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Fred Searle

BY FRED SEARLE

Rothamsted student makes research appeal

Researcher sets up online survey to gather farmers’ opinions on benefits and management of pest-eating beetles after Covid-19 stymies her study

Rothamsted student makes research appeal

Kelly Jowett

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A Rothamsted PhD student whose research into pest-eating beetles has been badly disrupted by the coronavirus lockdown is appealing for farmers to help with her project.

Kelly Jowett, who is co-supervised by the University of Reading, had planned to run a series of farmer workshops this year – but has instead been forced online to seek farmer opinions on the benefits of ground beetles in crop protection.

She said: “With increasing restrictions on pesticides, and public opposition to chemical use, agricultural researchers are looking for new pest management options. Paramount to this is ensuring these are effective and applicable to real world situations.”

Jowett added that she is hoping to discover which farm management practices can encourage those ground beetle species that have a proven role in crop protection, whilst being favourable to farmers’ preferences.

She has set up an online survey that takes less than 20 minutes to complete and will be appealing for help across social media using the hashtag #BeneficialBeetlesSurvey.

“I had originally planned farmer workshops to accompany the questionnaire, which may not be possible in my PhD timescale due to Covid-19. So, I’m humbly requesting as many farmers as possible take part or help spread the word, so that I’m able to collect and analyse meaningful data,” Jowett said.

The survey needs input from all sectors, as ground beetles are beneficial on all farm types.

Studies have shown that ground beetles eat a range of important crop pests such as aphids, slugs, caterpillars, grubs and mites. They also feed on weed seeds, such as dandelion, shepherds purse and chickweed, and can control the populations of livestock pests.

In addition, ground beetles help support biodiverse habitats and provide food resources for threatened farmland wild birds.

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