The rapid population increase in China from 556.7 to 1226.7 million during the past 50 years means China has one-sixth of the world’s population. This population growth has imposed high pressures on Chinese agriculture. Crop production and productivities have more than doubled, for example mean maize yields have increased from 1.54 to 3.91 t ha-1 from 1960 to 1998. Despite this, food shortages remain major problems. These pressures have also led to intensive cultivation of sloping lands, making China the country with the most serious soil erosion problems in the world. Yunnan Province, south-west China, has some 70% of its total of 6.53 million hectares of cultivated fields located on sloping land, most of which suffers from soil erosion. Furthermore, traditional downslope cultivation of these upland fields produces increased soil loss and runoff and threatens agricultural sustainability. Crop yields on sloping land in these areas have decreased by 30-60% in the last century because of soil erosion and in 50-100 years most topsoil may have been removed. There is an urgent need to develop more productive and sustainable cropping systems and the dual aims of this project were to investigate ways of increasing productivity of maize on sloping land, while conserving soils. This investigation was carried out in Wang Jia Catchment (25028’N,102053’E), selected as a representative area of fragile slopes in Yunnan Province. Five treatments (1) Traditional + Downslope planting (control), (2) Traditional + Contour planting, (3) Traditional + Contour + Straw mulch, (4) Minimum tillage + Contour + Straw mulch and (5) Traditional + Contour + Polythene mulch, were selected for evaluation and established on replicated field plots in 1998 and 1999. An additional experiment in 1999 investigated the effects of irrigation on crop yield. Although there were variations during the growing season and between years, straw mulch with contour planting increased soil moisture (0-20 cm depth) and was associated with lower soil temperatures. Polythene mulch improved soil moisture retention when applied after early season rainfall or irrigation and caused increases in soil surface temperature of up to 4-50C. These increases in soil moisture and temperature were associated with increases in Green Leaf Area Index, Green Leaf Area Duration and standing biomass. Grain yield was increased up to 51.6%, compared to un-mulched plots. Straw mulch increases in yield 14.0 and 20.7% (nonirrigated treatment), compared with the control in 1998 (5.0 versus 4.3 t ha-1) and 1999 (6.2 versus 5.3 t ha-1), respectively. Furthermore, straw mulch appeared to be beneficial for maintaining soil fertility and improving soil structure. Irrigation improved early vegetative growth and final yields when early season rainfall was unreliable and maize grain yield increased by 39.5 to 59.6% in 1999, compared with the corresponding non-irrigated treatments. Polythene mulch and contour planting combined with early irrigation produced the highest maize yields. The results are compared with other published work, including research in erosion plots, where the effectiveness of mulches in reducing runoff and erosion has been evaluated. A cultivation technique combining polythene mulch, straw mulch, contour planting and early season irrigation is considered likely to be highly effective for increasing productivity and improving soil conservation on sloping land. This project is part of a larger programme, which aims to establish and evaluate a demonstration model at a catchment scale for more sustainable crop production systems in the highlands of South-East Asia.
Sandanayake, Yasangika Gayani (University of Wolverhampton, 2009)
In this era of globalisation and fierce competition amongst businesses, there is a need to improve advanced operations management philosophies such as just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to enhance business performance. Literature review shows that there is no mechanism so far to identify key JIT drivers relevant to a given organisation and its production processes, and their impact on enterprise performance. The research carried out here therefore involved the development of a generic performance measurement model to identify and capture the influence of JIT practices on enterprise performance. A conceptual performance measurement model, which was designed based on comprehensive literature review and informal interviews/discussions with both academic researchers and industry practitioners describes the link between JIT drivers (Xi) and measurable performance (Y). This mathematically determined model is aimed at assisting managers in the systematic identification of the influence of key JIT drivers on enterprise performance using a multidimensional tool such as the extended balanced scorecard. The case study approach was selected as the most suitable methodology for testing and validating the conceptual model in JIT enabled production plant and was applied to the production process of Denso Manufacturing (UK) Ltd., a global automotive component manufacturer. A novel eight-step implementation procedure was designed to collect data, which were analysed and validated by design of experiments, linear mathematical modelling, computer based dynamic simulation and analytic hierarchy process tool. The performance measurement model was then successfully applied to a non-automotive component production plant (Risane Ltd.). In conclusion, the performance measurement model can now be suitably applied to JIT enabled manufacturing environments using relevant organisation specific JIT drivers and key performance indicators to optimise system performance. The contribution to knowledge is an innovative, user friendly, robust and multidimensional performance measurement model enabling industry practitioners to optimise JIT processes with substantial performance enhancement. The model could also be applied by future researchers to other operations management philosophies and industries, and at a higher level could be developed into a self-optimising software package, which will enable rapid determination of the key control parameters needed to optimise process performance just in time.
Milne, Eleanor (University of Wolverhampton, 2001)
Agricultural land in China is being degraded, with soil erosion becoming an increasing problem. In Yunnan Province, south-west China, there is a long history of soil erosion due to soil type, climate, anthropogenic influence and because 95% of the Province is mountainous. Population pressure and lack of flat land necessitate cultivation of steep slopes. The Yunnan Government prohibits cultivation of slopes >25°, however policy enforcement would result in food shortages in the Province, due to a lack of suitable land <25°. Therefore, the most appropriate way to curb soil erosion in Yunnan is to devise affordable agronomic means of reducing soil loss, which do not decrease crop productivity on sloping land currently under cultivation. At present, very little research has addressed these issues. A research project, building on existing work from 1993-1996, was initiated in 1998. The aim was to test the hypothesis that contour cultivation and contour cultivation plus straw mulch decrease runoff and soil erosion rates on sloping land in Yunnan Province under maize cultivation and to assess the impact of these conservation measures on maize productivity and soil nutrient status. Thirty runoff plots, located on three different slope angles (I 3°, II 10° and III 27°), in three groups of 10, were used to examine three cropping treatments in a replicated plot design in 1998 and 1999. Treatments were downslope cultivation (control), contour cultivation and contour cultivation plus straw mulch. In addition, there was an unreplicated bare plot in each group. Runoff and soil loss were measured on a storm-by-storm basis. Soil nutrient status was measured at the beginning and end of each cropping season. Crop growth parameters and soil physical properties were measured throughout the cropping seasons (21/05–7/10 in 1998 and 22/05–2/10 in 1999). In 1998, seasonal rainfall was 1024 mm, ~28% greater than the 30-year mean. Soil loss was significantly reduced by contour cultivation on Slopes I and II. On Slope I, downslope cultivation produced 3.07 t ha-1 soil loss and contour cultivation reduced this by 81.4 %. On Slope II, downslope cultivation produced 19.11 t ha-1 and contour cultivation reduced this by 58.0%. The addition of straw mulch gave a further, nonsignificant, reduction on both slopes. On Slope III, downslope cultivation and contour cultivation produced 6.92 and 6.29 t ha-1 of soil loss, respectively, with contour cultivation plus straw mulch having 99.4% less erosion than downslope cultivation. In the much drier 1999 season, no treatment significantly reduced soil loss on Slope I. Contour cultivation significantly reduced soil loss on Slopes II and III. On Slope II, downslope and contour cultivation produced 11.52 t ha-1 of soil loss and contour cultivation reduced this by 85.8%. On Slope III, downslope and contour cultivation produced 8.62 and 0.23 t ha-1, respectively; a reduction of 97.3% by contour cultivation. The addition of straw mulch did not further decrease soil loss. Treatment effects on soil nutrient status varied between the two years. At the end of the 1998 season, there was significantly higher soil available N under contour cultivation plus straw mulch on all three slopes (Slopes I and II P <0.001, Slope III P <0.05), an effect that was not found in 1999. At the end of the 1999 season, soil available K was significantly (P <0.001) higher under contour cultivation plus straw mulch on Slope III. In both years, contour cultivation plus straw mulch significantly reduced soil temperature. However, this did not result in yield reductions in comparison with the control. There was an increase in soil moisture content under contour cultivation plus straw mulch during dry periods, which was particularly noticeable in 1999. In 1998, there were no significant treatment effects on grain or shoot yield. In 1999, on Slope II, contour cultivation plus straw mulch significantly increased grain yield by 50.3% compared with the downslope treatment (P <0.05). In 1999, contour cultivation plus straw mulch also significantly increased leaf plus stem yield on Slopes I and II by 12.4 and 36.8%, respectively. It is concluded that on ≤10° slopes, contour cultivation alone is a suitable soil conservation measure. However, use of straw mulch would benefit soil moisture and nutrient status and could, therefore, increase crop yield. On ≥27° slopes, it is recommended that contour cultivation plus straw mulch be used as a soil conservation measure to ensure maximum soil conservation, even in extreme rainfall conditions.
Jones, Spencer (University of Wolverhampton, 2009)
This thesis examines the influence of the Boer War 1899 – 1902 upon tactics and training in the regular British Army 1902 – 1914. The work argues that several key lessons drawn from South Africa became the tactical cornerstones for infantry, artillery and cavalry throughout the pre-First World War period and shaped the performance of the B.E.F. during the early battles of 1914. The experience of combat against well armed opposition in the Boer War prompted the British Army to develop improved tactics in each of the three major service arms. For example, infantry placed new emphasis on dispersion and marksmanship; cavalry improved their dismounted work and reconnaissance skills; and artillery adopted methods of concealment and strove to improve accuracy and co-ordination. Across the army as a whole, the experience of combat lead to an overall downgrading of the importance of drill and obedience, replacing it instead with tactical skill and individual initiative. In addition, the thesis also examines the impact of the Boer War upon overall British Army doctrine and ethos. The process of reform prior to the First World War was marked by wide ranging debates upon the value of the South African experience, and not all lessons drawn from the conflict endured, with tactical restructuring being further complicated by changes of government and financial restrictions. Nevertheless, key lessons such as dispersion, marksmanship, concealment and firepower were ultimately retained and proved to be of great value during initial clashes against the Germans in 1914. Additionally, the Boer War caused the British to place new emphasis upon overall training of the individual, allowing advanced tactical skills to be inculcated more easily than had been possible in earlier years. However, the short duration of the conventional period of the Boer War meant that there was less opportunity to derive operational lessons for future employment. Furthermore, the colonial policing role of the British Army and the likelihood of small scale deployments meant that developing an operational doctrine was of less immediate value than ensuring flexibility and tactical skill. This meant that the British Army took a somewhat skewed developmental path in the 1902 – 1914. The process of reform ultimately produced a highly adaptable force that was tactically skilled, but which was ill-prepared for the operational complications posed by large scale deployment. While the Boer War was the principal factor in driving reform during the 1902 – 1914 period, there were additional influences at work, including examples from the Russo-Japanese War 1904 – 1905 and various ideas drawn from the armies of the continent. However, this thesis argues that while these outside influences contributed to ongoing debate, they did not offer any particular fresh ideas and were therefore of less importance than the Boer War in shaping British Army development.
Sustainable agriculture in China is highly threatened by rapid urbanization, land degradation and high population pressure. Yunnan Province, south-west China, is 94% mountainous and lacks flat land. Food shortages and inappropriate cultivation have led to intensive cultivation of steep, marginal and fragile land and have increased soil erosion. To curb this situation and assist with poverty alleviation, it is crucial to develop more productive and sustainable cropping systems. An experiment was conducted on sloping areas from 1999 to 2001 in Wang Jia Catchment, Yunnan Province. The project aim was to evaluate the effects of five selected cultivation practices on maize productivity and soil properties. The treatments were: (1) downslope cultivation without mulch, (2) contour cultivation without mulch, (3) contour cultivation with polythene mulch, (4) contour cultivation with polythene and wheat straw mulch (Integrated Contour with Plastic and Straw Mulch Treatment, INCOPLAST) and (5) contour cultivation with polythene mulch and intercropping, wide and narrow row spacing, with soybean in wide row spacing. Crop growth parameters and soil physical properties were measured throughout the cropping seasons. Considering three years data, contour cultivation with polythene mulch generally increased soil temperature by a mean of 1-2°C. The polythene retained considerably more soil moisture during dry weather. However, during wet weather, polythene prevented rainfall directly falling on the soil, which led to less soil moisture content. The soil temperature and moisture regimes under polythene mulch made plants grow faster and canopies develop well, leading to higher final yields. The benefit of polythene was 33-54% more yield than downslope cultivation without mulch treatment, over three seasons. Contour cultivation plus polythene and straw mulch retained significantly higher soil moisture levels. The yield of this treatment in 1999 was ranked second, but in 2000 it had the highest yield and in 2001 it was also more effective than contour cultivation with polythene mulch treatment. Contour cultivation with polythene mulch and intercropping improved maize yield. The soybean harvest also contributed to net income, the crop had a similar function to straw mulch and increased N availability. Contour cultivation increased yields over the range 7.2-11.2% over three seasons compared with downslope cultivation, equivalent to ~500-1000 kg per hectare more grain produced. There were few clear trends in soil properties over the 1999-2001 period. However, N concentrations increased in the contour cultivation with polythene mulch and intercropping treatment. Both contour cultivation with polythene and straw mulch and contour cultivation with polythene mulch and intercropping gave apparent increases in total K, probably resulting from both decayed straw and decomposed soybean leaves. In terms of simple cost-benefit evaluation, downslope cultivation had the lowest input and output, while contour cultivation had a similar input, but a higher output. Contour cultivation with polythene had the highest net return. Contour cultivation with polythene and straw had a high output but did not give a higher net return than contour cultivation with polythene. Contour cultivation with polythene mulch and intercropping generally had the highest input and output and could give a higher net return than contour cultivation with polythene when the soybean harvest was successful, but over three years this treatment had the greatest risk from crop failure. It is recommended that replacing downslope cultivation with contour cultivation can increase crop yields and this simple action could contribute to the development of more sustainable cropping systems in Yunnan. Polythene mulch achieved higher maize yields but its environmental impact requires further study. It is considered that contour cultivation with polythene and straw mulch or soybean intercropping could contribute towards more productive and sustainable cropping systems where soil conservation is high priority. The technique could assist with long-term soil, water and nutrient conservation and improved crop productivity.
Stavropoulos-Kalinoglou, Antonios (University of Wolverhampton, 2009)
Background: Inflammation is the natural reaction of the body to an antigen. In some conditions, this reaction continues even after the elimination of the antigen, entering a chronic stage; it targets normal cells of the body and causes extensive damage. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is such a condition. It associates with significant metabolic alterations that lead to changes in body composition and especially body fat (BF) increases. In the general population, increased body fat (i.e. obesity) associates with a number of health disorders such as systemic low grade inflammation and a significantly increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Both effects of obesity could have detrimental effects in RA. Increased inflammation could worsen disease activity while obesity could further increase the already high CVD risk in RA. However, obesity in RA has attracted minimal scientific attention. Aims: The present project aimed to: 1) assess whether the existing measures of adiposity are able to identify the changes in body composition of RA patients, 2) if necessary develop RA-specific measures of adiposity, 3) investigate the association of obesity with disease characteristics and CVD profile of the patients, 4) and identify factors that might affect body weight and composition in these patients. Methods: A total of 1167 volunteers were assessed. Of them 43 suffered from osteoarthritis and 82 were healthy controls. These, together with 516 RA patients were used in the first study. Their body mass index (BMI), BF, and disease characteristics were assessed. In the second, third, fourth and fifth studies a separate set of 400 RA patients was assessed. In addition to the above assessments, their cardiovascular profile and more detailed disease characteristics were obtained. For the final study, 126 RA patients were assessed for all the above and also data on their physical activity levels and their diet were collected. Results: Assessments of adiposity for the general population are not valid for RA patients. Thus, we proposed RA-specific measures of adiposity. These are able to better identify RA patients with increased BF. We were also able to find associations between obesity and disease activity. Both underweight and obese RA patients had more active disease compared to normal-weight patients. Obese patients had significantly worse CVD profile compared to normal-weight. The newly devised measures of adiposity were able to identify those at increased risk. However, not all obese individuals were unhealthy and not all normal-weight healthy. Among our patients we were able to identify subtypes of obesity with distinct phenotypic characteristics that warrant special attention. Finally, we were able to identify factors that influence body weight and composition. Cigarette smoking protected against obesity while its cessation associated with increased adiposity. Physical activity was also found to be protective against obesity while diet or inflammation of the disease failed to produce any significant results. Conclusions: Obesity is a significant threat to the health of RA patients. The measures of adiposity developed herein should be used to identify obese RA patients. Physical activity seems like the sole mode for effective weight management in this population. Health and exercise professionals should actively encourage their patients to exercise as much as they can. This study has created more questions than it answered; further research in the association of obesity and inflammation, as well as in ways to treat it, is essential.
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