Special Issue "Sustainable Crop Production Intensification"

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2017)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Professor Michele Pisante

Chair, Agronomy and Crop Sciences Research and Education Center, University of Teramo, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Interests: conservation agriculture; precision farming; climate adaptation and mitigation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sustainable agriculture integrates the concepts of continuing improvement in agriculture productivity, profitability, and competitiveness by sustainable management of natural resources. One the eve of declining natural resources, changing climate and increasing food demands, the shift from the existing intensive production system to a more sustainable system needs to be an evolving and continuing process. Intertwining challenges of climate change and competition for land, water and energy require attention in the following areas: bridging the gap between actual and potential productivity levels in the agriculture of developing countries; investing in agricultural innovation, broadly defined; and improving national and international research co-operation. For multi-objective optimization, a set of soil-crop-nutrient-water-landscape system management practices, known as Conservation Agriculture (CA), has the potential to achieve all of these goals. CA has the potential for managing decreasing soil productivity and improving the resource-use efficiency and the natural resources base. Hence, it adapts to and mitigates climate change and leads to a more efficient use of inputs to reduce production costs. The integrated approach to Sustainable Crop Production Intensification with adoption of Conservation Agriculture practices, represent a new conceptual issue on Ecosystem ‘Functions’ and ‘Services’ for the predominant sustainable farming systems.

Manuscripts (reviews, perspectives, or original articles) are invited, and may include, but are not limited to, these topics:

  • the major challenges and developments in sustainable agriculture research;

  • intensification crop production for sustainable agriculture;

  • develop environmentally and profitable food production systems;

  • ecological sustainability of farming systems;

  • innovations for improving efficiency and rationale use of natural resources;

  • technological options and new areas of research for Sustainable Crop Production Intensification;

  • Conservation Agriculture practices for Ecosystem ‘Functions’ and ‘Services’.

Prof. Dr. Michele Pisante
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agriculture is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 550 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Sustainable agriculture research
  • Crop Production Intensification
  • Improving efficiency use of natural resource
  • Adapting to climate change
  • Soil-crop-nutrient-water-landscape management
  • Conservation Agriculture
  • Ecosystem Functions and Services

Published Papers (9 papers)

View options order results:
result details:
Displaying articles 1-9
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Jump to: Review

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Exploring the Relationships between Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Yields, and Soil Properties in Cropping Systems
Agriculture 2018, 8(5), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8050062
Received: 9 February 2017 / Revised: 2 April 2018 / Accepted: 24 April 2018 / Published: 26 April 2018
PDF Full-text (781 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Relationships between greenhouse gas emissions, yields, and soil properties are not well known. Utilizing two datasets from long-term cropping systems in Illinois, USA, our we aim to address these knowledge gaps. The objective of this study was to explore the relationships between the
[...] Read more.
Relationships between greenhouse gas emissions, yields, and soil properties are not well known. Utilizing two datasets from long-term cropping systems in Illinois, USA, our we aim to address these knowledge gaps. The objective of this study was to explore the relationships between the physical and chemical properties and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of soil, and cash crop yields over a four-year time-period and following 15 years of treatment implementation in Illinois, USA. The experimental layout was a split-plot arrangement involving rotation and tillage treatments in a randomized complete block design with four replications. The studied crop rotations were continuous corn [Zea mays L.] (CCC), corn-soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] (CS), continuous soybean (SSS), and corn-soybean-wheat [Triticum aestivum L.] (CSW), with each phase being present for every year. The tillage options were chisel tillage (T) and no-tillage (NT). We used an array of multivariate approaches to analyze both of our datasets that included 31 soil properties, GHG emissions (N2O, CO2, and CH4) and cash crop yields. The results from our analyses indicate that N2O emissions are associated with a low soil pH, an increased Al concentration, the presence of soil nitrate throughout the growing season, an increase in plant available water (PAW) and an increased soil C concentration. Likewise, soil CO2 respiration was correlated with low pH, elevated Al concentrations, low Ca, increased PAW, higher levels of microbial biomass carbon (MBC), and lower water aggregate stability (WAS). Emissions of CH4 were associated with increased levels of MBC. Lastly, the yield index (YdI) was correlated with lower levels of soil Ca and available P and lower values of WAS. The association between high YdI and lower WAS can be attributed to tillage, as tillage lowers WAS, but increases yields in highly productive cropping systems in the Midwest. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Open AccessArticle Effect of Chicken Manure Application on Cassava Biomass and Root Yields in Two Agro-Ecologies of Zambia
Agriculture 2018, 8(4), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8040045
Received: 23 February 2018 / Revised: 27 February 2018 / Accepted: 6 March 2018 / Published: 21 March 2018
PDF Full-text (925 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Fertilizer application is known to increase crop yields and mitigate net soil nutrient mining due to continuous removal. However, smallholder farmers rarely apply adequate fertilizers because of high cost, limited availability and lack of awareness. An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect
[...] Read more.
Fertilizer application is known to increase crop yields and mitigate net soil nutrient mining due to continuous removal. However, smallholder farmers rarely apply adequate fertilizers because of high cost, limited availability and lack of awareness. An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of chicken manure on cassava root and biomass yield at Kabangwe and Mansa, two locations representing agroecological zones II and III, respectively, in Zambia. With the aim of exploring alternative soil fertility management for smallholder farmers, the effect of sole chicken manure and mineral fertilizers was evaluated on cassava. The treatments were four levels of chicken manure (0, 1.4, 2.8, 4.2 ton/ha) and a single level of mineral NPK applied at 100N-22P-83K kg/ha as recommended. The design was a Randomized Complete Block (RCBD), with three replications using the improved cassava variety “Mweru” during the 2015/2016 growing season. The results showed significant (p < 0.05) treatment effects on cassava root yields and yield components (fresh and dry root, leaf, stem, and total biomass) at both sites. The highest mean fresh (27.66 ton/ha) and dry root yield (9.55 ton/ha), and total fresh biomass (53.68 ton/ha) and dry biomass (16.12 ton/ha) production were achieved with the application of 4.2 ton/ha of chicken manure. This treatment showed 71% and 81% fresh root yield advantage over the control at Mansa and Kabangwe, respectively. While the marginal rate of return (MRR) was negative for the mineral fertilizer, it was positive for all the chicken manure treatments with the maximum (315%) achieved from the application of 4.2 ton/ha. The study concludes that application of chicken manure significantly increases the yield and biomass production of cassava and is economically efficient. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Carbon and Nitrogen Content of Soil Organic Matter and Microbial Biomass under Long-Term Crop Rotation and Tillage in Illinois, USA
Agriculture 2018, 8(3), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8030037
Received: 20 January 2018 / Revised: 6 March 2018 / Accepted: 8 March 2018 / Published: 9 March 2018
PDF Full-text (558 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Crop rotation and tillage alter soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics by influencing the soil environment and microbes carrying out C and N cycling. Our goal was to evaluate the effect of long-term crop rotation and tillage on the quantity of C and N
[...] Read more.
Crop rotation and tillage alter soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics by influencing the soil environment and microbes carrying out C and N cycling. Our goal was to evaluate the effect of long-term crop rotation and tillage on the quantity of C and N stored in SOM and microbial biomass. Two experimental sites were used to evaluate four rotations—continuous corn (Zea mays L.) (CCC), corn-soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.) (CS), corn-soybean-wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) (CSW), and continuous soybean (SSS), each split into chisel tillage (CT) and no-till (NT) subplots. The CSW rotation increased soil organic carbon (SOC) content compared to SSS; SSS also reduced total nitrogen (TN) compared to other rotations. Levels of SOC and TN were 7% and 9% greater under NT than CT, respectively. Rotation did not affect microbial biomass C and N (MBC, MBN) while tillage reduced only MBN at 10–20 cm compared to NT, likely related to dispersion of N fertilizers throughout the soil. Despite the apparent lack of sensitivity of microbial biomass, changes in SOC and TN illustrate the effects of rotation and tillage on SOM dynamics. The inclusion of crops with high C: N residues and no-till use both support higher C and N content in the top 20 cm of the soil. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle Living Mulch Performance in a Tropical Cotton System and Impact on Yield and Weed Control
Agriculture 2018, 8(2), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8020019
Received: 19 November 2017 / Revised: 20 January 2018 / Accepted: 25 January 2018 / Published: 31 January 2018
PDF Full-text (1442 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) is a major crop in the Vidarbha region of central India. The vertisol soils on which much of the cotton is grown have been severely degraded by the tropical climate, excessive tillage and depletion of organic matter. Living
[...] Read more.
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) is a major crop in the Vidarbha region of central India. The vertisol soils on which much of the cotton is grown have been severely degraded by the tropical climate, excessive tillage and depletion of organic matter. Living mulches have the ability to mitigate these problems but they can cause crop losses through direct competition with the cotton crop and unreliable weed control. Field experiments were conducted in 2012 and 2013 at four locations in Vidarbha to study the potential for growing living mulches in mono-cropped cotton. Living mulch species evaluated included gliricidia [Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Kunth ex Walp.], sesbania [Sesbania sesban (L.) Merr.], sorghum sudan grass [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench × Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench ssp. Drummondii (Nees ex Steud.) de Wet & Harlan] and sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea L.). Living mulch height was controlled through mowing and herbicides were not used. Living mulches generated 1 to 13 tons ha−1 of dry matter across sites and years. Weed cover was negatively correlated with both living mulch biomass and cover. Where living mulches were vigorous and established quickly, weed cover was as low as 7%, without the use of herbicides, or inter-row tillage. In a dry year, living mulch growth had a negative impact on cotton yield; however, in a year when soil moisture was not limiting, there was a positive relationship between cotton yield and living mulch biomass. Use of living mulches in cotton production in the Vidarbha region of India is feasible and can lead to both effective weed suppression and acceptable cotton yields. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle Surfactin Protects Wheat against Zymoseptoria tritici and Activates Both Salicylic Acid- and Jasmonic Acid-Dependent Defense Responses
Agriculture 2018, 8(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8010011
Received: 28 November 2017 / Revised: 21 December 2017 / Accepted: 4 January 2018 / Published: 9 January 2018
PDF Full-text (1798 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Natural elicitors induce plant resistance against a broad spectrum of diseases, and are currently among the most promising biocontrol tools. The present study focuses on the elicitor properties of the cyclic lipopeptide surfactin on wheat, in order to stimulate the defenses of this
[...] Read more.
Natural elicitors induce plant resistance against a broad spectrum of diseases, and are currently among the most promising biocontrol tools. The present study focuses on the elicitor properties of the cyclic lipopeptide surfactin on wheat, in order to stimulate the defenses of this major crop against the challenging fungal pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici. The protection efficacy of surfactin extracted from the strain Bacillus amyloliquefaciens S499 was investigated through greenhouse trials. Surfactin protected wheat by 70% against Z. tritici, similarly to the chemical reference elicitor Bion®50WG. In vitro biocidal assays revealed no antifungal activities of surfactin towards the pathogen. A biomolecular RT-qPCR based low-density microarray tool was used to study the relative expression of 23 wheat defense genes. Surfactin significantly induced wheat natural defenses by stimulating both salicylic acid- and jasmonic acid-dependent signaling pathways. Surfactin was successfully tested as an elicitor on the pathosystem wheat–Z. tritici. These results promote further sustainable agricultural practices and the reduction of chemical inputs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle Impacts of Agro-Ecological Practices on Soil Losses and Cash Crop Yield
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120103
Received: 19 October 2017 / Revised: 21 November 2017 / Accepted: 11 December 2017 / Published: 15 December 2017
PDF Full-text (5414 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The aim of this study was to determine the impact of agro-ecological practices on soil losses, by assessing experimental field topography changes and cauliflower crop yield after an artificial extreme rainfall event. Data were collected in an innovative experimental device in which different
[...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to determine the impact of agro-ecological practices on soil losses, by assessing experimental field topography changes and cauliflower crop yield after an artificial extreme rainfall event. Data were collected in an innovative experimental device in which different combined agronomic strategies were tested such as hydraulic arrangement, crop rotations and agro-ecological service crops (ASC) introduction. The collection of elevation data was carried out in kinematic way before rainfall, and in punctual surveys to evaluate the effects of artificial event on this parameter. Non-parametric tests were performed to evaluate differences between samples. High-resolution digital elevation models were generated from independent data using kriging, and elevation difference maps were produced. The results indicated that the data before and after the artificial rainfall were statistically different. The raised strips suffered soil loss showing that the strip with permanent intercropping was higher than that in the absence of ASC. A significant rise of elevation was registered in the furrowed strips after rainfall, and deposition of soil occurred at the lowest areas of the experimental field. Moreover, the study showed a relationship between cash crop yield and elevation: the areas with lower elevation (higher flooding) were characterized by the lowest yield. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle Low-Input Maize-Based Cropping Systems Implementing IWM Match Conventional Maize Monoculture Productivity and Weed Control
Agriculture 2017, 7(9), 74; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7090074
Received: 13 July 2017 / Revised: 25 August 2017 / Accepted: 28 August 2017 / Published: 6 September 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1192 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Conventional Maize Monoculture (MM), a dominant Cropping System in South-Western France, is now questioned for environmental reasons (nitrate leaching, pesticide use and excessive irrigation). Three low-input Cropping Systems (CS) using diverse weeding strategies (MMLI, a Low-Input MM implementing ploughing, a combination
[...] Read more.
Conventional Maize Monoculture (MM), a dominant Cropping System in South-Western France, is now questioned for environmental reasons (nitrate leaching, pesticide use and excessive irrigation). Three low-input Cropping Systems (CS) using diverse weeding strategies (MMLI, a Low-Input MM implementing ploughing, a combination of on-row spraying and in-between row cultivation and cover crops; MMCT, Conservation Tillage MM implementing chemical control and cover crops; Maize-MSW, maize managed similar to MMLI but rotated with soybean & wheat) were compared to a reference system (MMConv, a conventional MM with tillage and a high quantity of inputs). Potential of Infestation of weeds (PI), weed biomass and crop production of these CS were compared during the first five years after their establishment. Yields were also assessed in weed-free zones hand-weeded weekly in 2014 and 2015. Weed communities did not drastically differ among CS. PI and weed biomass were higher in MMCT, especially for Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P.Beauv. and were comparable between MMConv, MMLI and Maize-MSW. Analysis of covariance between CS and weed biomass did not reveal a significant interaction, suggesting that weed biomass affected yield similarly among the CS. Comparison between weedy and weed-free zones suggested that weeds present at maize maturity negatively affected yields to the same extent for all four CS, despite having different weed biomasses. Grain yields in MMConv (11.3 ± 1.1 t ha−1) and MMLI (10.6 ± 2.3 t ha−1) were similar and higher than in MMCT (8.2 ± 1.9 t ha−1. Similar yields, weed biomasses and PI suggest that MMLI and Maize-MSW are interesting alternatives to conventional MM in terms of weed control and maize productivity and should be transferred to farmers to test their feasibility under wider, farm-scale conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview Advancing Intercropping Research and Practices in Industrialized Agricultural Landscapes
Agriculture 2018, 8(6), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8060080
Received: 2 May 2018 / Revised: 6 June 2018 / Accepted: 6 June 2018 / Published: 8 June 2018
PDF Full-text (4830 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sustainable intensification calls for agroecological and adaptive management of the agrifood system. Here, we focus on intercropping and how this agroecological practice can be used to increase the sustainability of crop production. Strip, mixed, and relay intercropping can be used to increase crop
[...] Read more.
Sustainable intensification calls for agroecological and adaptive management of the agrifood system. Here, we focus on intercropping and how this agroecological practice can be used to increase the sustainability of crop production. Strip, mixed, and relay intercropping can be used to increase crop yields through resource partitioning and facilitation. In addition to achieving greater productivity, diversifying cropping systems through the use of strategic intercrops can increase yield stability, reduce pests, and improve soil health. Several intercropping systems are already implemented in industrialized agricultural landscapes, including mixed intercropping with perennial grasses and legumes as forage and relay intercropping with winter wheat and red clover. Because intercropping can provide numerous benefits, researchers should be clear about their objectives and use appropriate methods so as to not draw spurious conclusions when studying intercrops. In order to advance the practice, experiments that test the effects of intercropping should use standardized methodology, and researchers should report a set of common criteria to facilitate cross-study comparisons. Intercropping with two or more crops appears to be less common with annuals than perennials, which is likely due to differences in the mechanisms responsible for complementarity. One area where intercropping with annuals in industrialized agricultural landscapes has advanced is with cover crops, where private, public, and governmental organizations have harmonized efforts to increase the adoption of cover crop mixtures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview Sustainable Intensification in Dryland Cropping Systems—Perspectives for Adaptions across the Western Siberian Grain Belt
Agriculture 2018, 8(5), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8050063
Received: 2 April 2018 / Revised: 21 April 2018 / Accepted: 26 April 2018 / Published: 29 April 2018
PDF Full-text (2188 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The Western Siberian grain belt is of global significance in terms of agricultural production as well as carbon sequestration and biodiversity preservation. Regional downscaling of general circulation models predict increasing drought risks and water scarcity for this area. Additionally, significant land-use changes took
[...] Read more.
The Western Siberian grain belt is of global significance in terms of agricultural production as well as carbon sequestration and biodiversity preservation. Regional downscaling of general circulation models predict increasing drought risks and water scarcity for this area. Additionally, significant land-use changes took place in this region after the dissolution of the USSR and collapse of the state farm system: Land-use intensity in Western Siberia (Russian Federation) continuously decreased on grassland, whilst on cropland the intensity increased through recultivation of abandoned cropland and rising fertilizer inputs since 2003. Together, these changing conditions have led to challenges for sustainable agriculture in this semi-arid environment. For sustainable land management, strategies for adapted crop production systems are needed. In agronomic field trials, the potential of enhanced water use efficiency as contribution to a resilient agricultural system under changing climate conditions was evaluated and related to the common practice and regional research. In participatory on-farm trials, higher average soil water content (+40%) in the top soil layer led to higher grain yield (+0.4 t ha−1) and protein yield (+0.05 t ha−1) under no-till compared to the common practice of conventional tillage. Despite this, regional research still promotes bare fallowing with beneficial effects only in the first harvest after fallow, whereas the potential of no-till was visible each year, even under above-average wet and cool growing conditions. In this case study from the Western Siberian grain belt, we depict a possible pathway to make cereal production in Western Siberia more sustainable. However, the approach of applied sustainable intensification by promoting no-till is related to the negative concomitant effect of increased herbicide applications. Due to the strict rejection of GMOs in Russian agriculture by the federal government, this is a great opportunity to maintain a large, pristine area of over 17 million km2 with a lower risk of glyphosate-dependent cropping systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Crop Production Intensification)
Figures

Figure 1

Back to Top