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Agriculture, Volume 7, Issue 12 (December 2017)

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Cover Story (view full-size image) The almond harvesting system frequently used in Apulia for the almond harvesting and hulling [...] Read more.
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Evaluation of Crop to Crop Water Demand Forecasting: Tomatoes and Bell Peppers Grown in a Commercial Greenhouse
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120104
Received: 24 October 2017 / Revised: 29 November 2017 / Accepted: 13 December 2017 / Published: 20 December 2017
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Abstract
Forecasting crop water demand is a critical part of any greenhouse’s day-to-day operations. This study focuses on a region located in Essex County, Ontario Canada where water demand is dominated by commercial greenhouse operations (78% of capacity). Development of complex and elaborate forecasting
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Forecasting crop water demand is a critical part of any greenhouse’s day-to-day operations. This study focuses on a region located in Essex County, Ontario Canada where water demand is dominated by commercial greenhouse operations (78% of capacity). Development of complex and elaborate forecasting methods such as artificial neural networks (ANN) can be costly to develop and implement, especially with the limited resources available to greenhouses. This study proposes simplified forecasting methods that would be used in conjunction with a more complex base model architecture. These simplified methods use one crop water usage as an indicator of another’s, and is titled crop-to-crop forecasting (C2C). In this study, tomatoes and peppers were evaluated, and three C2C models were developed along with an ANN base model to provide a basis for evaluation. The models were created using a dataset containing hourly watering data along with climatic and temporal data for the period between June 2015 and August 2016. The three C2C architectures used were linear regression (LR), quotient method (QM), and feed-forward neural network (FFNN), compared with the (ANN) model, which is a feed-forward neural network with extra inputs (FFNN-EI). Each model was evaluated using the root mean squared error (RMSE) and the normalized root mean squared error (NRMSE). The results show that all C2C methods have higher RMSE and NRMSE than that of the base model, with an average RMSE increase of 12% for peppers and 29% for tomatoes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Modelling for Water Management in Agriculture Systems)
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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
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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
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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)
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Open AccessArticle Validity of the Mechanical Threshing of Onion Seeds from the Point of View of Seed Quality
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 102; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120102
Received: 4 October 2017 / Revised: 26 November 2017 / Accepted: 30 November 2017 / Published: 5 December 2017
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Abstract
Background: The production of seeds for horticultural crops has seen a steady growth since 2006. Onion is one of the most widespread crops that followed this trend until 2013, undergoing a slight decline in 2016. Even though these crops are characterized by high
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Background: The production of seeds for horticultural crops has seen a steady growth since 2006. Onion is one of the most widespread crops that followed this trend until 2013, undergoing a slight decline in 2016. Even though these crops are characterized by high economic value, they present some important issues such as high costs and labor required by some operations such as threshing. The purpose of this study is the evaluation of a patented and dedicated system for mechanical threshing throughout the evaluation of seed quality parameters. Methods: The study was conducted comparing seed samples mechanically threshed obtained from 12 companies and samples of the same batches manually threshed to determine the maximum qualitative potential. The chosen terms for comparison are the most important qualitative parameters included within ISTA standards for seed evaluation. Results: The mechanically threshed seeds show lower values for all the considered quality parameters compared to those found in the control samples. In the same way, there is also greater variability. Conclusions: The introduction of the dedicated mechanical systems allows the reduction of seed processing time while maintaining the quality standards within the limits of merchantability, but for obtaining higher standards, further analysis is necessary. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture Machinery for a Sustainable and Efficient Mechanization)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Farmers’ Technical Knowledge about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Olive Production
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120101
Received: 3 November 2017 / Revised: 27 November 2017 / Accepted: 28 November 2017 / Published: 5 December 2017
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Abstract
While Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable approach of pest control, contributing to reduced use of pesticides and risks on human health and the environment, farmers have shown limited interest in practicing this method. The present study explored the levels of technical
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While Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable approach of pest control, contributing to reduced use of pesticides and risks on human health and the environment, farmers have shown limited interest in practicing this method. The present study explored the levels of technical knowledge about integrated management of the olive fly (Bactrocera oleae) among olive growers in Roudbar County of Iran and factors underpinning olive farmers’ technical knowledge of integrated management. Data were collected in a survey of olive farmers, on the basis of a structured questionnaire. Almost half of the farmers (48.4%) had good to excellent levels of technical knowledge of integrated management, while almost a third of the farmers (35.4%) had a moderate knowledge level. However, a noticeable portion of the farmers (15.9%) had poor knowledge of integrated management. Moreover, most farmers showed average knowledge of the adverse effects of pesticides on human health. While most farmers showed good levels of social participation, cooperation with institutes, and participation in extension activities, they showed low levels of community involvement (involvement in a group of people that have and share common interests with each other). Olive imports and the lack of a common action for olive fly control were perceived as the main barriers of IPM adoption among most farmers. Regression analysis revealed that increased community involvement, large area under olive farming, participation in education activities, and high farming experience promoted farmers’ technical knowledge of integrated olive fly control. Strengthening growers’ technical knowledge of IPM through community involvement and extension services among inexperienced small-scale olive farmers is recommended for reducing possible unnecessary insecticide sprays in olive production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pesticides in Agriculture System)
Open AccessArticle Assessing the Impacts of Large-Scale Agro-Industrial Sugarcane Production on Biodiversity: A Case Study of Wonji Shoa Sugar Estate, Ethiopia
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120099
Received: 19 October 2017 / Revised: 30 November 2017 / Accepted: 30 November 2017 / Published: 4 December 2017
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Abstract
Despite the intense debates on the land acquisition effects of large-scale Ethiopian sugarcane plantations and the consequences for food security, the impact on biodiversity has received less attention. We compared remnant patches in the sugarcane zone to the adjacent woodlands to determine the
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Despite the intense debates on the land acquisition effects of large-scale Ethiopian sugarcane plantations and the consequences for food security, the impact on biodiversity has received less attention. We compared remnant patches in the sugarcane zone to the adjacent woodlands to determine the impacts of sugarcane on the diversity, composition, and structure of woody species. We recorded individual woody specimens with diameter at breast height (DBH) ≥ 2.5 cm from 56 quadrats of 200 m2 at each site in a systematic, random, and gradient-oriented transect design. In addition, we employed a trait-based risk assessment framework to examine the threat posed by agro-industrial sugarcane production on mammals, birds, and rodents. A total of 56 woody species, 38 in the woodlands and 30 in the sugarcane zone, were identified. The proportion of non-native woody species was higher (63%) in the sugarcane zone than in the adjacent woodlands (1%). The rodents and mammals were more abundant in the woodlands than in the sugarcane zone. Although we did not investigate all of the bird and mammal species, our results identified six rodent species, five mammal species, and one bird species as susceptible to sugarcane agriculture activities. The results suggest that large-scale agro-industrial sugarcane production impacts species diversity, composition and abundance of species, and species’ resource requirements. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Analysis of the Almond Harvesting and Hulling Mechanization Process: A Case Study
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120100
Received: 1 November 2017 / Revised: 28 November 2017 / Accepted: 1 December 2017 / Published: 4 December 2017
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (3394 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The aim of this paper is the analysis of the almond harvesting system with a very high level of mechanization frequently used in Apulia for the almond harvesting and hulling process. Several tests were carried out to assess the technical aspects related to
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The aim of this paper is the analysis of the almond harvesting system with a very high level of mechanization frequently used in Apulia for the almond harvesting and hulling process. Several tests were carried out to assess the technical aspects related to the machinery and to the mechanized harvesting system used itself, highlighting their usefulness, limits, and compatibility within the almond cultivation sector. Almonds were very easily separated from the tree, and this circumstance considerably improved the mechanical harvesting operation efficiency even if the total time was mainly affected by the time required to manoeuvre the machine and by the following manual tree beating. The mechanical pick-up from the ground was not effective, with only 30% of the dropped almond collected, which mainly was caused by both the pick-up reel of the machine being unable to approach the almonds dropped near the base of the trunk and the surface condition of the soil being unsuitably arranged for a mechanized pick-up operation. The work times concerning the hulling and screening processes, carried out at the farm, were heavily affected by several manual operations before, during, and after the executed process; nevertheless, the plant work capability varied from 170 to 200 kg/h with two operators. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Safety Improvements on Wood Chippers Currently in Use: A Study on Feasibility in the Italian Context
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120098
Received: 30 September 2017 / Revised: 17 November 2017 / Accepted: 28 November 2017 / Published: 3 December 2017
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Abstract
Following formal opposition by France, the harmonized safety standards regarding manually-loaded wood chippers (EN 13525:2005+A2:2009) which presumed compliance with the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSR) required by the Machine Directive (Directive 2006/42/EC), have recently been withdrawn, and a new draft of the
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Following formal opposition by France, the harmonized safety standards regarding manually-loaded wood chippers (EN 13525:2005+A2:2009) which presumed compliance with the Essential Health and Safety Requirements (EHSR) required by the Machine Directive (Directive 2006/42/EC), have recently been withdrawn, and a new draft of the standard is currently under revision. In order to assess the potential impact of the expected future harmonized standards within the Italian context, this study has examined the main issues in implementing EHSRs on wood chippers already being used. Safety issues regarding wood chippers already in use were identified in an analysis of the draft standard, through the observation of a number of case studies, and qualitative analysis of the essential technical interventions. A number of agricultural and forestry operators and companies participated in the study, pointing out the technical and economic obstacle facing the safety features requested by the pending new standard. It emerged that the main safety issues concerned the implementation of the reverse function, the stop bar, and the protective devices, the infeed chute dimension, the emergency stop function, and the designated feeding area. The possibility of adopting such solutions mainly depends on technical feasibility and costs, but an important role is also played by the attitude towards safety and a lack of adequate information regarding safety obligations and procedures among users. Full article
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Open AccessReview The Analysis of the Cause-Effect Relation between Tractor Overturns and Traumatic Lesions Suffered by Drivers and Passengers: A Crucial Step in the Reconstruction of Accident Dynamics and the Improvement of Prevention
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120097
Received: 5 October 2017 / Revised: 26 November 2017 / Accepted: 27 November 2017 / Published: 2 December 2017
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Abstract
The evaluation of the dynamics of accidents involving the overturning of farm tractors is difficult for both engineers and coroners. A clear reconstruction of the causes, vectorial forces, speed, acceleration, timing and direction of rear, front and side rollovers may be complicated by
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The evaluation of the dynamics of accidents involving the overturning of farm tractors is difficult for both engineers and coroners. A clear reconstruction of the causes, vectorial forces, speed, acceleration, timing and direction of rear, front and side rollovers may be complicated by the complexity of the lesions, the absence of witnesses and the death of the operator, and sometimes also by multiple overturns. Careful analysis of the death scene, vehicle, traumatic lesions and their comparison with the mechanical structures of the vehicle and the morphology of the terrain, should help experts to reconstruct the dynamics of accidents and may help in the design of new preventive equipment and procedures. Full article
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Exploring the Future Potential of Jute in Bangladesh
Agriculture 2017, 7(12), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture7120096
Received: 17 September 2017 / Revised: 23 November 2017 / Accepted: 24 November 2017 / Published: 25 November 2017
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Abstract
The study assesses the future potential of the jute sector in Bangladesh by examining its growth performance, international competitiveness, profitability, and production efficiency using national time-series data of over the period 1973–2013 and farm survey data from 289 farmers from two major jute
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The study assesses the future potential of the jute sector in Bangladesh by examining its growth performance, international competitiveness, profitability, and production efficiency using national time-series data of over the period 1973–2013 and farm survey data from 289 farmers from two major jute growing areas of Bangladesh. Results revealed that the jute sector has experienced substantial growth in area, production, productivity, prices, and exports. However, productivity has stagnated during the latter 10-year period (2004–2013), while it grew at a rate of 1.3% per annum (p.a.) during the first 31-year period (1973–2003). Only traditional jute production is globally competitive, although financial profitability of white jute is relatively higher (benefit cost ratio = 1.24 and 1.17, respectively). Land, labor, and irrigation are the main productivity drivers for jute. The mean production efficiency of jute is estimated at 75% indicating substantial scope to improve yield by eliminating inefficiency. Marginal farmers are relatively inefficient. Policy implications include investments in research and development, irrigation, and tenurial reform and export protection for white jute in order to revive the sector and boost export earnings. Full article
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