Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Category: Standard Studentships

Perennial crops for sustainable cities

Project No. 2347


Primary Supervisor

Dr Elizabeth Nicholls – University of Sussex


Dr Daniel Ingram – University of Kent

Dr David Goulson – University of Sussex


Urban agriculture (UA) is increasingly recognised as a strategy for more sustainable food production. UA can also increase the health and wellbeing of urban residents, reduce warming and air pollution in cities, and provide habitat for wildlife. Evidence suggests that small-scale UA can be as productive as conventional farming, and typically uses fewer synthetic fertilisers. However, considerations must still be given to all aspects of resource use involved in UA to ensure it is truly sustainable.

Perennial crops such as fruit trees and shrubs may offer multiple benefits for reducing resource use in UA. They don’t need to be replanted annually, leading to less soil erosion, and providing carbon storage. They may require less labour and could offer biodiversity benefits by providing food and year-round shelter for wildlife. Perennial crops may also be more resilient to pollination and other resource limitations due to shunting of resources between growing seasons.

Aims and methods:
1. Conduct a systematic review of the pros/cons of perennial crops in UA, identifying knowledge gaps;
2. Work with growers, using citizen science, to collect data on resource use (water, chemical,
labour, financial) in perennial, annual and mixed plantings in UA;
3. Use questionnaires to identify attitudes towards perennial crops in UA e.g. the willingness to
grow and consume such crops (including resilient and less commonly grown crops)
and the perceived benefits and barriers to use;
4. Conduct pollination deficit experiments to assess the resilience of perennial crops to pollinator limitation.

Potential impact of the research:
Perennial crops incorporated into city planning, providing sustainability, wellbeing, climate and biodiversity benefits.

Candidate Qualities:
A background in agriculture, ecology, food security. A strong interest in UA and sustainable food production. Open to developing inter-disciplinary skills and working with diverse stakeholders e.g. members of the public and policy makers.