Personal profile

Research interests

  • Plant/Environment Interactions
  • Research Group: Agroecosystems

Prof. David Higgs has had a long-term and continuing research interest in the interactions of plants, and, especially crop plants with their environment. This began with his Ph.D. study and continues in his current research at the University of Khon Kaen, Thailand.

Particular themes have included plant interactions with their aerial, edaphic and chemical environments. Examples of aerial environment effects and interactions include research carried out at UH on the impact of airborne small size particulates on plants (in collaboration with Burton, M.A., and Tremper, A.S.). This work has been reported at both international scientific symposia and in peer-reviewed journal papers - see publications, etc. list.
Long-term collaboration with the Department of Soil Science & Plant Nutrition at Harran University, Turkey (in particular with Kaya, C. et al) has concentrated on the interaction of crop plants with environmental stress factors, both climatic and edaphic. Examples include effects of heavy metals (e.g. zinc), salinity and water stress on crop plant growth physiology and productivity.

Work from this programme, mainly financed by research grants from TUBITAK (the Turkish equivalent of UK Research Councils) has been reported at a number of international symposia as well as in a large number of peer-reviewed journal articles - see publications, etc. list.
David Higgs' most recent research collaboration is with the Faculty of Agriculture, Khon Kaen University, Thailand, and, in particular, with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Suradej Pholsen, one of his former Ph.D. students. This work is in the general area of forage science and has a long-term aim of improving sustainability of animal farming in N.E. Thailand.

Early studies in this programme concentrated on forage Sorghum, a widely used fodder crop in Thailand which had been little researched. They initially screened the main cultivars in common use to find the most suitable one for the soil and climatic conditions there.
This work has been fully reported in both a UH Ph.D. thesis, presentations at National and International symposia and in journal papers - see publications, etc. list.

More recently they have completed projects on Sorghum silage with particular reference to improving its nutritional status for beef cattle.
This work is now completed and is being written up for publication. Currently they are studying organic forage production systems using a range of tropical grasses and legumes with only (organic) cattle manure as an applied nutrient. This work is ongoing.

All these research projects in Thailand have been funded by either Khon Kaen University (now one of Thailand's designated Research Universities and also placed 5th in the world ranking of Thai Universities) or by the Tropical Feed Resources Research & Development Center (TROFREC)


Education and Professional Qualifications


          PhD (Wales) Physiological Plant Ecology.

         Class II Division (i) BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Botany (Wales)


David Higgs took a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Agricultural Botany at UCW, Aberystwyth. This programme included a work placement in the Legume Breeding Department at the Welsh Plant Breeding Station (WPBS) now part of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at the University of Aberystwyth.

He was subsequently awarded a Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Research Studentship to study for Ph.D. This Ph.D. programme was in the area of physiological plant ecology and investigated the growth physiology of grass species indigenous to poor and fertile soils, respectively. He published his first scientific paper from this programme in the Journal of Ecology.
At the end of his Ph.D. study he worked for one year as a Research Demonstrator at UCW, Aberystwyth prior to taking up a Lectureship in the Department of Biological Sciences at Hatfield Polytechnic where he lectured and carried out research for many years progressing to Senior and then to Principal Lecturer by the time the Polytechnic became the University of Hertfordshire.

While working at UH he was also a key facilitator for other institutions in providing new programmes, e.g. The National Diploma in Agriculture at Shuttleworth College, the B.Sc. in Horticulture at Writtle College (the very first degree programme there). When he left his full-time post in the Department of Environmental Sciences at UH in 2003 he was Associate Head of Department (Academic Quality) and Academic Quality Advisor to the Faculty of Science and the Environment at Bath Spa University.
Since that time he has continued to work on his collaborative International Research Programmes at the University of Harran, S.E. Turkey and more recently at the University of Khon Kaen, N.E. Thailand.

David has taught at all levels from 1st year B.Sc. to Ph.D. supervision. He has supervised a number of successful Ph.D. candidates including some non-native speakers from other countries, (e.g. Thailand, Turkey). He is also an approved examiner at both M.Phil. and Ph.D. level.
Subjects he both taught and examined include:
                                                   Plant mineral nutrition and whole plant physiology.
                                                   Soil science.
                                                   Applied plant ecology.
                                                   Crop production systems.
                                                   Environmental Monitoring
                                                   Environmental Pollution.
                                                   Habitat restoration and re-creation
                                                   Environmental Management
He was appointed Visiting Researcher in Soil Science & Plant NutrItion at the University of Harran, Turkey in 2003,
Visiting Professor of Applied Crop Science in the Agriculture Faculty of Khon Kaen University, Thailand in 2005 and Visiting Professor of Applied Environmental Science at the University of Hertfordshire in 2007.
In 2012 he was appointed to the role of Research Output mentor and facilitator in the Agriculture Faculty, University of Khon Kaen.


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