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Agriculture, Volume 9, Issue 5 (May 2019)

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Cover Story (view full-size image) Concentration and composition of grain protein subunits influence the bread baking quality of [...] Read more.
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Open AccessArticle
Variability in the Global Proso Millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) Germplasm Collection Conserved at the ICRISAT Genebank
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 112; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050112
Received: 23 March 2019 / Revised: 25 April 2019 / Accepted: 6 May 2019 / Published: 24 May 2019
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Abstract
Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.), also known as common millet or broomcorn millet, is an important ancient crop mostly grown for food, feed, and fodder purposes largely in China, Russia, India, and the USA. It is an under-researched and under-utilized crop. Over [...] Read more.
Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.), also known as common millet or broomcorn millet, is an important ancient crop mostly grown for food, feed, and fodder purposes largely in China, Russia, India, and the USA. It is an under-researched and under-utilized crop. Over 29,000 germplasm accessions have been conserved in genebanks globally. Five races (miliaceum, patentissimum, contractum, compactum, ovatum) have been recognized in proso millet based on panicle morphology and shape. The genebank at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics conserves 849 accessions of proso millet originating from 30 countries and represents all five races. Characterization of these germplasm accessions revealed large variability for morpho-agronomic traits, including for days to 50% flowering (26 to 50 days), plant height (20 to 133 cm), and inflorescence length (22 to 400 mm). On average, the race miliaceum was tall (62 cm) with long panicles (209 mm) and ovatum had short plants (46 cm) with small panicles (108 mm). The average Gower’s distance based on 18 morpho-agronomic traits on 841 accessions was 0.261. The race miliaceum had the highest among accessions within race average pairwise distance (0.254), while the distance was the lowest in ovatum (0.192). The races miliaceum and ovatum showed the highest divergence with each other (0.275), while the lowest divergence was observed between compactum and ovatum (0.229). Trait-specific sources were identified for early maturity, tall plants, long inflorescences, and greater seed size. The information on variability and trait-specific sources identified could potentially support proso millet improvement. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Effects of Individual Variables, Farming System Characteristics and Perceived Barriers on Actual Use of Smart Farming Technologies: Evidence from the Piedmont Region, Northwestern Italy
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050111
Received: 17 April 2019 / Revised: 16 May 2019 / Accepted: 20 May 2019 / Published: 23 May 2019
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Abstract
Smart Farming Technologies (SFTs) have a real potential to deliver more productive and sustainable agricultural production. However, limited empirical research is available on the role played by objective and subjective factors in the adoption of such disruptive innovations, especially in the Italian context. [...] Read more.
Smart Farming Technologies (SFTs) have a real potential to deliver more productive and sustainable agricultural production. However, limited empirical research is available on the role played by objective and subjective factors in the adoption of such disruptive innovations, especially in the Italian context. This study investigated the role of education, farm size, being a sole farmer, and perceived barriers in affecting the use of SFTs in a sample of Italian farmers from the Piedmont region (North-West Italy). Three hundred and ten farming operators were questioned via a paper-and-pencil questionnaire. The analyses showed that low levels of education and working on-farm alone were positively associated with perceived economic barriers, which in turn were negatively associated with the adoption of SFTs. Farm size had a positive direct effect on SFT adoption. The results pointed out the need for targeted policies and training interventions to encourage the use of SFTs. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Tomato Yield, Quality, Mineral Composition and Antioxidants as Affected by Beneficial Microorganisms Under Soil Salinity Induced by Balanced Nutrient Solutions
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 110; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050110
Received: 26 April 2019 / Revised: 19 May 2019 / Accepted: 21 May 2019 / Published: 23 May 2019
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Abstract
With the aim of assessing the effects of beneficial microorganisms on greenhouse tomato “plum” grown under salinity conditions, research was carried out in southern Italy from summer to winter, by comparing two arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) based formulates (Rizotech Plus, Myco Apply DR) [...] Read more.
With the aim of assessing the effects of beneficial microorganisms on greenhouse tomato “plum” grown under salinity conditions, research was carried out in southern Italy from summer to winter, by comparing two arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) based formulates (Rizotech Plus, Myco Apply DR) and a non-inoculated control, in factorial combination with four soil electrical conductivities (1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0 mS·cm−1 EC). The highest root colonization was 83% at 3.0 mS·cm−1 under AMF-based treatments and 34% at 1.5 mS·cm−1 in non-treated control; the latter attained lower values than AMF treatments at any soil EC. Harvest occurred 3.5 days earlier in control plants, six days earlier under 6.0 mS·cm−1 EC compared to 1.5 mS·cm−1. The inoculated plants always showed higher yield than the control ones and the highest production at 4.5 mS·cm−1 EC; control plants attained the highest yield under 3.0–4.5 mS·cm−1 EC. The highest values of most fruit quality indicators, mineral elements and antioxidant compounds and activity were recorded under AMF-based formulates inoculation and 6.0 mS·cm−1 soil EC. Beneficial microorganisms proved to be an effective environmentally friendly tool for improving tomato yield and quality performances in both normal and soil salinity conditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant-Microbe Interactions)
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Open AccessArticle
Effects on NPK Status, Growth, Dry Matter and Yield of Rice (Oryza sativa) by Organic Fertilizers Applied in Field Condition
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 109; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050109
Received: 31 March 2019 / Revised: 14 May 2019 / Accepted: 17 May 2019 / Published: 22 May 2019
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Abstract
The decline in rice yields as a result of excessive chemical fertilizer (CF) inputs is a matter of great concern in rice-growing regions of Asia. In two-year’s field experiments, the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) status, growth characteristics and yield of rice were [...] Read more.
The decline in rice yields as a result of excessive chemical fertilizer (CF) inputs is a matter of great concern in rice-growing regions of Asia. In two-year’s field experiments, the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK) status, growth characteristics and yield of rice were examined by application of poultry manure (PM), cow manure (CM) and compost (CP). Organic fertilizers were applied as EMN (estimated mineralizable N) based on their total N content. Six treatments were assigned in a randomized complete block design: (1) no-N fertilizer (N0); (2) 50% CF (CF50), (3) 100% CF (CF100); 50% CF + 50% EMN from (4) PM or (5) CM or (6) CP. Compared with CF100, the CF50PM50 (total N ≥ 4%) accumulated higher N, P and K content in leaf, sheath, panicle and seeds, resulting in greater growth and yield. The CF50PM50 increased yield by 8.69% and 9.70%, dry matter by 4.76% and 5.27% over CF100 in both years. The continuous application of CF50CM50 (total N < 4%) and CF50CP50 (total N < 4%) treatments led to similar NPK contents but higher yields than those of CF100 treatment in 2018. In conclusion, the organic fertilizer (total N ≥ 4%) with the EMN method enhances higher N availability in each year. Continuous application of organic fertilizer (total N < 4%) over two years effectively increased N availability in the second year. The 50% organic fertilizer (total N ≥ 4%) and 50% CF led to increased NPK availability and rice yields over the 100% CF treatment, reducing CF usage and leading for sustainable agriculture. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Australian Consumers’ Response to Insects as Food
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 108; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050108
Received: 5 April 2019 / Revised: 2 May 2019 / Accepted: 17 May 2019 / Published: 22 May 2019
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Abstract
Many research articles have been published about people’s perceptions and acceptance of eating insects as novel foods in Western countries; however, only a few studies have focused on Australian consumers. The aim of this work is to explore attitudes towards edible insects of [...] Read more.
Many research articles have been published about people’s perceptions and acceptance of eating insects as novel foods in Western countries; however, only a few studies have focused on Australian consumers. The aim of this work is to explore attitudes towards edible insects of younger Australians (Millennials and Generation Z) with data collection carried out in Sydney, Australia. Two representative surveys were conducted in 2018 and 2019 using open-ended questions. The main findings suggest that there is low willingness to accept edible insects as a meat substitute among Australian consumers, due mainly to the strong psychological barriers such as neophobia and disgust, combined with a perception about threats to masculinity. Environmental and nutritional benefits, even when recognised, do not seem to influence consumers to consider insects as a food alternative. In the near future, as young people become more aware of sustainability and climate change issues related to food production, the impact of the potential benefits of insects might grow. Furthermore, a positive sensory experience might improve the acceptability of insects as food. Introducing new processed, insect-based products may help establish familiarity with such novel food options and open up new business opportunities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Food for Future)
Open AccessArticle
A First Description of the Phenolic Profile of EVOOs from the Maltese Islands Using SPE and HPLC: Pedo-Climatic Conditions Modulate Genetic Factors
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 107; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050107
Received: 1 March 2019 / Revised: 2 May 2019 / Accepted: 10 May 2019 / Published: 15 May 2019
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Abstract
Achieving economic sustainability in the olive oil production sector is a challenge. This is particularly so for small scale producers who are faced with pressing, production and marketing costs that relative to overall sales, minimise profits. In this study we aimed to describe [...] Read more.
Achieving economic sustainability in the olive oil production sector is a challenge. This is particularly so for small scale producers who are faced with pressing, production and marketing costs that relative to overall sales, minimise profits. In this study we aimed to describe the phenolic profile of extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) derived from the Maltese islands. The polar fractions from EVOOs from nine indigenous (six Bidni and three Malti), one historically acclimatized tree (Bajda), 12 locally-grown but foreign cultivars and 32 foreign EVOOs were extracted using SPE (solid phase extraction), separated using HPLC analysis at 280 nm and 320 nm and identified using mass spectrometry. Application of ANOVA and Tukey post hoc hypothesis testing for analysis of variance on the peak areas identified a significantly higher concentration of p-coumaric acid, tyrosol acetate, DHPEA-EDA and oleocanthal in EVOOs derived from indigenous or historically acclimatized cultivars. Imported but locally grown cultivars showed differences when compared to the same cultivar grown in other countries, confirming that pedo-climatic conditions modulate genetic factors. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Breeding Biofortified Pearl Millet Varieties and Hybrids to Enhance Millet Markets for Human Nutrition
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 106; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050106
Received: 22 January 2019 / Revised: 24 March 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 15 May 2019
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Abstract
Pearl millet is an important food crop in the arid and semi-arid tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Iron and zinc deficiencies are widespread and serious public health problems worldwide, including in India and Africa. Biofortification is a cost-effective and sustainable agricultural strategy [...] Read more.
Pearl millet is an important food crop in the arid and semi-arid tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Iron and zinc deficiencies are widespread and serious public health problems worldwide, including in India and Africa. Biofortification is a cost-effective and sustainable agricultural strategy to address this problem. The aim of this review is to provide the current biofortification breeding status and future directions of the pearl millet for growing nutrition markets. Research on the pearl millet has shown that a large genetic variability (30–140 mg kg−1 Fe and 20–90 mg kg−1 Zn) available in this crop can be effectively utilized to develop high-yielding cultivars with high iron and zinc densities. Open-pollinated varieties (Dhanashakti) and hybrids (ICMH 1202, ICMH 1203 and ICMH 1301) of pearl millet with a high grain yield and high levels of iron (70–75 mg kg−1) and zinc (35–40 mg kg−1) densities have been developed and released first in India. Currently, India is growing > 70,000 ha of biofortified pearl millet, and furthermore more pipeline cultivars are under various stages of testing at the national (India) and international (west Africa) trials for a possible release. Until today, no special markets existed to promote biofortified varieties and hybrids as no incentive price to products existed to address food and nutritional insecurity simultaneously. The market demand is likely to increase only after an investment in crop breeding and the integration into the public distribution system, nutritional intervention schemes, private seed and food companies with strong mainstreaming nutritional policies. The following sections describe various aspects of breeding and market opportunity for addressing micronutrient malnutrition. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Land Use Scenarios and Their Effect on Potential Crop Production: The Case of Gambella Region, Ethiopia
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 105; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050105
Received: 19 April 2019 / Revised: 4 May 2019 / Accepted: 5 May 2019 / Published: 10 May 2019
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Abstract
Agricultural intensification and cropland expansion are the key policies to increase food production in Ethiopia. Gambella is one of the regions in Ethiopia which is highly suitable for agriculture; however, the local people still face food shortages. We therefore investigated the potential for [...] Read more.
Agricultural intensification and cropland expansion are the key policies to increase food production in Ethiopia. Gambella is one of the regions in Ethiopia which is highly suitable for agriculture; however, the local people still face food shortages. We therefore investigated the potential for intensification and cropland expansion. In this study, we developed land use scenarios of agricultural intensification and expansion and analysed their effect on potential crop production in the region and estimated the population that could be nourished as a result. We distinguished between different degrees of intensification, ranging from low input rainfed to high input irrigated agriculture and different degrees of expansion, considering the best 30% or 50% of land to be utilized for expansion. While the results reveal that irrigation had almost no effect on potential yields, they also show that the potential calorie production in all scenarios far exceeds the current and possible future caloric requirements of Gambella’s population. For example, for the top 50% expansion scenario, calorie production increased by +428% for the low input and by +1092% for the high input scenarios. Thus, Gambella could nourish up to 21 million people and serve as a bread basket for the entire country, which could improve national food security. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Use of the Combination of Texture, Color and Intensity Transformation Features for Segmentation in the Outdoors with Emphasis on Video Processing
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050104
Received: 3 April 2019 / Revised: 2 May 2019 / Accepted: 6 May 2019 / Published: 9 May 2019
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Abstract
Segmentation is the first and most important part in the development of any machine vision system with specific goals. Segmentation is especially important when the machine vision system works under environmental conditions, which means under natural light with natural backgrounds. In this case, [...] Read more.
Segmentation is the first and most important part in the development of any machine vision system with specific goals. Segmentation is especially important when the machine vision system works under environmental conditions, which means under natural light with natural backgrounds. In this case, segmentation will face many challenges, including the presence of various natural and artificial objects in the background and the lack of uniformity of light intensity in different parts of the camera's field of view. However, today, we must use different machine vision systems for outdoor use. For this reason, in this study, a segmentation algorithm was proposed for use in environmental conditions without the need for light control and the creation of artificial background using video processing with emphasizing the recognition of apple fruits on trees. Therefore, a video with more than 12 minutes duration containing more than 22,000 frames was studied under natural light and background conditions. Generally, in the proposed segmentation algorithm, five segmentation steps were used. These steps include: 1. Using a suitable color model; 2. Using the appropriate texture feature; 3. Using the intensity transformation method; 4. Using morphological operators; and 5. Using different color thresholds. The results showed that the segmentation algorithm had the total correct detection percentage of 99.013%. The highest sensitivity and specificity of segmentation algorithm were 99.224 and 99.458%, respectively. Finally, the results showed that the processor speed was about 0.825 seconds for segmentation of a frame. Full article
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Open AccessCase Report
A Time-Series Analysis of Climate Variability in Urban and Agricultural Sites (Rome, Italy)
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050103
Received: 27 March 2019 / Revised: 16 April 2019 / Accepted: 6 May 2019 / Published: 8 May 2019
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Abstract
Identifying early signals of climate change and latent patterns of meteorological variability requires tools analyzing time series data and multidimensional measures. By focusing on air temperature and precipitation, the present study compares local-scale climate regimes at two sites in Central Italy (urban Rome [...] Read more.
Identifying early signals of climate change and latent patterns of meteorological variability requires tools analyzing time series data and multidimensional measures. By focusing on air temperature and precipitation, the present study compares local-scale climate regimes at two sites in Central Italy (urban Rome and a peri-urban cropland 10 km west of Rome), using descriptive and inferential statistics on both variables and a drought index (the Standardized Precipitation Index, hereafter SPI) recorded over the last 60 years (1958–2017). The present work assumes the importance of urban-rural gradients shaping local-scale climate regimes and spatial variability, with differential impacts on individual variables depending on territorial background and intrinsic biophysical characteristics. Considering together precipitations and minimum/maximum air temperature at month and year scale, the analysis developed here illustrates two coexisting climatic trends at distinctive spatial scales: A general trend toward warming—specifically influencing temperature regimes—and a more specific pattern evidencing changes in local-scale climate regime along the urban gradient, with a more subtle impact on both precipitations and temperatures. Empirical results indicate that climate variability increased over the study period, outlining the low predictability of dry spells typical of Mediterranean climate especially in the drier season (spring/summer). On average, absolute annual differences between the two sites amounted to 70 mm (more rainfall in the peri-urban site) and 0.9 °C (higher temperature in the urban site). A similar trend toward warming was observed for air temperature in both sites. No significant trends were observed for annual and seasonal rainfalls. SPI long-term trends indicate high variability in dry spells, with more frequent (and severe) drought episodes in urban Rome. Considering together trends in temperature and precipitation, the ‘urban heat’ effect was more evident, indicating a clearer trend toward climate aridity in urban Rome. These findings support the adoption of integrated strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation in both agricultural systems and relict natural ecosystems surrounding urban areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Effect of Species, Fertilization and Harvest Date on Microbial Composition and Mycotoxin Content in Forage
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 102; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050102
Received: 25 March 2019 / Revised: 29 April 2019 / Accepted: 2 May 2019 / Published: 6 May 2019
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Abstract
The aim of the project was to evaluate the potential of microbial threat to feed safety in the year 2018. Analyses of the epiphytic community of several forage species (clovers, cocksfoot, fescue, festulolium, perennial ryegrass, timothy and trefoil) in variants of fertilized and [...] Read more.
The aim of the project was to evaluate the potential of microbial threat to feed safety in the year 2018. Analyses of the epiphytic community of several forage species (clovers, cocksfoot, fescue, festulolium, perennial ryegrass, timothy and trefoil) in variants of fertilized and non-fertilized vegetation were performed. The hypothesis is based on the fact that microorganisms are normally present on plant material during its growth all the way from the seed to the senescence; they are influenced by a plant’s fitness, and they affect its harvest and utilization. Microflora was analyzed by cultivation on specific substrates, total microbial count and five specific microbial groups were observed and quantified. Forage species did not affect plant microflora. The highest risk factor of microbial contamination of feed was proved to be harvest date. Mycotoxin contamination of fresh feed was determined (deoxynivalenol and zearalenone) using ELISA. Zearalenone (ZEA) levels were negatively correlated to fertilization intensity, although these results were not statistically significant. Deoxynivalenol (DON) levels were the lowest in a moderate fertilization regime. Significant differences in mycotoxin content were found among botanical species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Quality and Production of Forage)
Open AccessArticle
Is a Change of Protein Composition after Late Application of Nitrogen Sufficient to Improve the Baking Quality of Winter Wheat?
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050101
Received: 3 April 2019 / Revised: 24 April 2019 / Accepted: 30 April 2019 / Published: 6 May 2019
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Abstract
Concentration and composition of storage proteins affect the baking quality of wheat. Although both are influenced by late nitrogen fertilization, it is not clear whether compositional changes are sufficient to improve the baking quality, and whether such effects are cultivar specific. In a [...] Read more.
Concentration and composition of storage proteins affect the baking quality of wheat. Although both are influenced by late nitrogen fertilization, it is not clear whether compositional changes are sufficient to improve the baking quality, and whether such effects are cultivar specific. In a pot experiment, two winter wheat cultivars belonging to different quality classes were supplied with two levels of late N fertilizer. Protein subunits were analysed by SDS-PAGE (Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis). Late N supply increased grain yield and protein content in both cultivars, but improved baking quality only in Discus, correlated with stronger changes in glutenin and gliadin fractions. Where baking quality was improved, this occurred at the lower late N level. Overall, the composition rather than the amount of gluten proteins was decisive for flour quality. Measures for enhancing grain protein concentration and composition are less necessary for cultivars such as Rumor in order to achieve optimum baking quality. These results open up an opportunity to reduce N fertilization in wheat production systems. Full article
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Open AccessBrief Report
Road Network and the Spatial Distribution of Wildfires in the Valencian Community (1993–2015)
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050100
Received: 26 March 2019 / Revised: 2 May 2019 / Accepted: 2 May 2019 / Published: 5 May 2019
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Abstract
Understanding the role of wildfire drivers is essential to implement more effective prevention strategies at the regional scale and to promote specific mitigation actions at the local scale. By considering municipalities as the elementary analysis domain, the present study investigates the spatial distribution [...] Read more.
Understanding the role of wildfire drivers is essential to implement more effective prevention strategies at the regional scale and to promote specific mitigation actions at the local scale. By considering municipalities as the elementary analysis domain, the present study investigates the spatial distribution of wildfires (1993–2015) in the Valencian Community, a Mediterranean fire-prone area with variable climate regimes, heterogeneous landscapes and increasing human pressure. Assuming that a denser road network increases the probability of wildfire occurrence, results of a quantitative analysis exploring the relationship between spatial location of ignition points and roads were presented. The empirical findings of this study contribute to ascertain the role of roads as a direct (or indirect) cause of wildfires in the Mediterranean region. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Effects of Climate Smart Agriculture and Climate Change Adaptation on the Technical Efficiency of Rice Farming—An Empirical Study in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050099
Received: 14 March 2019 / Revised: 24 April 2019 / Accepted: 2 May 2019 / Published: 4 May 2019
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Abstract
This study employed the propensity score matching approach to empirically assess the effects of climate smart agriculture participation and climate change adaptation response on the technical efficiency of rice production. Observational data were collected from in-depth interviews with 352 rice farm households in [...] Read more.
This study employed the propensity score matching approach to empirically assess the effects of climate smart agriculture participation and climate change adaptation response on the technical efficiency of rice production. Observational data were collected from in-depth interviews with 352 rice farm households in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. The findings indicate that 71% of local farmers adapted their rice farming to climate change related to salinity intrusion and drought, while 29% of farmers did not. Additionally, only twenty-two rice farmers were typically chosen as participants in the climate smart agriculture pilot program by local government and institutions. The choices for adaptation response and climate smart agriculture participation are significantly influenced by agricultural extension services, belief in climate change, the area of farming land, as well as geographical locations (e.g., province and access to water sources). The results also reveal that climate change adaptation response, including climate smart agriculture participation, played a crucial role in improving technical efficiency of rice production by 13%–14% compared to no adaptation response. Regarding the individual effect of climate smart agriculture participation, participants could achieve higher technical efficiency by 5%–8% compared to non-participants. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Precision Agriculture Application for Sustainable Nitrogen Management of Justicia brandegeana Using Optical Sensor Technology
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050098
Received: 28 March 2019 / Revised: 27 April 2019 / Accepted: 29 April 2019 / Published: 4 May 2019
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Abstract
Over-fertilization is a common practice in ornamental nursery production. Oftentimes, visual analysis is used to determine plant nutrient levels, leading to less accurate estimates of fertilizer application. This study focused on exploring the suitability of two non-destructive sensors, Soil Plant Analysis Development (SPAD-502) [...] Read more.
Over-fertilization is a common practice in ornamental nursery production. Oftentimes, visual analysis is used to determine plant nutrient levels, leading to less accurate estimates of fertilizer application. This study focused on exploring the suitability of two non-destructive sensors, Soil Plant Analysis Development (SPAD-502) and GreenSeekerTM, for measuring plant tissue nutrient uptake. Florikan Top-Dress fertilizer 12N-6P-8K was applied to Justicia brandegeana in various increments (0, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 g) to simulate plants with deficient to excessive nitrogen rates. Various parameters were recorded including Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and SPAD readings, soil leachate analysis (nitrates and phosphate), and total leaf carbon:nitrogen (C:N). The NDVI and SPAD readings were recorded biweekly for three months after the initial controlled release fertilizer (CRF) treatments. Leaf C:N was analyzed through dry combustion while nitrates and phosphate were determined from soil leachate. Results suggest that the smaller amount (20 g) of CRF is as effective in providing N to J. brandegeana as larger amounts (30, 40, 50 g). Implementation of this fertilizer regimen will result in reduced agricultural nutrient runoff and overall negative environmental impacts. Application of optical sensor technology using SPAD and GreenSeekerTM showed promising results in determining the fertilizer requirements of J. brandegeana. This method could serve as a guideline for nursery producers and landscape personnel as a fast and non-destructive tool for sustainable fertilizer management practices within the ornamental plant industry. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Utilization of Molecular Marker Based Genetic Diversity Patterns in Hybrid Parents to Develop Better Forage Quality Multi-Cut Hybrids in Pearl Millet
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050097
Received: 10 April 2019 / Revised: 24 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 3 May 2019
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Abstract
Genetic diversity of 130 forage-type hybrid parents of pearl millet was investigated based on multiple season data of morphological traits and two type of markers: SSRs (Simple sequence repeats) and GBS identified SNPs (Genotyping by sequencing-Single nucleotide polymorphism). Most of the seed and [...] Read more.
Genetic diversity of 130 forage-type hybrid parents of pearl millet was investigated based on multiple season data of morphological traits and two type of markers: SSRs (Simple sequence repeats) and GBS identified SNPs (Genotyping by sequencing-Single nucleotide polymorphism). Most of the seed and pollinator parents clustered into two clear-cut separate groups based on marker based genetic distance. Significant variations were found for forage related morphological traits at different cutting intervals (first and second cut) in hybrid parents. Across two cuts, crude protein (CP) varied from 11% to 15%, while in vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) varied from 51% to 56%. Eighty hybrids evaluated in multi-location trial along with their parents for forage traits showed that significant heterosis can be realized for forage traits. A low but positive significant correlation found between SSR based genetic distance (GD between parents of hybrid) and heterosis for most of the forage traits indicated that SSR-based GD can be used for predicting heterosis for GFY, DFY and CP in pearl millet. An attempt was made to associate marker-based clusters with forage quality traits, to enable breeders select parents for crossing purposes in forage breeding programs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Quality and Production of Forage)
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Open AccessArticle
Drivers of Cooperation Activity in Kosovo’s Agriculture
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050096
Received: 20 March 2019 / Revised: 25 April 2019 / Accepted: 28 April 2019 / Published: 2 May 2019
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Abstract
This research aims to determine the demographic and economic factors affecting agriculture cooperation activity in Kosovo. Primary data was collected from 249 farmers in Kosovo through structured questionnaires using the random sampling technique. The results show that the level of cooperation among farmers [...] Read more.
This research aims to determine the demographic and economic factors affecting agriculture cooperation activity in Kosovo. Primary data was collected from 249 farmers in Kosovo through structured questionnaires using the random sampling technique. The results show that the level of cooperation among farmers in Kosovo is low due to the lack of trust in the cooperative institutions. The binary logistic regression analysis used in the study shows that location, gender, age, education level, trust, and farm size have significantly influenced the cooperation activity. Findings also highlight that the farmers who live in rural areas, as well as those who are young and have got a higher level of education and trust, show a higher level of activity associated with cooperation, whereas farms managed by (older) men with lower level of education are less likely to cooperate. Estimation indicates that medium sized farms show a high level of cooperation, which can be statistically verified, and only the type of farming has nonsignificant influence in cooperation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Absence of Effects of Herbicides Use on Yam Rots: A Case Study in Wulensi, Ghana
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 95; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050095
Received: 16 April 2019 / Revised: 21 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 2 May 2019
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Abstract
Yam farmers in Ghana have, over the years, used herbicides for weed control, particularly glyphosate. Although this has been helpful to them, there are complaints and concerns, among the yam farmers and a section of the public, that the yam tuber rots easily [...] Read more.
Yam farmers in Ghana have, over the years, used herbicides for weed control, particularly glyphosate. Although this has been helpful to them, there are complaints and concerns, among the yam farmers and a section of the public, that the yam tuber rots easily under the use of herbicides. This study, therefore, was set up at the field level to investigate the possibility of herbicides use causing yam rot. Two yam varieties, “laribako” and “olodo”, were grown under the conditions of chemical weed control (use of glyphosate) and manual weed control in three replicate sites in Wulensi in the Nanumba traditional area of northern Ghana. The study revealed that there was no difference in rots between herbicide treated yams and manually weeded yams, but that there was a difference in rots between “laribako” and “olodo” yam varieties. The results also showed that there was no difference in yield between herbicide treated yams and manually weeded yams. Based on the findings, it can be concluded that, there was no difference in yam rot and yield between herbicides treated and manually weeded yams, but “laribako” was more susceptible to rot than “olodo”. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Ascorbic Acid, Sugars, Phenols, and Nitrates Concentrations in Tomato Grown in Animal Manure Amended Soil
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050094
Received: 24 March 2019 / Revised: 22 April 2019 / Accepted: 26 April 2019 / Published: 2 May 2019
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Abstract
We studied the impact of animal manure that was mixed with biochar (a product of wood pyrolysis) on the nitrates (NO3), vitamin C, total phenols, and soluble sugars concentrations in tomato fruits (Solanum lycopersicum var. Marglobe) of plants that [...] Read more.
We studied the impact of animal manure that was mixed with biochar (a product of wood pyrolysis) on the nitrates (NO3), vitamin C, total phenols, and soluble sugars concentrations in tomato fruits (Solanum lycopersicum var. Marglobe) of plants that were grown in raised plastic-mulch of freshly tilled soils. Sewage sludge (SS), horse manure (HM), chicken manure (CM), vermicompost (worm castings), commercial inorganic fertilizer, commercial organic fertilizer, and bare soil used for comparison purposes were the soil amendments. Each of the seven treatments was mixed with 10% (w/w) biochar to make a total of 42 treatments. Chemical analysis of mature tomato fruits revealed that the fruits of plants grown in SS amended soil contained the greatest concentration of NO3 (17.2 µg g−1 fresh fruits), whereas those that were grown in SS biochar amended soils contained the lowest concentrations of nitrate (5.6 µg g−1 fresh fruits) compared to other soil treatments. SS that was amended with biochar increased vitamin C and total phenols in tomato (22 and 27 µg g−1 fresh fruits, respectively) when compared to SS alone (11µg g−1 fresh fruits). Growers and scientists are seeking strategies to increase antioxidants and reduce anti-nutritional compounds, like nitrates in food, while recycling animal waste. The results of this investigation revealed the role of biochar in reducing nitrates and optimizing the nutritional composition of tomato. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Composting and Organic Soil Amendments)
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Open AccessArticle
Behaviour and Skin Injuries of Piglets Originating from a Novel Group Farrowing System Before and After Weaning
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 93; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050093
Received: 26 January 2019 / Revised: 8 April 2019 / Accepted: 28 April 2019 / Published: 2 May 2019
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Abstract
The aim of this study was to analyse a novel group farrowing system (GH) concerning piglets’ behaviour, skin injuries and body weight gain, to test its animal friendliness. Skin injuries and weight gain were compared to piglets originating from conventional individual housing (IH) [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to analyse a novel group farrowing system (GH) concerning piglets’ behaviour, skin injuries and body weight gain, to test its animal friendliness. Skin injuries and weight gain were compared to piglets originating from conventional individual housing (IH) before and after weaning. The GH system had five farrowing pens without crates, a common area and an area only available for piglets. In total, 34 litters were studied. Four days after the GH-piglets had left the pens during lactation, the lesion score of piglets in GH was higher than in IH. However, piglets from the GH sustained fewer injuries after mixing at weaning, compared to the piglets from IH and had higher daily weight gains, during the early nursery phase. The common area in GH was intensively used for active behaviour, since standing/walking and playing were observed there, most frequently, whereas lying occurred most frequently inside the pens. Immediately after the piglets had left the pens in the GH, the piglets preferred proximity to the sow, compared to the pens where they were born. The GH system enabled social enrichment, offered increased space for activity and led to fewer skin lesions, after weaning; thus, potentially increasing animal welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
Testing for Structural Changes in the European Union’s Agricultural Sector
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050092
Received: 28 March 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 22 April 2019 / Published: 1 May 2019
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Abstract
Over recent decades several European and global occurrences have had an impact on the European Union’s economic sectors, and subsequently on farms. In fact, the various Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, namely those since 1992, and the global financial and economic crises, specifically [...] Read more.
Over recent decades several European and global occurrences have had an impact on the European Union’s economic sectors, and subsequently on farms. In fact, the various Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, namely those since 1992, and the global financial and economic crises, specifically after 2008, seem to have had several effects on the dynamics of the entire European Union agricultural sector and on the performance of farms. However, there is doubt as to whether these events were enough to promote structural breaks in European Union farms. In this way, the main objective of this study is to analyse both the known and unknown structural breaks in European farms, between 1989 and 2016. To this purpose, data from the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) from the twelve former member-states (the countries with the longer time series) and methodologies based on the Chow test and on the Quandt likelihood ratio (QLR) were considered. The results show that the structural breaks are different across the several twelve former European Union countries and among the several variables considered. In any case, the financial and economic crises, as well as changes in the European Union’s methodologies relative to statistical information, seem to have had a greater impact on the European farms than the several CAP reforms (with the exception of the reform of 1992 the trade liberalization). However, the several consequences of all these European and world events on European farms seem to be delayed for some years. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture Policies: Experiences and Challenges)
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Open AccessArticle
Case Study of an Automatic Enrichment Device for Laying Hens on a Free-Range Laying Hen Farm
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050091
Received: 14 March 2019 / Revised: 21 April 2019 / Accepted: 25 April 2019 / Published: 1 May 2019
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Abstract
Access to adequate foraging material can reduce the occurrence of feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens. Technical devices may help farmers provide enrichment material more effectively. However, research in this field is rare. On a commercial free-range farm with 15,000 laying hens [...] Read more.
Access to adequate foraging material can reduce the occurrence of feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens. Technical devices may help farmers provide enrichment material more effectively. However, research in this field is rare. On a commercial free-range farm with 15,000 laying hens (Lohmann Tradition), an enrichment device was evaluated from the 30th to the 58th week of age (LW). It ran at five time points (TP) in the afternoon and offered five grams of dried maize silage per hen per day. The numbers of hens residing in defined scratching areas (ScA) either beneath the device (ScA 1 and 3) or in a similar area without the device (ScA 2) were determined. Significantly more hens were found in ScA 1 and ScA 3 when the device was running. On average, only 6.96 (±7.00) hens stayed in ScA 2, whereas 31.45 (±5.38) and 33.83 (±6.16) hens stayed in ScA 1 and ScA 3, respectively. The hen numbers for ScA 1 and ScA 3 did not differ significantly, nor did the TPs have an influence on number of hens within ScA 1 and ScA 3. The number of hens beneath the device can serve as a potential indicator of the device’s usage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing Maize Farmers’ Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change and Variability in Ghana
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 90; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050090
Received: 7 March 2019 / Revised: 17 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 29 April 2019
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Abstract
This study examined the adaptation strategies of maize farmers to climate change and variability in the Eastern Region of Ghana using primary data collected from 150 maize farming households by the administration of structured questionnaires. The results of the multinomial logit regression revealed [...] Read more.
This study examined the adaptation strategies of maize farmers to climate change and variability in the Eastern Region of Ghana using primary data collected from 150 maize farming households by the administration of structured questionnaires. The results of the multinomial logit regression revealed that rainfall perception, access to credit, and farming experience significantly influenced the adoption of recommended agricultural practices, whereas the adoption of soil-related strategies is influenced by gender and rainfall perception. Farming experience and rainfall perception influenced the adoption of improved varieties strategies. This study highlights the need for the development of water resources for maize production in the context of the changing climate. In this respect, the crucial roles of the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority, the agricultural extension division of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and other international organizations such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the World Bank regarding the development of irrigation facilities and the associated capacity building of the farmers are very important. Finally, the formation of Water User Associations for the smallholder farmers regarding the usage and maintenance of the irrigation facilities would be a step in the right direction. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Can Hairy Vetch Cover Crop Affects Arsenic Accumulation in Vegetable Crops?
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 89; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050089
Received: 11 April 2019 / Revised: 24 April 2019 / Accepted: 27 April 2019 / Published: 29 April 2019
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Abstract
Agricultural practices greatly influence the bioavailability of heavy metals. Arsenic (As) is a heavy metal identified as a concern due to its potential impact on human health. Two-year field experiments were performed to evaluate the effect of cropping system on As accumulation in [...] Read more.
Agricultural practices greatly influence the bioavailability of heavy metals. Arsenic (As) is a heavy metal identified as a concern due to its potential impact on human health. Two-year field experiments were performed to evaluate the effect of cropping system on As accumulation in tomato, sweet pepper and zucchini. The treatments were: (i) conventional system based on common practices of the area; and (ii) alternative systems based on cultivation of hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.) in no-tillage before vegetable crops. Randomized block design with three replications was adopted. Soil and plant samples (fruits, leaves, stems and roots) were collected at crop harvesting. Plant samples were weighed and analyzed to evaluate As content. Soil chemical analyses were performed to evaluate the total organic carbon and nitrogen content. The As accumulation observed in plant samples of tomato, sweet pepper and zucchini resulted always low in the alternative system, except in fruits where As accumulation was similar between the systems. The increase of soil organic matter observed in alternative system probably caused a reduction of As accumulation into crop tissues. Therefore, hairy vetch cultivation in no-tillage could be a suitable strategy to reduce the As uptake of vegetable crops in geogenic contaminated soils. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cover Crops)
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Validity of Animal-Based Indicators of Sheep Health and Welfare: Do Observers Agree?
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050088
Received: 15 March 2019 / Revised: 21 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 28 April 2019
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Abstract
Sixteen animal-based indicators of sheep welfare, previously selected by a stakeholder panel, and based on the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) Five Freedoms, were assessed in terms of the level of inter-observer agreement achieved during on-farm testing. Eight observers independently tested the 16 [...] Read more.
Sixteen animal-based indicators of sheep welfare, previously selected by a stakeholder panel, and based on the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) Five Freedoms, were assessed in terms of the level of inter-observer agreement achieved during on-farm testing. Eight observers independently tested the 16 indicators on 1158 sheep from 38 farms in England and Wales. Overall inter-observer agreement was evaluated by Fleiss’s kappa (κ), and the pair-wise agreement of each observer was compared to a ‘test standard’ observer (TSO). Inter-observer assessments of the welfare indicators; dental abnormality, cleanliness score (ventral abdomen), mastitis, tail length, skin lesions, body condition scoring and lameness produced ‘fair to good’ levels of agreement (0.40 < κ < 0.75) and joint swellings had ‘excellent’ levels of agreement (κ ≥ 0.75). The very low apparent prevalence (<0.8%) of sheep with specific outcomes such as pruritis, wool loss, myiasis, thin body condition, diffuse or severe skin lesions limited kappa analysis for these indicators. Overall, findings suggest that observers of differing experience, training and occupation were reliable in assessing key animal-based indicators of sheep health and welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
Open AccessArticle
Techno-Economic Analysis of Extruding-Expelling of Soybeans to Produce Oil and Meal
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050087
Received: 1 March 2019 / Revised: 20 April 2019 / Accepted: 23 April 2019 / Published: 26 April 2019
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Abstract
Mechanical expelling (pressing) is a common and developed technique used to separate soybean oil from soybean protein and fiber. Due to the relatively higher oil content in the expelled meal compared to solvent-extracted soybean meal, the mechanical process is often used for specific [...] Read more.
Mechanical expelling (pressing) is a common and developed technique used to separate soybean oil from soybean protein and fiber. Due to the relatively higher oil content in the expelled meal compared to solvent-extracted soybean meal, the mechanical process is often used for specific purposes in industry, such as targeted livestock feed applications. For improving oil recovery and profits, two-stage mechanical process combining extrusion before the expelling process has been introduced and adapted by industrial applications. To examine the viability of this improved two-stage extruding-expelling process, techno-economic analysis was performed by using SuperPro Designer for simulation of the soybean extruding-expelling process. Soybean oil yield increases to over 70% compared to the conventional single-step expelling process with 60%. Soybean oil and soybean meal contributed about 25% and 75% of total revenues, respectively. Through fluctuations in economic conditions, soybean meal plays an important role in earning profits, making the whole mechanical process profitable. According to the sensitivity analysis, the sale of soybean meal is one of the driving forces for the mechanical expelling process, especially in large industrial scales. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Study of a Large Square Baler with Innovative Technological Systems that Optimize the Baling Effectiveness
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 86; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050086
Received: 1 April 2019 / Revised: 20 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 26 April 2019
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Abstract
The employment of bales is of considerable interest in the agricultural sector due to the mechanization of the production chain, the ease of their manipulation and transport, the low requirements for, and flexibility of, their storage and the low manpower requirements. Forage bales [...] Read more.
The employment of bales is of considerable interest in the agricultural sector due to the mechanization of the production chain, the ease of their manipulation and transport, the low requirements for, and flexibility of, their storage and the low manpower requirements. Forage bales are mainly employed in zootechny, which albeit with important changes, is today still an essential economic sector for our society. The optimization of results in the zootechnical field depends largely on the feeding of the animals; in this regard, fodder-crops play a fundamental role in the European agricultural and economic sector. The soil inside the fodder is often the vehicle for a large number of CFUs (colony forming units) of bacteria of the Clostridium genus, with consequent repercussions for the welfare of the cows as well as for the quality of the milk products. The purpose of this work was to assess the performance of the large square baler HD 1270, made by the Italian manufacturer “Cicoria Square Bales”, whose main characteristic is the high cleanliness level of the dried fodder. The experimental tests carried out seem to confirm the efficacy of the technical solutions adopted for this machine. However, in order to better understand the reliability of the machine in lowering the amount of impurities and soil present in the built square bales, further tests in different working conditions should be carried out in order to statistically evaluate the influence and the mutual interaction of the operating parameters. Full article
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