PhD: Impact of Reduced and Zero Tillage Farming on Soil Biodiversity within Cultivated Agricultural Land

September 2017 - January 2021

The improvement of soil health will have a major impact on agricultural productivity. Soil-dwelling organisms within agro-ecosystems provide crucial ecosystem services for food production through contributions to nutrient recycling (detrivores such as earthworms), drought tolerance (mycorrhizal fungi), and pest mitigation (predators and parasitoids of pests). However, studies to date have suffered from a lack of longer term management data, often being derived from treatments of short duration without consideration of longer-term impacts, or utililising small spatial scales rather than undertaking a ‘whole farm’ analysis. The studentship will assess the impact of reduced and zero tillage on soil dwelling fauna of agronomic importance within arable land, and then identify management practices of greatest potential benefit to key species and the ecosystem services they provide, based on the practices of participating Dorset and Hertfordshire farmers. Recommendations will be derived for management practices of greatest benefit to preserving beneficial organisms and their functions in the context of broader policy drivers including sustainable agriculture, sustainable intensification, greenhouse gas mitigation, and climate change adaptation.


Dr Doug Warner

Appointed student

Tom Wilkes


  • Wilkes, T.I., Warner, D.J., Edmonds-Brown, V., Davies, K.G. & Denholm, I. (2021). Zero tillage systems conserve arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, enhancing soil glomalin and water stable aggregates with implications for soil stability. Soil Systems, 5(1): 4. DOI.

University of Hertfordshire
University of Hertfordshire, 2023.