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James Ajal

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Dept. of Crop Production Ecology. My research aims to increase resource use efficiency of major crops under various arable cropping systems through maximizing functional trait diversity in the cropping systems.


Having worked both in the tropical and temperate regions, I have been exposed to, and appreciated the relevance of maintaining crop diversity in multifunctional cropping systems. My PhD research was based on field and controlled studies evaluating nitrogen economy and other ecological benefits of cereal-legume based system. Going foward, my research focuses on the importance of plant functional traits on plant-plant interactions in general and crop-weed interaction in particular. Within this theme, I study how different crop management practices and the environment factors can influence phenotypic traits, and the consequence on ecosystem service provision.


I support student experimental projects in the course Experimental approaches in plant growth analysis and phenotyping


  • PhD. in Biology specialisation Ecology from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden.
  • MSc in Plant Sciences from the Centre for Crop Systems Analysis, Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands.
  • BSc in Agricultural Sciences and Entrepreneurship, Uganda Christian University, Uganda.

Selected publications

Ajal J, Kiær LP, Pakeman RJ, Scherber C, Weih M. (2022).Intercropping drives plant phenotypic plasticity and changes in functional trait space,
Basic and Applied Ecology (2022)

Ajal, J., Jäck, O., Vico, G., and Weih, M. (2021). Functional trait space in cereals and legumes grown in pure and mixed cultures is influenced more by cultivar identity than crop mixing. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics

Jäck O, Ajal J, Weih M (2021). Altered Nitrogen Availability in Pea–Barley Sole- and Intercrops Changes Dominance of Two Nitrophilic Weed Species. Agronomy. 2021; 11(4):679. 

Weih M, Karley AJ, Newton AC, Kiær LP, Scherber C, Rubiales D, Adam E, Ajal J, Brandmeier J, Pappagallo S, Villegas-Fernández A, Reckling M, Tavoletti S (2021). Grain Yield Stability of Cereal-Legume Intercrops Is Greater Than Sole Crops in More Productive Conditions. Agriculture. 2021; 11(3):255. 

Elhakeem, A., van der Werf, W., Ajal, J., Lucà, D., Claus, S., Vico, R. A., & Bastiaans, L. (2019). Cover crop mixtures result in a positive net biodiversity effect irrespective of seeding configuration. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 285. 

Ajal J, Kiær LP, Pakeman RJ, Scherber C, Weih M (2021) Multi-dimensional trait space in cereal-legume mixtures: an analysis across environments and plant teams. Aspects of Applied Biology, 146, 429-432. 

Ajal J & Weih M (2021). More nitrogen accumulation in mixtures of faba bean and wheat through optimized cultivar choice (under review)

Ajal J (2021) Growth and nitrogen economy of cereal-legume sole- and intercrops, and their effects on weed suppression. PhD Thesis 

Ajal, J (2019) Separating roots in crop mixtures: My Young Researcher Mission to Copenhagen. DIVERSify blog post. 

Kiær LP and Ajal J (2021) Root overyielding and potential soil carbon