UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Pollinators, productivity and pesticide use in urban farming: a citizen science approach

10 February 2022, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Natural prosperity

The IGP welcomes Dr Beth Nicholls (University of Sussex) for a Soundbite

This event is free.

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Institute for Global Prosperity

In a world of increasing urbanisation, growing food in cities has the potential both to improve human health and provide habitat for wildlife, creating more sustainable urban environments. Compared to conventional farming, urban agriculture has been the subject of little research, meaning gaps remain regarding the pollinator dependency and productivity of urban grown crops. We co-created a citizen science methodology with urban growers in Brighton & Hove, UK to determine the productivity of urban gardens and allotments, the dependence of crops on insect pollination and the risks posed to human and wildlife health from pesticide use.  Growers harvested 70kg of produce from their growing space on average per season, a yield of 1kg/m2, which is within the range conventional farming yields. Limited pesticides were used, therefore we conclude that urban growing in the UK is likely to be beneficial to biodiversity, both by providing habitat for wildlife in urban areas and through reduced environmental damage compared to conventional farming.

The speaker:

Dr Beth Nicholls is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the University of Sussex. She uses a combination of behavioural, physiological and field-based techniques to study the sensory and learning processes that determine the foraging decisions of insect pollinators, and the implications for insect nutrition, plant-insect interactions and the provision of pollination for wildflowers and crops. A major motivation for her research is to contribute towards solutions for the dual challenges of halting and reversing insect declines and sustainably intensifying food production to meet growing demands.