Open AccessEditorial
Acknowledgement to Reviewers of Agronomy in 2016
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 7; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010007 -
Open AccessArticle
Biochar for Horticultural Rooting Media Improvement: Evaluation of Biochar from Gasification and Slow Pyrolysis
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 6; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010006 -
Abstract
Peat is used as rooting medium in greenhouse horticulture. Biochar is a sustainable alternative for the use of peat, which will reduce peat derived carbon dioxide emissions. Biochar in potting soil mixtures allegedly increases water storage, nutrient supply, microbial life and disease suppression
[...] Read more.
Peat is used as rooting medium in greenhouse horticulture. Biochar is a sustainable alternative for the use of peat, which will reduce peat derived carbon dioxide emissions. Biochar in potting soil mixtures allegedly increases water storage, nutrient supply, microbial life and disease suppression but this depends on feedstock and the production process. The aim of this paper is to find combinations of feedstock and production circumstances which will deliver biochars with value for the horticultural end user. Low-temperature (600 °C–750 °C) gasification was used for combined energy and biochar generation. Biochars produced were screened in laboratory tests and selected biochars were used in plant experiments. Tests included dry bulk density, total pore space, specific surface area, phytotoxicity, pH, EC, moisture characteristics and microbial stability. We conclude that biochars from nutrient-rich feedstocks are too saline and too alkaline to be applied in horticultural rooting media. Biochars from less nutrient-rich feedstocks can be conveniently neutralized by mixing with acid peat. The influence of production parameters on specific surface area, pH, total pore space and toxicity is discussed. Biochar mildly improved the survival of beneficial micro-organisms in a mix with peat. Overall, wood biochar can replace at least 20% v/v of peat in potting soils without affecting plant growth. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview
QTL Analysis for Drought Tolerance in Wheat: Present Status and Future Possibilities
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 5; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010005 -
Abstract
In recent years, with climate change, drought stress has been witnessed in many parts of the world. In many irrigated regions also, shortage of water supply allows only limited irrigation. These conditions have an adverse effect on the productivity of many crops including
[...] Read more.
In recent years, with climate change, drought stress has been witnessed in many parts of the world. In many irrigated regions also, shortage of water supply allows only limited irrigation. These conditions have an adverse effect on the productivity of many crops including cereals such as wheat. Therefore, genetics of drought/water stress tolerance in different crops has become a priority area of research. This research mainly involves use of quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis (involving both interval mapping and association mapping) for traits that are related to water-use efficiency. In this article, we briefly review the available literature on QTL analyses in wheat for traits, which respond to drought/water stress. The outlook for future research in this area and the possible approaches for utilizing the available information on genetics of drought tolerance for wheat breeding are also discussed. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
A Short Non-Saline Sprinkling Increases the Tuber Weights of Saline Sprinkler Irrigated Potatoes
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 4; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010004 -
Abstract
Previous work has shown that a short non-saline sprinkling, following saline sprinkling, increased crop growth. We incorporated this finding into an investigation of two approaches to the conjunctive use of saline and non-saline water sources for sprinkler irrigation of potatoes viz., (i) mixing waters
[...] Read more.
Previous work has shown that a short non-saline sprinkling, following saline sprinkling, increased crop growth. We incorporated this finding into an investigation of two approaches to the conjunctive use of saline and non-saline water sources for sprinkler irrigation of potatoes viz., (i) mixing waters prior to application, and (ii) keeping waters temporally separate, that is commencing each irrigation with saline water and finishing it with non-saline sprinkling. The latter approach delayed canopy senescence and increased tuber weight by at least 150%. Under both approaches, soil salinities and leaf and tuber concentrations of Na+ and Cl were similar. Thus, the advantages of a non-saline sprinkling cannot be explained in terms of its effect on either soil osmotic potential or bulk tissue concentrations of putatively toxic ions Na+ and Cl. We propose that the positive effect of finishing irrigations with a non-saline sprinkling may be attributed to either dilution, and hence increase in osmotic potential, of the water film that remains on the leaf after each irrigation or its effect on the distribution of the putatively toxic ions Na+ and Cl within tissue. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview
The Current Status, Problems, and Prospects of Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) Breeding in China
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 1; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010001 -
Abstract
This paper reviews the current status, methodology, achievements, and prospects of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) breeding in China. There are 77 cultivars that have been registered in the country, these include 36 cultivars bred through breeding programs, 17 introduced from overseas, 5
[...] Read more.
This paper reviews the current status, methodology, achievements, and prospects of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) breeding in China. There are 77 cultivars that have been registered in the country, these include 36 cultivars bred through breeding programs, 17 introduced from overseas, 5 domesticated from wild ecotypes, and 19 through regional collection/breeding programs. Cultivars have been selected for cold resistance, disease resistance, salt tolerance, grazing tolerance, high yield, and early maturity. Most of these cultivars have been developed through conventional breeding techniques, such as selective and cross breeding, and some are now being evaluated that have been developed through the application of transgenic technology. The major problems for alfalfa breeding in China include low success rate, slow progress to breed resistant varieties, lack of breeding materials and their systematic collection, storage and evaluation, lack of advanced breeding techniques, and low adoption rate of new cultivars. There are gaps in alfalfa breeding between China and the developed world. Improvement of alfalfa breeding techniques, development of cultivars with adaptations to different regions within China, and the protection and utilization of alfalfa germplasm resources have been identified as major strategies to improve the efficiency of alfalfa breeding in China. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Improvement of Faba Bean Yield Using Rhizobium/Agrobacterium Inoculant in Low-Fertility Sandy Soil
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 2; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010002 -
Abstract
Soil fertility is one of the major limiting factors for crop’s productivity in Egypt and the world in general. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) has a great importance as a non-polluting and a cost-effective way to improve soil fertility through supplying N to different
[...] Read more.
Soil fertility is one of the major limiting factors for crop’s productivity in Egypt and the world in general. Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) has a great importance as a non-polluting and a cost-effective way to improve soil fertility through supplying N to different agricultural systems. Faba bean (Vicia faba L.) is one of the most efficient nitrogen-fixing legumes that can meet all of their N needs through BNF. Therefore, understanding the impact of rhizobial inoculation and contrasting soil rhizobia on nodulation and N2 fixation in faba bean is crucial to optimize the crop yield, particularly under low fertility soil conditions. This study investigated the symbiotic effectiveness of 17 Rhizobium/Agrobacterium strains previously isolated from different Egyptian governorates in improving the nodulation and N2 fixation in faba bean cv. Giza 843 under controlled greenhouse conditions. Five strains that had a high nitrogen-fixing capacity under greenhouse conditions were subsequently tested in field trials as faba bean inoculants at Ismaillia Governorate in northeast Egypt in comparison with the chemical N-fertilization treatment (96 kg N·ha−1). A starter N-dose (48 kg N·ha−1) was applied in combination with different Rhizobium inoculants. The field experiments were established at sites without a background of inoculation under low fertility sandy soil conditions over two successive winter growing seasons, 2012/2013 and 2013/2014. Under greenhouse conditions, inoculated plants produced significantly higher nodules dry weight, plant biomass, and shoot N-uptake than non-inoculated ones. In the first season (2012/2013), inoculation of field-grown faba bean showed significant improvements in seed yield (3.73–4.36 ton·ha−1) and seed N-yield (138–153 Kg N·ha−1), which were higher than the uninoculated control (48 kg N·ha−1) that produced 2.97 Kg·ha−1 and 95 kg N·ha−1, respectively. Similarly, in the second season (2013/2014), inoculation significantly improved seed yield (3.16–4.68 ton·ha−1) and seed N-yield (98–155 Kg N·ha−1) relative to the uninoculated control (48 kg N·ha−1), which recorded 2.58 Kg·ha−1 and 80 kg N·ha−1, respectively. Interestingly, faba bean inoculated with strain Rlv NGB-FR 126 showed significant increments in seed yield (35%–48%) and seed N-yield (34%–49%) compared to the inorganic N fertilizers treatment (96 kg N·ha−1) over the two cropping seasons, respectively. These results indicate that inoculation of faba bean with effective rhizobial strains can reduce the need for inorganic N fertilization to achieve higher crop yield under low fertility soil conditions. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Development and Testing of Cool-Season Grass Species, Varieties and Hybrids for Biomass Feedstock Production in Western North America
Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 3; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010003 -
Abstract
Breeding of native cool-season grasses has the potential to improve forage production and expand the range of bioenergy feedstocks throughout western North America. Basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) and creeping wildrye (Leymus triticoides) rank among the tallest and most rhizomatous
[...] Read more.
Breeding of native cool-season grasses has the potential to improve forage production and expand the range of bioenergy feedstocks throughout western North America. Basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus) and creeping wildrye (Leymus triticoides) rank among the tallest and most rhizomatous grasses of this region, respectively. The objectives of this study were to develop interspecific creeping wildrye (CWR) × basin wildrye (BWR) hybrids and evaluate their biomass yield relative to tetraploid ‘Trailhead’, octoploid ‘Magnar’ and interploidy-hybrid ‘Continental’ BWR cultivars in comparison with other perennial grasses across diverse single-harvest dryland range sites and a two-harvest irrigated production system. Two half-sib hybrid populations were produced by harvesting seed from the tetraploid self-incompatible Acc:641.T CWR genet, which was clonally propagated by rhizomes into isolated hybridization blocks with two tetraploid BWR pollen parents: Acc:636 and ‘Trailhead’. Full-sib hybrid seed was also produced from a controlled cross of tetraploid ‘Rio’ CWR and ‘Trailhead’ BWR plants. In space-planted range plots, the ‘Rio’ CWR × ‘Trailhead’ BWR and Acc:641.T CWR × Acc:636 BWR hybrids displayed high-parent heterosis with 75% and 36% yield advantages, respectively, but the Acc:641.T CWR × ‘Trailhead’ BWR hybrid yielded significantly less than its BWR high-parent in this evaluation. Half-sib CWR × BWR hybrids of Acc:636 and ‘Trailhead’ both yielded as good as or better than available BWR cultivars, with yields similar to switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), in the irrigated sward plots. These results elucidate opportunity to harness genetic variation among native grass species for the development of forage and bioenergy feedstocks in western North America. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
QTL for Water Use Related Traits in Juvenile Barley
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 62; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040062 -
Abstract
Water use efficiency (WUE) is a trait of prime interest in cases of drought stress because it provides information on biomass production in limited water conditions. In order to get information on WUE and additional water use related traits, i.e., dry weight (DW),
[...] Read more.
Water use efficiency (WUE) is a trait of prime interest in cases of drought stress because it provides information on biomass production in limited water conditions. In order to get information on WUE and additional water use related traits, i.e., dry weight (DW), fresh weight (FW), total leaf water (LW) and leaf water content (WC), greenhouse pot experiments were conducted on 156 barley genotypes (Hordeum vulgare L.) for control (70% maximal water capacity of soil) and drought stress conditions (20% of the maximal water capacity of soil). Significant correlations between WUE and the other water use related traits (r ≤ 0.65) were determined in juvenile barley, and genotypes suited for improving drought stress tolerance in early developmental stages were identified. Furthermore, based on the significant effects of genotypes and treatments, as well as their interaction, data were used for genome wide association studies (GWAS) resulting in the identification of 14 marker trait associations (MTAs) corresponding to four quantitative trait loci (QTL). For WUE, four MTAs were detected mostly located on barley chromosome 4H. For four MTAs, functional annotations related to the involvement in response to abiotic stress were found. These markers may be of special interest for breeding purposes in cases when they will be validated and also detected in later growth stages. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Variation and Correlations among European and North American Orchardgrass Germplasm for Herbage Yield and Nutritive Value
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 61; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040061 -
Abstract
Efforts to improve water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) concentrations are common in perennial forage grass breeding. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) breeding has been very successful in developing new cultivars with high WSC and high agronomic performance. Breeding efforts are ongoing to improve the
[...] Read more.
Efforts to improve water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) concentrations are common in perennial forage grass breeding. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) breeding has been very successful in developing new cultivars with high WSC and high agronomic performance. Breeding efforts are ongoing to improve the WSC of other perennial forage grasses, such as orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata). The United States Department of Agriculture Forage and Range and Deutsche Saatveredelung orchardgrass breeding programs cooperated to characterize the expression and genotype by environment interaction (GEI) of water-soluble carbohydrates in a collection of orchardgrass populations from both breeding programs. Additionally, the effort characterized the relationship between water-soluble carbohydrates and other agronomic and nutritive value traits in these populations. Overall, the Deutsche Saatveredelung populations had higher herbage mass (15%), rust resistance (59%), and later maturity. The Forage and Range Research populations had higher water-soluble carbohydrates (4%), nutritive value, and earlier maturity. However, results were highly dependent on GEI. Differences were very pronounced at the French and German field locations, but less pronounced at the two US locations. Combining the germplasm from the Forage and Range Research and Deutsche Saatveredelung programs may be a way to develop an improved base germplasm source that could then be used separately in the EU and US for water-soluble carbohydrate and other trait improvement. Full article
Open AccessReview
Haploid and Doubled Haploid Techniques in Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) to Advance Research and Breeding
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 60; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040060 -
Abstract
The importance of haploid and doubled haploid (DH) techniques for basic and applied research, as well as to improve the speed of genetic gain when applied in breeding programs, cannot be overstated. They have become routine tools in several major crop species, such
[...] Read more.
The importance of haploid and doubled haploid (DH) techniques for basic and applied research, as well as to improve the speed of genetic gain when applied in breeding programs, cannot be overstated. They have become routine tools in several major crop species, such as maize (Zea mays L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). DH techniques in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.), an important forage species, have advanced to a sufficiently successful and promising stage to merit an exploration of what their further developments may bring. The exploitation of both in vitro and in vivo haploid and DH methods to (1) purge deleterious alleles from germplasm intended for breeding; (2) develop mapping populations for genetic and genomic studies; (3) simplify haplotype mapping; (4) fix transgenes and mutations for functional gene validation and molecular breeding; and (5) hybrid cultivar development are discussed. Even with the comparatively modest budgets of those active in forage crop improvement, haploid and DH techniques can be developed into powerful tools to achieve the acceleration of the speed of genetic gain needed to meet future agricultural demands. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview
Considerations for Managing Agricultural Co-Existence between Transgenic and Non-Transgenic Cultivars of Outcrossing Perennial Forage Plants in Dairy Pastures
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 59; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040059 -
Abstract
Many of the major forage species used in agriculture are outcrossing and rely on the exchange of pollen between individuals for reproduction; this includes the major species used for dairy production in grazing systems: perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and white clover
[...] Read more.
Many of the major forage species used in agriculture are outcrossing and rely on the exchange of pollen between individuals for reproduction; this includes the major species used for dairy production in grazing systems: perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) and white clover (Trifolium repens L.). Cultivars of these species have been co-existing since contrasting cultivars were developed using plant breeding, but the consequences and need for strategies to manage co-existence have been made more prominent with the advent of genetic modification. Recent technological developments have seen the experimental evaluation of genetically modified (GM) white clover and perennial ryegrass, although there is no current commercial growing of GM cultivars of these species. Co-existence frameworks already exist for two major cross-pollinated grain crops (canola and maize) in Europe, and for alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) in the US, so many of the principles that the industry has developed for co-existence in these crops such as detection techniques, segregation, and agronomic management provide lessons and guidelines for outcrossing forage species, that are discussed in this paper. Full article
Open AccessReview
Industrial Hemp in North America: Production, Politics and Potential
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 58; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040058 -
Abstract
Most of the Western World banned the cultivation of Cannabis sativa in the early 20th century because biotypes high in ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the principal intoxicant cannabinoid) are the source of marijuana. Nevertheless, since 1990, dozens of countries have authorized the licensed
[...] Read more.
Most of the Western World banned the cultivation of Cannabis sativa in the early 20th century because biotypes high in ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the principal intoxicant cannabinoid) are the source of marijuana. Nevertheless, since 1990, dozens of countries have authorized the licensed growth and processing of “industrial hemp” (cultivars with quite low levels of THC). Canada has concentrated on hemp oilseed production, and very recently, Europe changed its emphasis from fiber to oilseed. The USA, historically a major hemp producer, appears on the verge of reintroducing industrial hemp production. This presentation provides updates on various agricultural, scientific, social, and political considerations that impact the commercial hemp industry in the United States and Canada. The most promising scenario for the hemp industry in North America is a continuing focus on oilseed production, as well as cannabidiol (CBD), the principal non-intoxicant cannabinoid considered by many to have substantial medical potential, and currently in great demand as a pharmaceutical. Future success of the industrial hemp industry in North America is heavily dependent on the breeding of more productive oilseed cultivars, the continued development of consumer goods, reasonable but not overly restrictive regulations, and discouragement of overproduction associated with unrealistic enthusiasm. Changing attitudes have generated an unprecedented demand for the cannabis plant and its products, resulting in urgent needs for new legislative, regulatory, and business frameworks, as well as scientific, technological, and agricultural research. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Spatial Relation of Apparent Soil Electrical Conductivity with Crop Yields and Soil Properties at Different Topographic Positions in a Small Agricultural Watershed
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 57; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040057 -
Abstract
Use of electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensors along with geospatial modeling provide a better opportunity for understanding spatial distribution of soil properties and crop yields on a landscape level and to map site-specific management zones. The first objective of this research was to evaluate
[...] Read more.
Use of electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensors along with geospatial modeling provide a better opportunity for understanding spatial distribution of soil properties and crop yields on a landscape level and to map site-specific management zones. The first objective of this research was to evaluate the relationship of crop yields, soil properties and apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) at different topographic positions (shoulder, backslope, and deposition slope). The second objective was to examine whether the correlation of ECa with soil properties and crop yields on a watershed scale can be improved by considering topography in modeling ECa and soil properties compared to a whole field scale with no topographic separation. This study was conducted in two headwater agricultural watersheds in southern Illinois, USA. The experimental design consisted of three basins per watershed and each basin was divided into three topographic positions (shoulder, backslope and deposition) using the Slope Position Classification model in ESRI ArcMap. A combine harvester equipped with a GPS-based recording system was used for yield monitoring and mapping from 2012 to 2015. Soil samples were taken at depths from 0–15 cm and 15–30 cm from 54 locations in the two watersheds in fall 2015 and analyzed for physical and chemical properties. The ECa was measured using EMI device, EM38-MK2, which provides four dipole readings ECa-H-0.5, ECa-H-1, ECa-V-0.5, and ECa-V-1. Soybean and corn yields at depositional position were 38% and 62% lower than the shoulder position in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Soil pH, total carbon (TC), total nitrogen (TN), Mehlich-3 Phosphorus (P), Bray-1 P and ECa at depositional positions were significantly higher compared to shoulder positions. Corn and soybeans yields were weakly to moderately (<±0.75) correlated with ECa. At the deposition position at the 0–15 cm depth ECa-H-0.5 was weakly correlated (r < ±0.50) with soil pH and was moderately correlated (r = ±0.50–±0.75) with organic matter (OM), calcium (Ca) and sulfur (S). Slope variation from 1%–20% at the research site had a strong influence on soil properties at watershed scale. When data from all topographic positions were combined together in all basins spatial interpolation between Mehlich-3 P and ECa-H-0.5 resulted in a larger cross validation RMSE compared to individual shoulder and backslope positions. Results demonstrated that topographic position should be considered while making correlations of ECa with soil properties. Methods of delineating topography positions presented in this paper can easily be replicated on other fields with similar landscape characteristics and EMI sensor based survey techniques can certainly improve and help in making detailed prediction maps of soil properties. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Development of a Molecular Breeding Strategy for the Integration of Transgenic Traits in Outcrossing Perennial Grasses
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 56; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040056 -
Abstract
Molecular breeding tools, such as genetic modification, provide forage plant breeders with the opportunity to incorporate high value traits into breeding programs which, in some cases, would not be available using any other methodology. Despite the potential impact of these traits, little work
[...] Read more.
Molecular breeding tools, such as genetic modification, provide forage plant breeders with the opportunity to incorporate high value traits into breeding programs which, in some cases, would not be available using any other methodology. Despite the potential impact of these traits, little work has been published that seeks to optimize the strategies for transgenic breeding or incorporate transgenic breeding with other modern genomics-assisted breeding strategies. As the number of new genomics assisted breeding tools become available it is also likely that multiple tools may be used within the one breeding program. In this paper we propose a strategy for breeding genetically-modified forages using perennial ryegrass as an example and demonstrate how this strategy may be linked with other technologies, such as genomic selection. Whilst the model used is perennial ryegrass the principles outlined are valid for those designing breeding strategies for other outcrossing forage species. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Genetic Diversity in Barley and Wheat for Tolerance to Soil Constraints
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 55; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040055 -
Abstract
Surface soil sodicity as well as subsoil salinity, acidity, and phytotoxic concentrations of chloride (Cl) are major soil constraints to crop production in many soils of sub-tropical, north-eastern Australia. The identification of genotypes tolerant to these soil constraints may be an option to
[...] Read more.
Surface soil sodicity as well as subsoil salinity, acidity, and phytotoxic concentrations of chloride (Cl) are major soil constraints to crop production in many soils of sub-tropical, north-eastern Australia. The identification of genotypes tolerant to these soil constraints may be an option to maintain and improve productivity on these soils. We evaluated performance of 11 barley and 17 wheat genotypes grown on two sites <0.5 km apart. Compared to the non-sodic site, the sodic site had significantly higher Cl concentration (>800 mg·Cl·kg−1) in the subsoil (0.9–1.3 m soil depth) and higher exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) (>6%) in the surface and subsoil. Barley grain yield and plant available water capacity (PAWC) were reduced between 5%–25% and 40%–66%, respectively, for different genotypes at the sodic site as compared to the non-sodic site. For wheat genotypes, grain yield was between 8% and 33% lower at the sodic site compared to the non-sodic site and PAWC was between 3% and 37% lower. Most barley and wheat genotypes grown at the sodic site showed calcium (Ca) deficiency symptoms on younger leaves. Analysis of the youngest fully mature leaf (YML) confirmed that genotypes grown at the sodic site with Ca concentration < 0.2% exhibited deficiency symptoms. Grain yields of both barley and wheat genotypes grown on the sodic and non-sodic sites increased significantly with increasing Ca and K in YML and decreased significantly with increasing Na and Cl concentrations in YML. Sodium (Na) concentrations in YML of wheat genotypes grown at the sodic site were 10-fold higher than those from the non-sodic site whereas this increase was only two-fold in barley genotypes. In step-wise regression, the PAWC of barley and wheat genotypes grown on sodic and non-sodic sites was the principal determinant of variability of barley and wheat grain yield. Including the Ca concentration in the YML of wheat genotypes and K:Na ratio in the YML of barley genotypes significantly improved the prediction of grain yield in the regression analysis. Barley genotypes, Mackay and Kaputar, were relatively susceptible while Baronesse and Grout were relatively more tolerant to sodicity. Wheat genotypes Gregory and Stampede were generally relatively more susceptible to sodicity, and genotypes Baxter, Hume, and the experimental line HSF1-255 were relatively more tolerant than the former group. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Improvement of Salinity Stress Tolerance in Rice: Challenges and Opportunities
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 54; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040054 -
Abstract
Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is an important staple crop that feeds more than one half of the world’s population and is the model system for monocotyledonous plants. However, rice is very sensitive to salinity and is the most salt sensitive cereal crop
[...] Read more.
Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is an important staple crop that feeds more than one half of the world’s population and is the model system for monocotyledonous plants. However, rice is very sensitive to salinity and is the most salt sensitive cereal crop with a threshold of 3 dSm−1 for most cultivated varieties. Despite many attempts using different strategies to improve salinity tolerance in rice, the achievements so far are quite modest. This review aims to discuss challenges that hinder the improvement of salinity stress tolerance in rice as well as potential opportunities for enhancing salinity stress tolerance in this important crop. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Soil Chemistry Factors Confounding Crop Salinity Tolerance—A Review
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 53; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040053 -
Abstract
The yield response of various crops to salinity under field conditions is affected by soil processes and environmental conditions. The composition of dissolved ions depend on soil chemical processes such as cation or anion exchange, oxidation-reduction reactions, ion adsorption, chemical speciation, complex formation,
[...] Read more.
The yield response of various crops to salinity under field conditions is affected by soil processes and environmental conditions. The composition of dissolved ions depend on soil chemical processes such as cation or anion exchange, oxidation-reduction reactions, ion adsorption, chemical speciation, complex formation, mineral weathering, solubility, and precipitation. The nature of cations and anions determine soil pH, which in turn affects crop growth. While the ionic composition of soil solution determine the osmotic and ion specific effects on crops, the exchangeable ions indirectly affect the crop growth by influencing soil strength, water and air movement, waterlogging, and soil crusting. This review mainly focuses on the soil chemistry processes that frustrate crop salinity tolerance which partly explain the poor results under field conditions of salt tolerant genotypes selected in the laboratory. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessReview
Commercial Humates in Agriculture: Real Substance or Smoke and Mirrors?
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 50; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040050 -
Abstract
Soil humic substances (HS) are known to be beneficial for soils and plants, and most published studies of HS and humates, usually conducted under controlled conditions, show benefits. However, the value of commercial humate application in the field is less certain. This review
[...] Read more.
Soil humic substances (HS) are known to be beneficial for soils and plants, and most published studies of HS and humates, usually conducted under controlled conditions, show benefits. However, the value of commercial humate application in the field is less certain. This review attempts to answer the question: How effective are commercial humates in the field? Commercial humates, especially K humate, are used widely in agriculture today as “soil conditioners”. A wide range of benefits is claimed, including growth of beneficial soil microbes; deactivation of toxic metals; improvements in soil structure including water retention capacity, enhanced nutrient and micronutrient uptake and photosynthesis; resistance to abiotic stress, including salinity; and increased growth, yield and product quality. Despite this, there is a surprising lack of solid evidence for their on-farm effectiveness and findings are often inconsistent. The industry relies largely on anecdotal case studies to promote humates, which are often applied at unrealistically low levels. It is recommended that products should be well characterised, physically and chemically, and that careful field studies be conducted on foliar humate application and pelletised humates at realistic rates, targeted to the seedling rhizosphere, for a variety of crops in a range of soils, including low C sandy and saline soils. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL) Identification in the Progeny of a Polycross
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 51; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040051 -
Abstract
Connected multiparental crosses are valuable for detecting quantitative trait loci (QTL) with multiple alleles. The objective of this study was to show that the progeny of a polycross can be considered as connected mutiparental crosses and used for QTL identification. This is particularly
[...] Read more.
Connected multiparental crosses are valuable for detecting quantitative trait loci (QTL) with multiple alleles. The objective of this study was to show that the progeny of a polycross can be considered as connected mutiparental crosses and used for QTL identification. This is particularly relevant in outbreeding species showing strong inbreeding depression and for which synthetic varieties are created. A total of 191 genotypes from a polycross with six parents were phenotyped for plant height (PH) and plant growth rate (PGR) and genotyped with 82 codominant markers. Markers allowed the identification of the male parent for each sibling and so the 191 genotypes were divided into 15 full-sib families. The number of genotypes per full-sib family varied from 2 to 28. A consensus map of 491 cM was built and QTL were detected with MCQTL-software dedicated to QTL detection in connected mapping populations. Two major QTL for PH and PGR in spring were identified on linkage groups 3 and 4. These explained from 12% to 22% of phenotypic variance. The additive effects reached 12.4 mm for PH and 0.11 mm/C°d for PGR. This study shows that the progenies of polycrosses can be used to detect QTL. Full article
Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessBrief Report
Phosphorus Deficiency Alters Nutrient Accumulation Patterns and Grain Nutritional Quality in Rice
Agronomy 2016, 6(4), 52; doi:10.3390/agronomy6040052 -
Abstract
The accumulation of biomass and mineral nutrients during the post-anthesis period was investigated in field-grown rice plants cultivated in phosphorus (P)-sufficient vs. P-deficient soil. Phosphorus deficiency reduced biomass accumulation by around 30%, and reduced the accumulation of all nutrients in aboveground plant biomass
[...] Read more.
The accumulation of biomass and mineral nutrients during the post-anthesis period was investigated in field-grown rice plants cultivated in phosphorus (P)-sufficient vs. P-deficient soil. Phosphorus deficiency reduced biomass accumulation by around 30%, and reduced the accumulation of all nutrients in aboveground plant biomass except sulfur (S) and copper (Cu). Ultimately, grain zinc (Zn), Cu, and calcium (Ca) concentrations were significantly higher in P-deficient plants, while grain magnesium (Mg) concentrations were significantly lower. While P deficiency caused a 40% reduction in the concentration of the anti-nutrient phytate in the grain, this was offset by a 40% reduction in grain starch lysophospholipids, which have positive benefits for human health and grain quality. Full article