PhD Research Student
Sustainable production of sweet cherry: maximising benefits from ecosystem services
- BSc (Hons) Biology, University of Leon (Spain) 2012
- MSc in Biodiversity, Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain) 2013
Zeus is undertaking a full-time PhD, funded by the University of Worcester, Berry Gardens Ltd and Waitrose Plc. He is supervised by Dr Duncan Westbury (Director of studies, University of Worcester), Dr Michael Garratt (University of Reading), Dr Michelle Fountain (NIAB-EMR), and Dr Kate Ashbrook(University of Worcester).
The three-year study will focus on sweet cherry production, and aims to investigate the pollination of cherry blossom in combination with methods to enhance the abundance and diversity of natural enemies of cherry pests. The key approach is through the provision of newly created wildflower habitat between rows of trees in cherry orchards. The study will also investigate how the habitat can be actively managed to maximise benefits.
Populations of pollinators continue to decline due to a number of reasons, including landscape change, habitat loss, pesticide use, and disease. Pollinators provide a vital pollination service to both agricultural and natural systems. Many crop species, including cherries, are highly dependent on pollinators for fruit development. Consequently, declines in pollinators can affect yields and the quality of crops, but also plant diversity in natural systems.
Natural enemies can be attracted into orchards when extra habitat is provided. The ecosystem service provided by predators and parasitoids can therefore be important for reducing pest populations and the damage caused. Ultimately, this can lead to reductions in the use of plant protection products without yields and fruit quality being compromised.
Before starting his PhD at the University of Worcester, Zeus worked as a research assistant for two years at NIAB-EMR (Kent) in the Entomology Department. He worked on a number of research projects including studies in raspberries, strawberries, apples and pears. Key aspects included the study of insect predator-prey interactions and insect-plant-volatile interactions, combined with insect sampling and identification.