for climate change adaptation of farming systems in Europe. These strategies focus on soil and water management as well as crop diversification.

The research teams will propose and evaluate possible options for synergies and trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation under IPCC emission scenarios. Different soil-crop models will be used to simulate long-term soil carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions. The information will be scaled up to the regional level where land use and management decisions are made.

The project will help to set priorities regarding the adaptation to climate change and provide potential management solutions to sustainable food production.

2013-2015 ‘Cover crops for conservation agriculture’ (CC4CA)

The project aimed at identifying suitable cover crops that could enhance the environmental benefits of conservation agriculture and analyse their ecosystem services.

Leguminosae, in particular field peas and vetches, that are grown as cover crops between two main crops, suppress weeds efficiently and produce nutrients for successive crops. If a mix of varieties is grown, the biomass production is higher than in monocultures. This in turn improves the ecosystem services. Cover crops are particularly successful if they are sowed immediately after the previous crop is harvested and if the cover crop is carefully selected in view of the expected benefits.

The project showed that the use of herbicides and fertilisers can be reduced if cover crops are used in conservation agriculture. It demonstrated that it is environmentally desirable and economically viable to grow such crops even though their only purpose is protecting the soil.

  • (1st supervisor) Rachel Chase: Characterisation of Enset functional traits, genetics and optimal management practices to enhance food security and climate resilience in Ethiopia. Agriculture Health and Environment Dept., Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK. Time frame: 2020-2023.
  • (2nd supervisor) Immaculate Mueni Mwangangi: Innovative fertiliser solutions to combat Striga on smallholder sorghum farms in Africa. Agriculture Health and Environment Dept., Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK. Time frame: 2020-2023.
  • Büchi, L., Cordeau, S., Hull, R., Rodenburg, J., 2021. Vulpia myuros, an increasing threat for agriculture. Weed Research 61, 13-24, doi: 10.1111/wre.12456
  • Rodenburg, J., Büchi, L., Haggar, J., 2020. Adoption by adaptation: moving from Conservation Agriculture to Conservation Practices. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, doi: 10.1080/14735903.2020.1785734
  • Rodenburg, J., Randrianjafizanaka, M.T., Büchi, L., Dieng, I., Andrianaivo, A.P., Ravaomanarivo, L.H.R., Autfray, P., 2020. Mixed outcomes from conservation practices on soils and Striga-affected yields of a low input, rice-maize system in Madagascar. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 40, 8.
  • Büchi, L., Wendling, M., Amossé, C., Jeangros, B., Charles, R., 2020. Cover crops to secure weed control strategies in a maize crop with reduced tillage. Field Crops Research 247, 107583.
  • Büchi, L., Georges, F., Walder, F., Banerjee, S., Keller, T., Six, J., van der Heijden, M., Charles, R., 2019. The hidden side of cropping system classification: differences and similarities in cropping practices between conventional, no-till and organic systems. European Journal of Agronomy 109, 125920.
  • Wendling, M., Charles, R., Herrera, J.M., Amossé, C., Jeangros, B., Walter, A., Büchi, L., 2019. Effect of species identity and diversity on biomass production and its stability in cover crop mixtures. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 281, 81-91.
  • Banerjee, S., Walder, F., Büchi, L., Meyer, M., Held, A.Y., Gattinger, A., Keller, T., Charles, R., van der Heijden, M., 2019. Agricultural intensification reduces microbial network complexity and the abundance of keystone taxa in roots. The ISME Journal
  • Büchi, L., Wendling, M., Mouly, P., Charles, R., 2018. Comparison of visual assessment and digital image analysis for canopy cover estimation. Agronomy Journal 110(4):1289-1295.
  • Büchi, L., Wendling, M., Amossé, C., Necpalova, M., Charles, R., 2018. Importance of cover crops in alleviating negative effects of reduced soil tillage and promoting soil fertility in a winter wheat cropping system. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 256:92-104.
  • Büchi, L., Wendling, M., Amossé, C., Jeangros, B., Sinaj, S., Charles, R., 2017. Long and short term changes in crop yield and soil properties induced by the reduction of soil tillage in a long term field experiment in Switzerland. Soil and Tillage Research 174:120-129.
  • Wendling, M., Büchi, L., Amossé, C., Jeangros, B., Walter, A., Charles, R., 2017. Specific interactions leading to transgressive overyielding in cover crop mixtures. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 241:88-99.
  • Wendling, M., Büchi, L., Amossé, C., Sinaj, S., Walter, A., Charles, R,. 2016. Influence of root and leaf traits on nutrient uptake of cover crops. Plant and Soil 409:419-434.
  • Büchi, L., Vuilleumier, S., 2016. Ecological strategies in stable and disturbed environments depend on species specialisation. Oikos 125(10):1408-1420.
  • Büchi, L., Gebhard, C.-A., Liebisch, F., Sinaj, S., Ramseier, H., Charles, R., 2015. Accumulation of biologically fixed nitrogen by legumes cultivated as cover crops in Switzerland. Plant and Soil 393:163-175.
  • Büchi, L., Vuilleumier, S., 2014. Coexistence of specialist and generalist species is shaped by dispersal and environmental factors. The American Naturalist 183(5):612-24.
  • Module leader for Applied Plant Ecology
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