Professor Toby Bruce is working to safeguard the world’s food supply. With his team of researchers, he is conducting cutting-edge research into global food security and efficient farming practices.

Having always been fascinated by nature and the environment, Toby studied Biology at University College London, before completing his MSc in Applied Entomology and PhD in Chemical Ecology. Through his studies he became aware of the vital role that biology and ecology can play in safeguarding harvests from attack by pests – a research strand that he continues to develop today.

Toby said: “By continually generating a better understanding of how to sustainably manage, control and conserve various species, we can reduce the amount of crops lost to pests and improve our food security.”

One such project that Toby is currently leading involves the issues being caused by the fall armyworm in Africa. Having recently invaded and rapidly spread across large areas of the region, the fall armyworm has become a major threat to agriculture, sustainable food production, food security and livelihoods, affecting at least 400,000ha and causing crop losses estimated to be worth $3billion a year.

The three-year project, which received a grant of £1.1million from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), will result in a pest management system which fights ‘nature with nature’, without the use of pesticides.

Toby continued: “Across the world, farmers have become heavily reliant on the use of pesticides but now pests are evolving resistance at a faster pace than new products are being developed. There is a need for innovation, especially with concern about non-target effects on pollinators. Our quest is to identify, create and develop the urgently-needed new solutions for managing crop pests.”

After gaining his PhD, Toby joined Rothamsted Research, an organisation that pioneered using science to benefit agriculture, as a Research Scientist before being promoted to Senior Research Scientist. Here he studied agriculturally-important insects and their interactions with their host plants and their natural enemies in order to create novel interventions that could improve pest management and reduce dependency on pesticides.

In 2017 Toby joined Keele University as a Professor of Insect Chemical Ecology, where his leading research into insect interactions with plants and crops continues.

Toby summarised: “By leading this important research strand, I hope to inspire the next generation of researchers to continue to tackle global challenges and push back the boundaries of science.”

Toby’s work is a prime example of how Keele University is using its world-leading knowledge, expertise and partnerships to pioneer a difference locally, nationally and internationally. Through work such as Toby’s, Keele is helping to solve of the world’s biggest challenges by improving food security and potentially save lives by doing so.

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Keele is helping to change the world for the better by engaging in cutting-edge research, tackling some of society’s most urgent problems.