Dr Lydia Smith joined NIAB in 1997 and initially have a broad remit to expand the research base at NIAB but in the past seven years has led the Novel and Non Food Crops area, working closely with Steven Bentley. A plant ecologist by training, with a particular interest in reclamation of damaged or contaminated land to agricultural or amenity use, Dr Smith has extensive experience in plant microbial interactions and in the application of ecological principles to the farming environment. Her experience naturally spans academic and commercial research in the agricultural crop sector, including six years at the University of East London working closely with the British Coal Board Open Cast Executive and with local councils.
Lydia has a particular interest in diversification of farm species and has sought to foster interaction with both academics and business within the East of England, particularly through the Cambridge Partnership of Plant Scientists.
It became clear following initiation of a portfolio of research projects in the novel and non food crops area that farmers and stakeholders needed a source of information relating to the botany and agronomy of new crop species. The many innovative research programmes in main-stream agricultural food production similarly lacked an easy pipeline for information transfer and efficient discussion with potential users and customers. In answer to this need, Lydia is now piloting a new showcasing facility, Innovation Farm at NIAB to provide a forum for research and innovation providers to interact more directly with such groups and to engage with schools and undergraduates in the longer term. See Link.
Her first degree is in Botany from the University of Sheffield, her MSc, at Reading University and finally a PhD from the University of East London. She spent postdoctoral periods at UEA and Luton University. She then lectured in soil and environmental science at the University of Luton and in reclamation science on M.Sc. courses at the University of East London.