Knowledge for a sustainable world

PhD

Dr Lucie Büchi joined the University of Greenwich in 2018, after 7 years of postdoctoral work at Agroscope (Switzerland). There she developed projects in conservation agriculture 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.

Before that, she completed studies in Population biology and genetics at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), followed by a PhD thesis in theoretical community ecology. During her thesis, she developed a spatially explicit metacommunity model which allowed to investigate the influence of the spatial structure of the environment on the evolution of metacommunity properties and diversity, as well as the coexistence of specialist and generalist species.

Dr Lucie Büchi has a strong interest in all the cropping practices allowing to decrease the impact of agriculture on the environment, such as conservation agriculture, and in particular, their influence on crop production, nutrient cycling, plant health and diversity, 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 the focus of many projects.

Lucie’s main research interests are:

  • how can the negative effects of cover crops be mitigated, to improve their adoption by farmers?
  • how do cover crop cultivation interact with reduction of soil tillage to improve soil fertility and decrease herbicide utilisation?
  • interspecific competition between cover crop species grown in mixtures
  • biomass production stability of cover crop species
  • canopy cover estimation methods
  • influence of tillage and fertilisation practices on soil quality in different farm systems
  • introduction of legume cover crop species in the rotation, and influence on legume main crops

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.

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