City food growers wanted for international research project
Green-fingered gardeners who grow their own fruit and veg are being sought for a university research project that will compare their growing methods with counterparts 5,000 miles away.
Researchers from Team PollinATE at the University of Sussex are asking Brighton and Hove residents who grow their own food in a garden, allotment, window box or community growing space to volunteer to become ‘citizen scientists’ and help collect data on food grown across the city.
Team PollinATE is trying to understand which insects, such as bees, pollinate crops grown in urban areas, how much food small city growing spaces such as gardens and allotments can provide, and which are the most common pest control methods used by urban growers.
In collaboration with a team of scientists in Kolkata, Team PollinATE is also working with urban growers in India, funded by the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme. By comparing the results, the researchers hope to find out how urban food growing contributes to sustainable, local food production in each country.
Lead scientist Dr 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.
“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.”
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:
- Saturday 7 April, 10am-12noon at the Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton
- Sunday 8 April, 10am-12noon at Moulsecoomb Forest Garden, near Moulsecoomb train station