Name: Sam Reynolds
Project title: Antecedent effects of catch crops upon the cycling of phosphorus in agro-ecosystems and scavenging of plant-fixed phosphorus by the soil microbiome
Where based: Rothamsted Research/University of Nottingham
Bio: Growing up on a commercial arable farm in Hertfordshire, and eventually taking on more of a management role of the partnership in 2010, I have always been immersed in UK farming. This was furthered when I went on to achieve a BSc in Agriculture from the University of Reading in 2014. After this I moved from commercial agriculture into research, taking up a position working on a range of field trials at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in Cambridge. Alongside my PhD project I maintain an active role in my farming partnership, and am enjoying furthering my knowledge on soil science, particularly with regards to practical application.
Project Description: Phosphorus (P) is an essential, non-renewable, element for crop growth which is mined and applied liberally in the developed world with significant environmental impacts, and is limiting crop yields on vast areas of farmland without access to fertiliser, or where soils have a very high P retention capacity. My project will involve investigating the role cover crops (non-harvested plants grown between cash crops to improve soil health) have on P cycling. The aim being to compare different species and mixtures ability to minimise losses from the P cycle and ensure P is sufficiently available to cash crops. With particular emphasis on the P mobilising enzyme activity associated with each species, and persistence of these enzymes into following cash crops. The project will combine methods such as NMR Spectorscopy, Size Exclusion Chromatography and Zymography. Work will be carried out in conjunction with the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust run Allerton Project.