Cropping And The Environment



The Cropping and the Environment (CATE) group aims to develop a range of innovative meetings and events tackling key topical and strategic issues in the areas of crops and cropping systems; weed, vegetation and nutrient management and wider agri-environment issues.​

Recent subjects of conferences organised by the Group include: What makes an alien invasive? – risk and policy responses, Agri-Environment Schemes: where do we go from here? Measuring and Marketing the Environmental Costs and Benefits of Agricultural Practice, Biomass and Energy Crops.​

The Group is also responsible for delivering the Crop Protection in Southern Britain meeting.​

We welcome ideas for conferences or other activities from AAB members; please forward these to the Group via the AAB office.​ We look forward to meeting you at one of our conferences soon

Group Convener

Kairsty Topp

Kairsty is an Agricultural Systems Modeller at the Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). My research interest lies in understanding the impact of changes in farm management in cropping / grassland systems on the environment, and in how an understanding of these issues can inform economic and social models of the farming system.

Alongside colleagues, my research addresses the global warming potential of different management systems, mitigation and adaptation strategies for farming systems, and tools to compare the sustainability of different farming systems. I work closely with colleagues from SCRI and other European countries to develop these tools that will be crucial in the assessment of the environmental impact and economic resilience of farming systems.

Current areas of work focus on N2O emissions from grasslands and arable rotations, the assessment of the GWP of crop/arable systems at the Scottish regional level, the development of tools to aid in the assessment of, and how crop/arable systems impact of the environmental and economic sustainability of farming systems. I also have an interest in developing methods to assess how crop morphology impacts on weed and diseases in cereal crops, and understanding the affects of management and climate on a long-term rotation.

Group Members

Syed Shah

I did my PhD in 2012 from the University of Aberdeen and the University of the Highland and Islands, Scotland. My research was on a very old landrace of barley called Bere barley in Orkney. After completion, I joined a distributor as researcher and as an agronomist providing agronomy advice to growers in the south and south-west. I have been in the agricultural industry for the last seven years. Currently I am working as a regional agronomist for NIAB TAG. I am passionate about crop research and finding ways to improve crop and soil health/soil biology. My research objectives are finding ways to reduce our reliance on chemical use without comprising crop yields by improving the efficiency chemicals and fertiliser inputs. Currently I am researching on new fungicides, herbicides, bio-stimulants, micro-nutrients, protected urea, cover crops and flea-beetle control

Kate Smith

Kate is a soil scientist at ADAS.

Rose Boyko

I am an early career Lecturer and Researcher in Carbon Crop and Soil Science group at SRUC Edinburgh. In my PhD I studied a range of soil and liming-related projects at the University of Aberdeen with SRUC Craibstone. I am interested in the soil-plant intersection in crop and grassland systems. Soil is fundamental to nutrient availability, nutrient use efficiency and therefore crop health in plant production. I am especially interested in the ways to support soils to improve efficiency in crop production, agricultural sustainability, food security and to reduce the environmental impact of the agriculture sector.


Jake Bishop

I study how crop production is affected by stressful weather conditions such as heatwaves and droughts, and what we can do to avoid negative impacts. Crop plants are part of a wider ecosystem, so I’m also interested how weather changes interactions between crops and beneficial organisms such as pollinators and pest control agents. My group uses a range of different approaches, from analysing historical records of weather, crop yield and farm management, to exposing plants and insects to simulated climate change in controlled environments. The broad aim of my research is to develop a clearer understanding of threats to food production and help growers to adapt as unfavourable weather conditions become more common. We have a particular focus on how this adaptation can be achieved sustainably while supporting and benefitting from the wider cropping environment. This research feeds directly into my teaching at the University of Reading.

William Smith

Will is a senior trials manager at NIAB, with particular focus on the control of key arable weed species. He has recently started a PhD at the University of Lincoln looking at optimising the use of inter-row cultivations for black-grass control in narrow row crops. He is interested in developing agricultural systems that achieve sustainable weed control, whilst remaining productive and profitable.

Lucie Buchi

Lucie is a crop ecologist at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, working on the impact of management and cropping practices on yield, soil fertility, nutrient cycling and weed control, mostly in arable crops. In particular, she has worked on the introduction and management of cover crops in reduced tillage systems.

Naomi Jones

Naomi is a senior ecologist at Fera, specialising in the impacts of agri-environment schemes and changes in agricultural management on plant communities, habitat condition, wider biodiversity and other environmental issues.​​

Naomi has 25 years’ research experience including management of multidisciplinary, collaborative studies. She has managed many recent evaluations of agri-environment schemes and related initiatives including current projects evaluating the new Countryside Stewardship, assessing the role of advice on HLS agreement set-up, monitoring of Entry Level Stewardship and the impact of ETIP advice and the evaluation of voluntary measures implemented under the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.​​

Her recent research has included studies which combine ecological and wider environmental survey with socio-economic issues such as farmers’ attitudes to, and understanding of, agri-environment policies and their implementation. Other areas of research include management of weeds (detrimental and beneficial) in arable systems.

Mark Fletcher

Mark completed my PhD in 2001 from the University of Reading. My research was conducted on Fragaria ananassa ‘Elsanta’ investigating how the environment and nutrition affected both the physiology of the plant and the flavour in the fruit. I then spent 2 years as a post doc working on spectrally filtering plastics and how they influenced plant growth and development in a range of species including bedding, lettuce and soft fruit.

While doing this I co-supervised a number of B.Sc, M.Sc and Ph.D students. Post this period I’ve worked for British Visqueen, Syngenta, Westland Horticulture and over the last 10 years I’ve been an agronomist advising on a range of crops from cereals, soft and top fruit, potatoes and vegetable production. My research interests include crop nutrition, physiology and disease management and how we can use these to be more efficient in the crops we produce.

Henny Lowth

Henny is a Knowledge Transfer Manager for Cereals & Oilseeds at the AHDB. Prior to this Henny worked in plant biosecurity for Defra followed by several years as a crop’s researcher at the Organic Research Centre.