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Agronomy, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 2017)

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Open AccessArticle Residues Management Practices and Nitrogen-Potassium Fertilization Influence on the Quality of Pineapple (Ananas comosus (L.) Merrill) Sugarloaf Fruit for Exportation and Local Consumption
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 26; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020026
Received: 25 December 2016 / Revised: 1 March 2017 / Accepted: 10 March 2017 / Published: 2 April 2017
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Abstract
Heterogeneity in pineapple fruit quality explains the low export volume of fruits from Benin to international markets. This work aims to investigate the influences of residues mulching or burying and N-K fertilization on (1) fresh fruit juice quality and the proportion of fruit
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Heterogeneity in pineapple fruit quality explains the low export volume of fruits from Benin to international markets. This work aims to investigate the influences of residues mulching or burying and N-K fertilization on (1) fresh fruit juice quality and the proportion of fruit meeting European standards and (2) fruit acceptability for fresh local consumption, as well as to identify morphological characteristics most related to fruit chemical quality attributes. The experimental design was a split-plot with three replications, where the main factor was N-K fertilization (T1 = 1.6 N and 1.6 K, T2 = 5.8 N and 6.6 K, T3 = 10 N and 11.6 K, T4 = 1.6 N and 11.6 K, T5 = 10 N and 1.6 K in g·plant1) and the sub-plot factor was mulching with pineapple residues (no mulching = 0, surface mulching = 10, buried = 10 in t·ha1). The results suggested that residues mulching and N-K fertilization has improved the percentage of fruit meeting European standards and local acceptability. The treatments T2B (T2 + burying) and T4B (T4 + burying) gave a higher proportion of fruits meeting European standards and were also promising for producing highly acceptable fruits by local consumers. Finally, the results revealed that the ratios of crown length: fruit length, crown length: infructescence length and crown length: median diameter were significantly associated with fruit quality, which has not yet been reported. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Effects on Water Management and Quality Characteristics of Ozone Application in Chicory Forcing Process: A Pilot System
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 29; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020029
Received: 23 February 2017 / Revised: 7 April 2017 / Accepted: 13 April 2017 / Published: 19 April 2017
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Abstract
Agriculture is the largest user of world water resources, accounting for 70% of all consumption. Reducing water consumption and increasing water use efficiency in agriculture are two of the main challenges that need to be faced in the coming decades. Radicchio Rosso di
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Agriculture is the largest user of world water resources, accounting for 70% of all consumption. Reducing water consumption and increasing water use efficiency in agriculture are two of the main challenges that need to be faced in the coming decades. Radicchio Rosso di Treviso Tardivo (RTT) is a vegetable that requires a water forcing process prior to final commercialization which presents a significant environmental impact due to the high water volumes used and then dispersed into the environment. The experiment was aimed at reducing the water use in the forcing process of RTT, by developing a pilot system with recycled water in a closed loop through ozone treatment. Concerning water quality, the redox potential value was higher in the ozonized system, whereas turbidity, pH and electrical conductivity of the ozonized system did not change significantly from the control. Yield and quality of plants obtained in the ozonized system did not significantly differ from the control plants except for the antioxidant activity that was higher in plants forced using the water treated with ozone. Our initial results suggest that the ozone treatment could be applied in the forcing process and is suitable for growers, saving up to 95% of water volumes normally used for this cultivation practice. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Efficient Partitioning of Assimilates in Stress-Tolerant Groundnut Genotypes under High-Temperature Stress
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 30; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020030
Received: 3 March 2017 / Revised: 7 April 2017 / Accepted: 11 April 2017 / Published: 20 April 2017
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Abstract
Groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.) genotypes were assessed for pod yield and physiological parameters under heat-stress and non-stress environments. The air temperatures under heat-stress environments were 35 °C and above during flowering, and below 35 °C in non-stress environments. Variability was significant for
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Groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.) genotypes were assessed for pod yield and physiological parameters under heat-stress and non-stress environments. The air temperatures under heat-stress environments were 35 °C and above during flowering, and below 35 °C in non-stress environments. Variability was significant for pod yield and physiological parameters among the genotypes under heat stress. A pod yield reduction of 1.5% to 43.2% was observed under heat-stress environments. However, in heat-tolerant genotypes, either stable or increased pod yield was recorded under high-temperature stress. GJG 31, ICGV 87846, ICGV 03057, ICGV 07038 and GG 20 showed an increase in pod yield by 9.0% to 47.0% at high temperatures, with a 0.65% to 3.6% increase in pod growth rate, while ICGV 06420, ICGV 87128, ICGV 97182, TCGS 1043 and ICGV 03042 are stable for pod yield and recorded a 0.25% to 3.1% increase in pod growth rate. Pod yield, hundred-seed weight, and pod growth rate under heat stress can be used as criteria for selection of heat stress tolerant-genotypes. Based on stress tolerance indices and pod yield performance, ICGVs 07246, 07012, 06039, 06040, 03042, 07038 and 06424 were identified as heat-tolerant genotypes. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Development of a Statistical Crop Model to Explain the Relationship between Seed Yield and Phenotypic Diversity within the Brassica napus Genepool
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 31; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020031
Received: 30 March 2017 / Revised: 14 April 2017 / Accepted: 19 April 2017 / Published: 22 April 2017
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Abstract
Plants are extremely versatile organisms that respond to the environment in which they find themselves, but a large part of their development is under genetic regulation. The links between developmental parameters and yield are poorly understood in oilseed rape; understanding this relationship will
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Plants are extremely versatile organisms that respond to the environment in which they find themselves, but a large part of their development is under genetic regulation. The links between developmental parameters and yield are poorly understood in oilseed rape; understanding this relationship will help growers to predict their yields more accurately and breeders to focus on traits that may lead to yield improvements. To determine the relationship between seed yield and other agronomic traits, we investigated the natural variation that already exists with regards to resource allocation in 37 lines of the crop species Brassica napus. Over 130 different traits were assessed; they included seed yield parameters, seed composition, leaf mineral analysis, rates of pod and leaf senescence and plant architecture traits. A stepwise regression analysis was used to model statistically the measured traits with seed yield per plant. Above-ground biomass and protein content together accounted for 94.36% of the recorded variation. The primary raceme area, which was highly correlated with yield parameters (0.65), provides an early indicator of potential yield. The pod and leaf photosynthetic and senescence parameters measured had only a limited influence on seed yield and were not correlated with each other, indicating that reproductive development is not necessarily driving the senescence process within field-grown B. napus. Assessing the diversity that exists within the B. napus gene pool has highlighted architectural, seed and mineral composition traits that should be targeted in breeding programmes through the development of linked markers to improve crop yields. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Senescence of Crop Plants)
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Open AccessArticle CO2-Induced Changes in Wheat Grain Composition: Meta-Analysis and Response Functions
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 32; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020032
Received: 30 January 2017 / Revised: 10 April 2017 / Accepted: 20 April 2017 / Published: 25 April 2017
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Abstract
Elevated carbon dioxide (eCO2) stimulates wheat grain yield, but simultaneously reduces protein/nitrogen (N) concentration. Also, other essential nutrients are subject to change. This study is a synthesis of wheat experiments with eCO2, estimating the effects on N, minerals (B,
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Elevated carbon dioxide (eCO2) stimulates wheat grain yield, but simultaneously reduces protein/nitrogen (N) concentration. Also, other essential nutrients are subject to change. This study is a synthesis of wheat experiments with eCO2, estimating the effects on N, minerals (B, Ca, Cd, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, S, Zn), and starch. The analysis was performed by (i) deriving response functions to assess the gradual change in element concentration with increasing CO2 concentration, (ii) meta-analysis to test the average magnitude and significance of observed effects, and (iii) relating CO2 effects on minerals to effects on N and grain yield. Responses ranged from zero to strong negative effects of eCO2 on mineral concentration, with the largest reductions for the nutritionally important elements of N, Fe, S, Zn, and Mg. Together with the positive but small and non-significant effect on starch concentration, the large variation in effects suggests that CO2-induced responses cannot be explained only by a simple dilution model. To explain the observed pattern, uptake and transport mechanisms may have to be considered, along with the link of different elements to N uptake. Our study shows that eCO2 has a significant effect on wheat grain stoichiometry, with implications for human nutrition in a world of rising CO2. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of CO2 Concentration and Enrichment on Crops)
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Open AccessArticle Applying New Technologies to Transform Blueberry Harvesting
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 33; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020033
Received: 7 March 2017 / Revised: 25 April 2017 / Accepted: 27 April 2017 / Published: 4 May 2017
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Abstract
The growth of the blueberry industry in the past three decades has been remarkably robust. However, a labor shortage for hand harvesting, increasingly higher labor costs, and low harvest efficiencies are becoming bottlenecks for sustainable development of the fresh market blueberry production. In
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The growth of the blueberry industry in the past three decades has been remarkably robust. However, a labor shortage for hand harvesting, increasingly higher labor costs, and low harvest efficiencies are becoming bottlenecks for sustainable development of the fresh market blueberry production. In this study, we evaluated semi-mechanical harvesting systems consisting of a harvest-aid platform with soft fruit catching surfaces that collected the fruit detached by portable, hand-held, pneumatic shakers. The softer fruit catching surfaces were not glued to the hard sub-surfaces of the harvest-aid platform, but suspended over them. Also, the ergonomic aspect of operating powered harvesting equipment was determined. The pneumatic shakers removed 3.5 to 15 times more fruit (g/min) than by hand. Soft fruit catching surfaces reduced impact force and bruise damage. Fruit firmness was higher in fruit harvested by hand compared to that by pneumatic shakers in some cultivars. The bruise area was less than 8% in fruit harvested by hand and with semi-mechanical harvesting system. The percentage of blue, packable fruit harvested by pneumatic shakers comprised as much as 90% of the total, but less than that of hand-harvested fruit. The ergonomic analysis by electromyography showed that muscle strain in the back, shoulders, and forearms was low in workers operating the light-weight, pneumatic shakers that were tethered to the platform with a tool balancer. The new harvesting method can reduce the labor requirement to about 100 hour/hectare/year and help to mitigate the rising labor cost and shortage of workers for harvesting fresh-market quality blueberries. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Variation for Concentrations of Various Phytoestrogens and Agronomic Traits Among a Broad Range of Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Cultivars and Accessions
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 34; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020034
Received: 15 September 2016 / Revised: 1 May 2017 / Accepted: 2 May 2017 / Published: 5 May 2017
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Abstract
Agronomic characteristics and phytoestrogen concentrations were measured on 17 cultivars and 47 accessions of red clover (Trifolium pratense). These accessions included a range of currently recommended cultivars—from Australia and overseas—and germplasm accessed from genetic resource collections. All lines were grown in
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Agronomic characteristics and phytoestrogen concentrations were measured on 17 cultivars and 47 accessions of red clover (Trifolium pratense). These accessions included a range of currently recommended cultivars—from Australia and overseas—and germplasm accessed from genetic resource collections. All lines were grown in the field at Hamilton Vic in 2000 and 2001. Significant genetic variation was detected for key agronomic parameters such as growth habit, leaf shape and markings, leaf area, herbage yield, flowering time, and prolificacy. Significant variation in the concentration of the four main phytoestrogens was found; total isoflavone concentration ranged from 0.14–1.45% DM. Maximum concentrations of daidzein, genistein, formononetin, and biochanin were 0.06, 0.08, 0.86, and 0.91% DM respectively. Multivariate analysis showed that the accessions grouped into 10 distinct clusters that had between 1 and 10 members. Several accessions were superior to existing cultivars—notably Mediterranean accessions with regard to cool season vigour—and valuable for breeding programs to develop high yielding cultivars with either high (for possible medicinal purposes) or low (for grazing) phytoestrogen concentrations. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Agro-Ecology for Potential Adaptation of Horticultural Systems to Climate Change: Agronomic and Energetic Performance Evaluation
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 35; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020035
Received: 5 April 2017 / Revised: 8 May 2017 / Accepted: 10 May 2017 / Published: 14 May 2017
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Abstract
Adaptation can be a key factor that will shape the future severity of climate change impacts on food production. The objective of this study was to assess the suitability of an agro-ecological approach based on various techniques as potential adaptation strategy in organic
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Adaptation can be a key factor that will shape the future severity of climate change impacts on food production. The objective of this study was to assess the suitability of an agro-ecological approach based on various techniques as potential adaptation strategy in organic horticultural systems. A long-term field experiment was set up in Southern Italy, combining: (i) appropriate soil surface shaping; (ii) cash crop rotation; (iii) agro-ecological service crops (ASC) introduction as living mulch and complementary crops; (iv) tailored organic fertilization; and (v) alternative tillage strategies. In this paper, the first two-year results on cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L.) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) crops, as well as energy consumptions through the Energy Analysis (EA) method are reported. Due to the climatic conditions that occurred, which were characterized by the absence of extreme climatic events (particularly rainfall), it was not possible to verify if the designed experimental device was able to mitigate the impact of climate change, whereas the EA indicated that total energy inputs were lower when ASC are introduced in cropping systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Re-Programming Photosynthetic Cells of Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L) for Fructan Biosynthesis through Transgenic Expression of Fructan Biosynthetic Genes under the Control of Photosynthetic Promoters
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 36; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020036
Received: 16 February 2017 / Revised: 10 May 2017 / Accepted: 10 May 2017 / Published: 25 May 2017
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Abstract
High molecular weight fructans are the main class of water-soluble carbohydrate used for energy storage in many temperate grass species including perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). As well as being important readily mobilisable energy reserves for the plant, fructans are also involved
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High molecular weight fructans are the main class of water-soluble carbohydrate used for energy storage in many temperate grass species including perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). As well as being important readily mobilisable energy reserves for the plant, fructans are also involved in stress tolerance. Fructans are also readily digested by grazing ruminants and hence are a valuable source of energy for sheep, beef and dairy production systems in temperate regions. This paper describes the re-programming of the expression of fructan biosynthesis genes through the transgenic manipulation of 6-glucose fructosyltransferase (6G-FFT) and sucrose:sucrose 1-fructosyl-transferase (1-SST) in perennial ryegrass. Transgenic events were developed with altered fructan accumulation patterns with increases in fructan accumulation and greatly increased accumulation of fructan in leaf blades as opposed to the traditional site of fructan accumulation in the pseudostem. This altered site of fructan accumulation has potential benefits for animal production as leaf blades form the major part of the diet of grazing ruminants. Some of the transgenic events also exhibited enhanced biomass production. This combination of high quality and enhanced yield is of great interest to forage plant breeders and whilst the expression of these phenotypes needs to be confirmed under field conditions, the identification and characterisation of the transgenic events described in this paper validate the potential for the manipulation of fructan biosynthesis in perennial ryegrass. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Effect of Long-Term Continuous Fumigation on Soil Microbial Communities
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 37; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020037
Received: 14 March 2017 / Revised: 11 May 2017 / Accepted: 11 May 2017 / Published: 24 May 2017
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Abstract
High value crop producers in California rely heavily on soil fumigation to control a wide array of soil borne pests including nematodes, pathogens and weeds. Fumigants with broad biocidal activity can affect soil microbial communities that contribute to nutrient cycling and plant nutrient
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High value crop producers in California rely heavily on soil fumigation to control a wide array of soil borne pests including nematodes, pathogens and weeds. Fumigants with broad biocidal activity can affect soil microbial communities that contribute to nutrient cycling and plant nutrient uptake which can impact soil health. It is often thought that soil microbial communities make a relatively rapid recovery following fumigation. However, recently it has been found that repeated application of fumigants over time can have greater and longer lasting impacts on soil microorganisms than single fumigation events. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to determine the effect of long-term repeated application of fumigants on soil microbial communities and compare them with non-fumigated and organic sites. Soil samples were collected from fields in Watsonville, CA. Chronosequence sites were defined by number of years of annual fumigation (yaf) with methyl bromide (15, 26, 33, 39 yaf) at the time of sampling, and representative non-fumigated sites were also included for comparison. Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis was used to analyze the samples. The canonical variate analysis showed that microbial communities in sites with a longer history of fumigation (33 and 39 yaf) were similar to one another; however, they differed significantly from 15 yaf site and further analysis concluded that non-fumigated sites were significantly different than fumigated sites. This study showed that the proportion of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) was lower in all fumigated (15, 33 and 39 yaf) sites as compared to their non-fumigated counterparts, which could be a threat to sustainability since AMF plays a major role in soil health and quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Microbial Functional Groups and Plant Growth)
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Open AccessArticle Spore Density of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi is Fostered by Six Years of a No-Till System and is Correlated with Environmental Parameters in a Silty Loam Soil
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 38; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020038
Received: 5 April 2017 / Revised: 16 May 2017 / Accepted: 26 May 2017 / Published: 28 May 2017
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Abstract
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) play major roles in nutrient acquisition by crops and are key actors of agroecosystems productivity. However, agricultural practices can have deleterious effects on plant–fungi symbiosis establishment in soils, thus inhibiting its potential benefits on plant growth and development. Therefore,
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Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) play major roles in nutrient acquisition by crops and are key actors of agroecosystems productivity. However, agricultural practices can have deleterious effects on plant–fungi symbiosis establishment in soils, thus inhibiting its potential benefits on plant growth and development. Therefore, we have studied the impact of different soil management techniques, including conventional moldboard ploughing and no-till under an optimal nitrogen (N) fertilization regime and in the absence of N fertilization, on AMF spore density and soil chemical, physical, and biological indicators in the top 20 cm of the soil horizon. A field experiment conducted over six years revealed that AMF spore density was significantly lower under conventional tillage (CT) combined with intensive synthetic N fertilization. Under no-till (NT) conditions, the density of AMF spore was at least two-fold higher, even under intensive N fertilization conditions. We also observed that there were positive correlations between spore density, soil dehydrogenase enzyme activity, and soil penetration resistance and negative correlations with soil phosphorus and mineral N contents. Therefore, soil dehydrogenase activity and soil penetration resistance can be considered as good indicators of soil quality in agrosystems. Furthermore, the high nitrate content of ploughed soils appears to be detrimental both for the dehydrogenase enzyme activity and the production of AMF spores. It can be concluded that no-till, by preventing soil from structural and chemical disturbances, is a farming system that preserves the entire fungal life cycle and as such the production of viable spores of AMF, even under intensive N fertilization. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustaining soil functions in agro-ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle N2 Fixation of Common and Hairy Vetches when Intercropped into Switchgrass
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 39; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020039
Received: 22 February 2017 / Revised: 5 June 2017 / Accepted: 6 June 2017 / Published: 8 June 2017
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Abstract
Interest in sustainable alternatives to synthetic nitrogen (N) for switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) forage and bioenergy production, such as biological N2 fixation (BNF) via legume-intercropping, continues to increase. The objectives were to: (i) test physical and chemical scarification techniques (10 total)
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Interest in sustainable alternatives to synthetic nitrogen (N) for switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) forage and bioenergy production, such as biological N2 fixation (BNF) via legume-intercropping, continues to increase. The objectives were to: (i) test physical and chemical scarification techniques (10 total) for common vetch (Vicia sativa L.); (ii) assess whether switchgrass yield is increased by BNF under optimum seed dormancy suppression methods; and (iii) determine BNF rates of common and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa L.) via the N-difference method. Results indicate that chemical scarification (sulfuric acid) and mechanical pretreatment (0.7 kg of pressure for one minute) improve common vetch germination by 60% and 50%, respectively, relative to controls. Under optimum scarification methods, BNF was 59.3 and 43.3 kg·N·ha−1 when seeded at 7 kg pure live seed ha−1 for common and hairy vetch, respectively. However, at this seeding rate, switchgrass yields were not affected by BNF (p > 0.05). Based on BNF rates and plant density estimates, seeding rates of 8 and 10 kg pure live seed (PLS) ha−1 for common and hairy vetch, respectively, would be required to obtain plant densities sufficient for BNF at the current recommended rate of 67 kg·N·ha−1 for switchgrass biomass production in the Southeastern U.S. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rhizobium-legume Symbiosis Effects on Plants)
Open AccessArticle Water Infiltration and Moisture in Soils under Conservation and Conventional Agriculture in Agro-Ecological Zone IIa, Zambia
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 40; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020040
Received: 23 February 2017 / Revised: 30 May 2017 / Accepted: 8 June 2017 / Published: 10 June 2017
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Abstract
Conservation agriculture is often presented as being ‘climate smart’ due to anticipated increases in soil moisture. The extent of enhanced water availability in farmers’ fields is, however, poorly documented. This paper presents five data sets describing soil moisture in fields of small-scale conservation
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Conservation agriculture is often presented as being ‘climate smart’ due to anticipated increases in soil moisture. The extent of enhanced water availability in farmers’ fields is, however, poorly documented. This paper presents five data sets describing soil moisture in fields of small-scale conservation and conventional farmers in the Agro-ecological Zone IIa, Zambia. The data include (1) soil cover; (2) time required for visible soil surface saturation, ponding and initial runoff under artificial rainfall; (3) saturated water infiltration rates; (4) weekly soil moisture at six soil depths for two entire rain seasons; and (5) weekly rainfall in each field. Measurements were done for 15 pairs of comparable fields under conservation and conventional agriculture. Pairwise analysis showed significantly shorter time for surface saturation, ponding, and runoff in conservation fields compared to conventional fields. Saturated infiltration rates in riplines and basins of conservation fields were similar to rates in ploughed/hoed fields. Infiltration rates between riplines and between basins were 31–37% lower than those in ploughed/hoed fields. Soil moisture in riplines and basins of conservation fields was higher by an average factor of 1.08 down to 40 cm soil depth, whereas it was lower by an average factor of 0.89 between plant rows compared to fields under conventional tillage. Based on 34,000 soil moisture measurements from 0 to 60 cm depth over two seasons, soils in conservation fields contained a weighted average of 18.2% (vol.) water compared to 19.9% (vol.) in conventional fields (p < 0.05). The results indicate that small-scale adopters of conservation agriculture are less ‘climate smart’ than conventional farmers in terms of water infiltration and soil moisture. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Mid-Season Leaf Glutamine Predicts End-Season Maize Grain Yield and Nitrogen Content in Response to Nitrogen Fertilization under Field Conditions
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 41; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020041
Received: 2 May 2017 / Revised: 31 May 2017 / Accepted: 6 June 2017 / Published: 10 June 2017
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Abstract
After uptake in cereal crops, nitrogen (N) is rapidly assimilated into glutamine (Gln) and other amino acids for transport to sinks. Therefore Gln has potential as an improved indicator of soil N availability compared to plant N demand. Gln has primarily been assayed
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After uptake in cereal crops, nitrogen (N) is rapidly assimilated into glutamine (Gln) and other amino acids for transport to sinks. Therefore Gln has potential as an improved indicator of soil N availability compared to plant N demand. Gln has primarily been assayed to understand basic plant physiology, rather than to measure plant/soil-N under field conditions. It was hypothesized that leaf Gln at early-to-mid season could report the N application rate and predict end-season grain yield in field-grown maize. A three-year maize field experiment was conducted with N application rates ranging from 30 to 218 kg ha−1. Relative leaf Gln was assayed from leaf disk tissue using a whole-cell biosensor for Gln (GlnLux) at the V3-V14 growth stages. SPAD (Soil Plant Analysis Development) and NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) measurements were also performed. When sampled at V6 or later, GlnLux glutamine output consistently correlated with the N application rate, end-season yield, and grain N content. Yield correlation outperformed GreenSeekerTM NDVI, and was equivalent to SPAD chlorophyll, indicating the potential for yield prediction. Additionally, depleting soil N via overplanting increased GlnLux resolution to the earlier V5 stage. The results of the study are discussed in the context of luxury N consumption, leaf N remobilization, senescence, and grain fill. The potential and challenges of leaf Gln and GlnLux for the study of crop N physiology, and future N management are also discussed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Effect of Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers on the Yield of Two Contrasting Soybean Varieties and Residual Nutrient Effects on a Subsequent Finger Millet Crop
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 42; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020042
Received: 5 April 2017 / Revised: 16 May 2017 / Accepted: 17 May 2017 / Published: 12 June 2017
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Abstract
The problems of low soil fertility resulting from continuous monocropping, crop residue removal and limited fertilizer use represent key challenges to produce surplus food for the ever increasing population of Ethiopia. However, the practices of crop rotation and integrated sources of fertilizer uses
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The problems of low soil fertility resulting from continuous monocropping, crop residue removal and limited fertilizer use represent key challenges to produce surplus food for the ever increasing population of Ethiopia. However, the practices of crop rotation and integrated sources of fertilizer uses could potentially improve soil fertility and productivity. In 2012 and 2014, soybean with different trials consisting of two soybean varieties (Boshe and Ethio-ugozilavia), three levels of farm yard manure (FYM) (3, 6 and 9 t/ha) and three phosphorus levels (8, 16 and 24 kg P ha−1) were combinedin2×3×3factorialarrangements. Twosoybeanvarietiesreceivingnofertilizerapplication followed by finger millet receiving a recommended rate (20 kg P/ha) were included. The experiment was laid out in a randomized complete block design with three replications. In 2013 and 2015, finger millet was planted on each soybean plot as per previous treatment arrangements to evaluate the effect of the precursor crop (soybean) and integrated fertilizer application on yield performance of the subsequent finger millet. Soil pH, organic carbon, total nitrogen and available phosphorus before planting and after crop harvest of soybean in each year showed treatment differences. Both precursor crop and fertilizer application had a positive effect on soil fertility status and, hence, improved the performance of the subsequent finger millet. On the other hand, since the rainfall amount and distribution were different in the 2012 and 2014 seasons, the response of soybean varieties to applied fertilizers was significantly affected, and the correlation between soybean yield and annual rainfall was strongly positive. Use of an early maturing soybean variety (Boshe) with the lowest rates of organicandinorganicfertilizersgavesignificantlyhigheryieldin2012(shortrainyseason)compared with other treatment combinations. In the 2014 cropping season, however, ‘Ethio-ugozilavia’ showed greateryield performancewith the combinedapplication of3 t FYM/haand 1616kg PP/ha followed by 3 t FYM and 88 kg P/ha. Hence, it is recommended to use the ‘Boshe’ variety under a short rainy season and under a low soil fertility status, while variety the ‘Ethio-ugozilavia’ can be used under goodrainyandsoilfertilitymanagementconditions. Consideringresidualeffects,theuseoftheearly maturing soybean variety as a precursor with 3 t FYM/ha and 8–16,816 kg P/ha during the short rainy season could enhance the yield of the subsequent finger millet. On the other hand, the use of the late maturing soybean variety as a precursor with higher organic fertilizer rates (6–9 t FYM/ha) resulted in a significant yield increase of the subsequent finger millet. The use of a late maturing variety of soybean with lower rates of organic manure resulted in a finger millet yield comparable to farmers’ practice, indicating that this option can be adopted by smallholder farmers who cannot produce sufficient organic manure. This study showed that planting of finger millet after a soybean precursor crop even without fertilizer application could give better yield and economic benefits as it saves 70–85% of chemical fertilizer costs compared to the farmers’ practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustaining soil functions in agro-ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle Drought Stress-Related Physiological Changes and Histone Modifications in Barley Primary Leaves at HSP17 Gene
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 43; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020043
Received: 18 May 2017 / Revised: 7 June 2017 / Accepted: 14 June 2017 / Published: 17 June 2017
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Abstract
Stress-inducible genes undergo epigenetic modifications under stress conditions. To investigate if HSP17, of which transcripts accumulate in plant cells under stress, is regulated through epigenetic mechanisms under drought stress, 5-day-old barley (Hordeum vulgare cv. Carina) plants were subjected to progressive drought
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Stress-inducible genes undergo epigenetic modifications under stress conditions. To investigate if HSP17, of which transcripts accumulate in plant cells under stress, is regulated through epigenetic mechanisms under drought stress, 5-day-old barley (Hordeum vulgare cv. Carina) plants were subjected to progressive drought through water withholding for 22 days. Changes in physiological status and expression of HSP17 gene were monitored in primary leaves of control and drought-treated plants every two days. Twelve days after drought started, control and drought-treated plants were analyzed by chromatin-immunoprecipitation using antibodies against three histone modifications (H3K4me3, H3K9ac, and H3K9me2) and H3 itself. Already after four days of drought treatment, stomatal conductance was severely decreased. Thereafter, maximum and quantum yield of photosystem II (PSII), regulated and non-regulated energy dissipation in PSII, and later also chlorophyll content, were affected by drought, indicating the stress-induced onset of senescence. At the 12th day of drought, before leaf water content declined, expression of HSP17 gene was increased two-fold in drought-treated plants compared to the controls. Twelve days of drought caused an increase in H3 and a loss in H3K9me2 not only at HSP17, but also at constitutively transcribed reference genes ACTIN, PROTEIN PHOSPHATASE 2A (pp2A), and at silent regions BM9, CEREBA. In contrast, H3K4me3 showed a specific increase at HSP17 gene at the beginning and the middle part of the coding region, indicating that this mark is critical for the drought-responsive transcription status of a gene. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Senescence of Crop Plants)
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Open AccessArticle Rhizoctonia solani and Bacterial Inoculants Stimulate Root Exudation of Antifungal Compounds in Lettuce in a Soil-Type Specific Manner
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 44; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020044
Received: 4 May 2017 / Revised: 8 June 2017 / Accepted: 12 June 2017 / Published: 18 June 2017
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Abstract
Previous studies conducted on a unique field site comprising three contrasting soils (diluvial sand DS, alluvial loam AL, loess loam LL) under identical cropping history, demonstrated soil type-dependent differences in biocontrol efficiency against Rhizoctonia solani-induced bottom rot disease in lettuce by two
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Previous studies conducted on a unique field site comprising three contrasting soils (diluvial sand DS, alluvial loam AL, loess loam LL) under identical cropping history, demonstrated soil type-dependent differences in biocontrol efficiency against Rhizoctonia solani-induced bottom rot disease in lettuce by two bacterial inoculants (Pseudomonas jessenii RU47 and Serratia plymuthica 3Re-4-18). Disease severity declined in the order DS > AL > LL. These differences were confirmed under controlled conditions, using the same soils in minirhizotron experiments. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) profiling of rhizosphere soil solutions revealed benzoic and lauric acids as antifungal compounds; previously identified in root exudates of lettuce. Pathogen inoculation and pre-inoculation with bacterial inoculants significantly increased the release of antifungal root exudates in a soil type-specific manner; with the highest absolute levels detected on the least-affected LL soil. Soil type-dependent differences were also recorded for the biocontrol effects of the two bacterial inoculants; showing the highest efficiency after double-inoculation on the AL soil. However, this was associated with a reduction of shoot growth and root hair development and a limited micronutrient status of the host plants. Obviously, disease severity and the expression of biocontrol effects are influenced by soil properties with potential impact on reproducibility of practical applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Microbial Functional Groups and Plant Growth)
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Review

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Open AccessReview Bridging the Rice Yield Gaps under Drought: QTLs, Genes, and their Use in Breeding Programs
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 27; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020027
Received: 5 January 2017 / Revised: 22 February 2017 / Accepted: 27 March 2017 / Published: 9 April 2017
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Abstract
Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population. Although rice production has doubled in the last 30 years as a result of the development of high-yield, widely adaptable, resource-responsive, semi-dwarf varieties, the threat of a food crisis remains
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Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world’s population. Although rice production has doubled in the last 30 years as a result of the development of high-yield, widely adaptable, resource-responsive, semi-dwarf varieties, the threat of a food crisis remains as severe as it was 60 years ago due to the ever-increasing population, water scarcity, labor scarcity, shifting climatic conditions, pest/diseases, loss of productive land to housing, industries, rising sea levels, increasing incidences of drought, flood, urbanization, soil erosion, reduction in soil nutrient status, and environmental issues associated with high-input agriculture. Among these, drought is predicted to be the most severe stress that reduces rice yield. Systematic research on drought over the last 10 years has been conducted across institutes on physiology, breeding, molecular genetics, biotechnology, and cellular and molecular biology. This has provided a better understanding of plant drought mechanisms and has helped scientists to devise better strategies to reduce rice yield losses under drought stress. These include the identification of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) for grain yield under drought as well as many agronomically important traits related to drought tolerance, marker-assisted pyramiding of genetic regions that increase yield under drought, development of efficient techniques for genetic transformation, complete sequencing and annotation of rice genomes, and synteny studies of rice and other cereal genomes. Conventional and marker-assisted breeding rice lines containing useful introgressed genes or loci have been field tested and released as varieties. Still, there is a long way to go towards developing drought-tolerant rice varieties by exploiting existing genetic diversity, identifying superior alleles for drought tolerance, understanding interactions among alleles for drought tolerance and their interaction with genetic backgrounds, and pyramiding the best combination of alleles. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue QTL Mapping of Drought Tolerance)
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Open AccessReview Opportunities for Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum) Improvement Using Molecular Genetics
Agronomy 2017, 7(2), 28; doi:10.3390/agronomy7020028
Received: 28 February 2017 / Revised: 28 March 2017 / Accepted: 4 April 2017 / Published: 13 April 2017
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Abstract
Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.) is a fast-growing perennial grass native to Sub-Saharan Africa that is widely grown across the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is a multipurpose forage crop, primarily used to feed cattle in cut and carry
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Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum Schumach.) is a fast-growing perennial grass native to Sub-Saharan Africa that is widely grown across the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is a multipurpose forage crop, primarily used to feed cattle in cut and carry feeding systems. Characterization and diversity studies on a small collection of Napier grasses have identified a moderate level of genetic variation and highlighted the availability of some good agronomic traits, particularly high biomass production, as a forage crop. However, very little information exists on precise phenotyping, genotyping and the application of molecular technologies to Napier grass improvement using modern genomic tools which have been applied in advancing the selection and breeding of important food crops. In this review paper, existing information on genetic resources, molecular diversity, yield and nutritional quality of Napier grass will be discussed. Recent findings on characterizing disease resistance and abiotic stress (drought) tolerance will also be highlighted. Finally, opportunities and future prospects for better conservation and use arising from the application of modern genomic tools in Napier grass phenotyping and genotyping will be discussed. Full article
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