Brighton researchers hungry to learn how local food is grown

Posted On 24 Mar 2018 at 4:55 pm

Researchers want help from people who grow their own food in Brighton and Hove.

The Sussex University experts are trying to understand things like which insects, such as bees, pollinate crops grown in urban areas.

They are also trying to learn what pest control methods are being used and how much food small city growing spaces such as gardens and allotments can provide.

The researchers, known as Team PollinATE, plan to compare local growing methods with those used 5,000 miles away in the Indian city of Kolkata.

Team PollinATE would like to hear from people who live in Brighton and Hove who grow their own food in a garden, allotment, window box or community growing space.

The researchers aim to recruit volunteers to become “citizen scientists” to help collect data on food grown in the local area.

Their work, funded by the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme, is designed to find out how urban food growing contributes to sustainable local food production in each country.

Lead scientist Beth Nicholls said: “Approximately one fifth of the world’s food is grown in urban areas, yet we know surprisingly little about how it is produced.

“That’s why we want to work with growers to collect data on pollinators and pests visiting their growing spaces and to quantify how much food urban gardens and allotments can provide.”

Dr Nicholls added: “Throughout the summer, growers will conduct short surveys of the insects visiting their flowering crops, which will help us to understand more about pollinator behaviour and how best to conserve these important insects.

“Surveys should only take around ten minutes to complete and no prior knowledge of pollinators is needed as training will be provided.

“Volunteers will also be given a diary which they can use to record any pests they encounter and keep track of the weight of food harvested from their crops.

“We even have a handy app which will tell growers exactly how much their harvest is worth.”

Sussex University said: “This is the second year the project has run and the organisers hope to build on the success of last summer which saw Brighton and Hove volunteers survey over 17,000 flowers, count 850 pollinating insects and discover they had grown £425 worth of food on average.

“Volunteers who sign up to take part will receive a pack with information on how to participate, a guide to identify pollinators, and a ‘Grow Your Own’ diary for recording data about their growing space.

“Growers will be sent monthly updates on the findings and are invited to attend one of several practical training events that are occurring throughout the city over the coming months.”

The first two training events for interested volunteers will be held next month.

The first will be at the Brighthelm Centre, in North Road, Brighton, from 10am to noon on Saturday 7 April.

The second will be at the Moulsecoomb Forest Garden, near Moulsecoomb railway station, from 10am to noon on Sunday 8 April.

For more information, visit www.teampollinate.co.uk, email info@teampollinate.co.uk or call 01273 873377.

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