Posted 31 March 2020
"It’s nice to be able to lecture at the university that I gained my PhD from. I already have an insight into how Harper operates and its ethos which will enable me to hit the ground running. I’m excited to help educate the next generation of entomologists."
Dr Joe Roberts has been appointed as Entomology and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Lecturer at Harper Adams University.
Joe completed his PhD in chemical ecology at Harper Adams in 2017 and then in January 2018, started working on a post-doctoral project at Keele University looking at developing novel technology to help manage pulse pests. He said: “My first project, following my PhD, was very applied; I was working on field trials that were looking at controlling beetle pests of pulse crops. We were researching ways to minimise and target pesticide usage in collaboration with industry partners.
“The current project, led by the University of Warwick, that I’m working on is very collaborative; I’m based at both Harper Adams University and Keele University and we’re also collaborating with Durham University and ADAS. We’re aiming to develop a whole new IPM approach to controlling aphid pests in field brassica crops. It’s an exciting project because nothing like this has been funded before; we’re covering the whole suite of IPM.”
He has also be involved in a project looking at improving vine weevil control in hardy nursery stock, which was featured on BBC Midlands last year. More recently, Joe has published, with colleagues from Harper Adams University and Keele University, an opinion paper highlighting the potential pest and disease challenges posed by vertical farming systems.
On his appointment, Joe said: “It’s nice to be able to lecture at the university that I gained my PhD from. I already have an insight into how Harper operates and its ethos which will enable me to hit the ground running. I’m excited to help educate the next generation of entomologists.
“I believe I’ll be able to bring a more applied approach to my teaching. I want to show my students entomology can be used as a tool for managing pests and to develop sustainable farming practices. It’s about making sure agriculture can feed a global population of 9.7 billion people by 2050 in an environmentally sustainable manner.
“I think that pesticides can still have a place within agriculture. IPM is about a holistic approach which sees them as a tool in the toolbox but knowing they can’t be the only tool. We must explore how we can integrate other pest management techniques to really make the most of them.
“My lectures are adaptive to the people I teach. I try to pick pests that feature across a wide geographic range and give examples about general control measures or, alternatively, I give specialised examples where I can talk about specific control measures adopted in individual countries. So it’s all about cherry picking the right examples for your audience.”
In regards to the challenge of teaching students in uncertain times when future legislation and ways of working are unclear, Joe said: “What we have to do as educators is take a broad look at a range of possibilities and give the students the mechanisms so, that when they leave Harper, they can go out and make their own decisions on things they encounter. We provide them with the tools to continue their education as it’s impossible to predict the future, this includes highlighting trusted sources they can use to verify the information they are interacting with.”