Dr. Francis Rayns

Francis studied Applied Biology at UCNW Bangor and received a PhD from De Montfort University in Leicester (Somatic Embryogenesis for Plant Propagation). He then worked for over 20 years in the Research Department of HDRA/Garden Organic and was involved with a wide range of research projects concerned with practical organic horticulture, particularly in the field of soil fertility. This included work on green manures, crop rotations, the use of composts and other amendments, vegetable transplant production, soil quality indicators and comparisons of soil managed organically and conventionally.

Many of these projects were conducted on commercial farms in a participatory manner and appropriate dissemination to end users was an important component. Francis also provided advice to members (mainly to gardeners) and ran the Garden Organic Members’ Experiments (a Citizen Science Programme).


  • A retrospective examination of the Garden Organic Members’ Experiment Scheme Garden Organic (formerly the Henry Doubleday Research Association) was established in 1958 and, from the beginning, involved its members in experiments concerned with the development of organic horticulture. This study aims to collate all the available information from over 50 years of experiments and set it into context by means of stakeholder interviews leading to the development of a multimedia installation.
    Funding Agency: Coventry University
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2015-2017
    Principal Investigator: Francis Rayns
    Principal Investigator Institution: Garden Organic/Coventry University
  • Towards a sustainable and productive organic greenhouse horticulture (BioGreenhouse) (Cost Action FA 1105) This project had the aim to improve and disseminate knowledge for new and better production strategies, methods and technologies to support sustainable and productive organic protected cropping.
    Funding Agency: EU COST
    Type of Project: Knowledge transfer
    Start/End Date: 2012-2016
    Principal  Investigator: Rob Meijer
    Principal Investigator Institution: Wageningen University
  • Assessing the potential impact of increasing the area of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones in Wales This project assessed the impact of proposed changes in legislation on farmers, water managers and policy makers using expert panels, farm questionnaires, on-farm impact assessments, and focus groups in different parts of Wales.
    Funding Agency: Coventry University
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2016
    Principal Investigator: Ulrich Schmutz
    Principal Investigator Institution: Coventry University
  • A characterisation of differences between heritage and modern vegetable varieties in terms of crop nutrients and the quality of pollinator rewards. Examples of heritage and modern varieties of key crops will be analysed to determine levels of major nutrients and selected vitamins and minerals. Measurements will also be made of floral volatiles using the technique of air entrainment and pollen and nectar quality will be examined.
    Funding Agency: Coventry University
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2016-2017
    Principal Investigator: Francis Rayns
    Principal Investigator Institution: Coventry University
  • Growing herbaceous plants suitable for anaerobic digestion on brownfield sites using digestate as a soil improver (WRAP OMK044) Field trials on two quarry sites we used to evaluate the growth of mixtures of herbaceous plants that could be used as feedstock for anaerobic digestion. The effects of different soil amendments (synthetic fertilizer, compost and anaerobic digestate) were compared.
    Funding Agency: WRAP
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2012-2014
    Principal Investigator: Mary Dimambro
    Principal Investigator Institution: Cambridge Eco Ltd
  • Literature review: digestate use in protected horticulture (WRAP OMK005-005) The aim of this review was to describe the current state of knowledge worldwide regarding the use of whole digestate, separated liquid digestate (liquor) and separated solid digestate (fibre) from anaerobic digestion (AD) in protected horticulture. Overall, published studies indicate that there is significant potential for digestates (whole, liquor and fibre) to be used in protected horticulture for both ornamental and edible crop production.
    Funding Agency: WRAP
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2014
    Principal  Investigator: Mary Dimambro
    Principal  Investigator Institution: Cambridge Eco Ltd
    Link: PDF File
  • Biofumigant crops as replacements for methyl bromide soil sterilisation in strawberry production (Defra LINK HL0177) Field and laboratory experiments were set up to explore the effectiveness of a range of biofumigant crops to control Verticillium wilt of strawberries and to assess the practical and economic implications of their use.
    Funding Agency: Defra and industrial partners
    Type of Project: ResearchStart/End Date: 2008-2009
    Principal  Investigator: David Yohalem
    Principal  Investigator Institution: East Malling Research
  • An investigation into the adoption of green manures in organic and conventional rotations to aid nitrogen management and maintain soil structure (HDC FV299) Trials were conducted on both organic and conventional farms to assess the value of including a range of fertility building crops in vegetable rotations. Assessments were made of green manure performance, effect on soil fertility and following crop yield.
    Funding Agency: HDC
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2006-2008
    Principal  Investigator: Peter Knight
    Principal  Investigator Institution: Vegetable Consultancy Services
  • EU-Rotate-N - the development and validation of a computer model for nitrogen management (EU funded: QLK5-CT-2002-01100) A new model was developed to assist farmers, researchers and policy makers to understand the flows of nitrogen in vegetable cropping rotations throughout Europe. It was tested using filed trial results and used to assess the suitability of existing good agricultural practice recommendations.
    Funding Agency: EU
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2002-2006
    Principal  Investigator: Clive Rahn
    Principal  Investigator Institution: HRI
    Link: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/wcc/research/nutrition/eurotaten
  • Fertility management strategies in organic arable and vegetable production (Defra OF0363) The overall aim of the project was to explore the effects of contrasting fertility management strategies in organic stockless systems growing arable and/or vegetable crops. This built on previous long term monitoring of a field that had been studied since its conversion to organic production in 1995 and was supported by additional on-farm monitoring and modelling work.
    Funding Agency: Defra
    Type of Project: Research
    Start/End Date: 2007-2009
    Principal Investigator: Margi Lennartsson
    Principal Investigator Institution: HDRA
Coventry University No.1 Modern University No.1 Modern University in the Midlands
Coventry University awarded TEF GOLD Teaching Excellence Framework
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2020
Coventry City of Culture 2021