Special Issue "Innovative Agricultural Practices for Sustainable and Efficient Vegetable Crops Production"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Farming Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Juan A. Fernández
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural Engineering, Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, 20203 Cartagena, Spain
Interests: vegetable crops; protected cultivation; cultivation techniques; soilless culture; vegetable grafting; plant genetic resources; abiotic stress
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Francesco Orsini
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
DISTAL, Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences Alma Mater Studiorum, Bologna University, Viale Fanin 44, Bologna, Italy
Interests: vegetable crops; vertical farming; rooftop farms; hydroponics; greenhouse crop management
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Vegetables consumption has been a growing trend in the food world for years because they are rich in micronutrients and health-promoting phytochemicals. Vegetarianism and veganism represent possibly the biggest food trend at present, particularly in developed countries. Furthermore, changes in the world's climate, including rising temperatures and water shortages, will bring about major shifts in food production, which will lead to modifications in most of the current food production strategies. In this context, producers of vegetable crops are continually developing new innovative agricultural practices with the aim of achieving more sustainable and efficient production to overcome specific cultivation limitations, to reduce any related environmental impacts, including those related to climate change, and to adjust to new market requirements. It is for this reason that it is necessary to update our scientific knowledge of vegetable crop production. For this Special Issue, we welcome original research articles on any innovative agricultural practice that targets sustainable and efficient vegetable crop production in the context of the challenges that the world currently faces.

Dr. Juan A. Fernández Hernández
Dr. Francesco Orsini
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • product quality
  • soilless cultivation
  • cropping systems
  • climate change mitigation
  • water and nutrient management
  • organic production

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Article
Influence of Atomization Nozzles and Spraying Intervals on Growth, Biomass Yield, and Nutrient Uptake of Butter-Head Lettuce under Aeroponics System
Agronomy 2021, 11(1), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11010097 - 06 Jan 2021
Viewed by 1209
Abstract
The atomized nutrient solution droplet sizes and spraying intervals can impact the chemical properties of the nutrient solution, biomass yield, root-to-shoot ratio and nutrient uptake of aeroponically cultivated plants. In this study, four different nozzles having droplet sizes N1 = 11.24, N2 = [...] Read more.
The atomized nutrient solution droplet sizes and spraying intervals can impact the chemical properties of the nutrient solution, biomass yield, root-to-shoot ratio and nutrient uptake of aeroponically cultivated plants. In this study, four different nozzles having droplet sizes N1 = 11.24, N2 = 26.35, N3 = 17.38 and N4 = 4.89 µm were selected and misted at three nutrient solution spraying intervals of 30, 45 and 60 min, with a 5 min spraying time. The measured parameters were power of hydrogen (pH) and electrical conductivity (EC) values of the nutrient solution, shoot and root growth, ratio of roots to shoots (fresh and dry), biomass yield and nutrient uptake. The results indicated that the N1 presented significantly lower changes in chemical properties than those of N2, N3 and N4, resulting in stable lateral root growth and increased biomass yield. Also, the root-to-shoot ratio significantly increased with increasing spraying interval using N1 and N4 nozzles. The N1 nozzle also revealed a significant effect on the phosphorous, potassium and magnesium uptake by the plants misted at proposed nutrient solution spraying intervals. However, the ultrasonic nozzle showed a nonsignificant effect on all measured parameters with respect to spraying intervals. In the last, this research experiment validates the applicability of air-assisted nozzle (N1) misting at a 30-min spraying interval and 5 min of spraying time for the cultivation of butter-head lettuce in aeroponic systems. Full article
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Article
An Appraisal of Calcium Cyanamide as Alternative N Source for Spring-Summer and Fall Season Curly Endive Crops: Effects on Crop Performance, NUE and Functional Quality Components
Agronomy 2020, 10(9), 1357; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10091357 - 10 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 564
Abstract
A two-year study was conducted in both spring-summer and fall seasons to evaluate calcium cyanamide (CaCN2) as an alternative nitrogen (N) source for curly endive (Cichorium endivia L. var. crispum) grown in a Mediterranean environment. Four types of N [...] Read more.
A two-year study was conducted in both spring-summer and fall seasons to evaluate calcium cyanamide (CaCN2) as an alternative nitrogen (N) source for curly endive (Cichorium endivia L. var. crispum) grown in a Mediterranean environment. Four types of N applications were administered: (i) pre-transplanting base application of 100 kg N ha−1 corresponding to 100% of the supplied N (100CC), (ii) pre-transplanting base application of 50 kg N ha−1 corresponding to 50% of the supplied N (50CC) complemented with 50 kg N ha−1 as ammonium nitrate (50AN) supplied through fertigation, (iii) standard application of 100 kg N ha−1 as ammonium nitrate (100AN) supplied entirely through fertigation, and (iv) a N-deprived control (0 kg N ha−1) used as base reference to calculate the N use efficiency indices (NUE). Fall season increased head fresh weight, head height, stem diameter and plant visual quality, compared with the spring-summer season. The CaCN2 and standard fertigation N applications were equally effective in increasing head fresh weight and other physical parameters such as, head height, stem diameter, visual quality, number of leaves and head dry matter when compared to the unfertilized control. However, in spring-summer season, CaCN2, especially when applied straight at 100 kg N ha−1, effectively increased ascorbic acid and total phenolic content, whereas, in fall season, an increase in TSS and ascorbic acid was recorded. In both, spring-summer and fall seasons, CaCN2 significantly decreased N content and nitrogen accumulation (Nacc). Furthermore, CaCN2 pre-transplant application improved NUE indices both in terms of N fertilizer recovery efficiency and in terms of physiological efficiency of applied N. Our results finally demonstrated that NUE indices increased in the fall season as compared to the spring-summer season. Full article
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Article
Supplementary LED Interlighting Improves Yield and Precocity of Greenhouse Tomatoes in the Mediterranean
Agronomy 2020, 10(7), 1002; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10071002 - 12 Jul 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 2144
Abstract
In Northern Europe, the use of light–emitting diodes (LEDs) is widely adopted in protected horticulture, enabling to enhance plant growth by ensuring needed radiative fluxes throughout seasons. Contrarily, the use of artificial lighting in Mediterranean greenhouse still finds limited applications. In this study, [...] Read more.
In Northern Europe, the use of light–emitting diodes (LEDs) is widely adopted in protected horticulture, enabling to enhance plant growth by ensuring needed radiative fluxes throughout seasons. Contrarily, the use of artificial lighting in Mediterranean greenhouse still finds limited applications. In this study, the effects of supplemental LED interlighting on vegetative development, fruit growth, yield, and fruit quality of high-wire tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum L. cv. ‘Siranzo’) during spring and summer season were addressed in a hydroponic greenhouse in Italy. Plants were either grown under natural solar radiation (control), or by adding supplemental LED interlighting. LED treatment featured red (R) and blue (B) light (RB ratio of 3) and a photosynthetic photon flux density of 170 µmol m−2 s−1 for 16 h d−1. Supplemental LED interlighting enhanced yield as a result of increased fruit weight and dimension. While no effects on soluble solids content and fruit color at harvesting were observed, supplemental LED interlighting accelerated ripening by one week in spring and two weeks in summer and this also resulted in increased cumulated productivity (+16%) as compared to control treatment. Overall, supplemental LED interlighting can represent a feasible technology for tomato greenhouse production also in the Mediterranean region. Full article
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Article
Inoculation with Different Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria and Arbuscular Mycorrhiza Affects Grain Protein Content and Nodule Bacterial Communities of a Fava Bean Crop
Agronomy 2020, 10(6), 768; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10060768 - 28 May 2020
Viewed by 902
Abstract
The introduction of nitrogen fixing bacteria (NFB) and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) into the soil is an advisable agricultural practice for the crop, since it enhances nutrient and water uptake and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The aim of this work was [...] Read more.
The introduction of nitrogen fixing bacteria (NFB) and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) into the soil is an advisable agricultural practice for the crop, since it enhances nutrient and water uptake and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. The aim of this work was to study plant nutrition, biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) and crop yield and quality, after inoculating seeds with NFBs ((Rhizobium leguminosarum, Burkholderia cenocepacia, Burkholderia vietnamiensis)) and/or AMFs (Rhizophagus irregularis, Claroideoglomus etunicatum, Claroideoglomus claroideum and Funneliformis mosseae) in a fava bean crop in two seasons. The composition of the nodule bacterial community was evaluated by the high-throughput sequencing analysis of bacterial 16 S rRNA genes. It was found that microbial inoculation accompanied by a 20% decrease in mineral fertilization had no significant effect on crop yield or the nutritional characteristics compared with a non-inoculated crop, except for an increase in the grain protein content in inoculated plants. None of the inoculation treatments increased biological nitrogen fixation over a non-inoculated level. The bacterial rRNA analysis demonstrated that the genus Rhizobium predominated in all nodules, both in inoculated and non-inoculated treatments, suggesting the previous presence of these bacteria in the soil. In our study, inoculation with Rhizobium leguminosarum was the most effective treatment for increasing protein content in seeds, while Burkholderia sp. was not able to colonise the plant nodules. Inoculation techniques used in fava beans can be considered an environmentally friendly alternative, reducing the input of fertilizers, while maintaining crop yield and quality, with the additional benefit of increasing the grain protein content. However, further research is required on the selection and detection of efficient rhizobial strains under local field conditions, above all those related to pH and soil type, in order to achieve superior nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Full article
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Article
Aphid Behavior on Amaranthus hybridus L. (Amaranthaceae) Associated with Ocimum spp. (Lamiaceae) as Repellent Plants
Agronomy 2020, 10(5), 736; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10050736 - 20 May 2020
Viewed by 828
Abstract
Various plant species contain biocidal and/or semiochemical components. These can be used for managing insect pests, in order to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and to improve the quality of vegetable crops. This study was conducted to assess the effect of repellent [...] Read more.
Various plant species contain biocidal and/or semiochemical components. These can be used for managing insect pests, in order to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides and to improve the quality of vegetable crops. This study was conducted to assess the effect of repellent plants Ocimum gratissimum L. and Ocimum basilicum L. on aphids Aphis craccivora Koch, Aphis fabae Scopoli and Myzus persicae Sulzer when they are associated with Amaranthus hybridus L. plants. The results have shown that in the two approaches tested—Ocimum sp. plants surrounded by A. hybridus plants and the dual-choice test—the number of aphids on the A. hybridus plant associated with either O. gratissimum or O. basilicum was significantly less significant compared to the A. hybridus alone. This first study on the association between A. hybridus and Ocimum spp. shows that the Ocimum species might be used as an alternative method for controlling aphids in order to avoid the use of synthetic pesticides on Amaranthus. The ability of Ocimum spp. to repel pests can make it an important companion plant for farmers, because those plants can not only be used to control pests, but they can also be harvested, providing a direct economic return. Full article
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Article
Strategies for Improved Water Use Efficiency (WUE) of Field-Grown Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) under a Semi-Arid Climate
Agronomy 2020, 10(5), 668; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10050668 - 09 May 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1199
Abstract
Water use efficiency is a main research target in agriculture, which consumes 70% of global freshwater. This study aimed at identifying sustainable water management strategies for the lettuce crop in a semi-arid climate. Three independent experiments were carried out on a commercial variety [...] Read more.
Water use efficiency is a main research target in agriculture, which consumes 70% of global freshwater. This study aimed at identifying sustainable water management strategies for the lettuce crop in a semi-arid climate. Three independent experiments were carried out on a commercial variety of lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) by applying different irrigation levels based on crop evapotranspiration (ETc), estimated through both the Hargreaves–Samani and Penman–Monteith equations. In the first experiment, one treatment was also guided by soil moisture sensors. In the second and third experiments, a factorial combination was used, combining the different irrigation levels with two soil mulching treatments, namely soil without mulch, and soil mulched with dried rice straw residues. The application of different irrigation levels significantly affected plant growth, yield, and physiology. Both the adoption of sensors for guiding irrigation and the application of mulching with straw promoted higher yield. As the irrigation water level was reduced, the WUE (water use efficiency) increased. WUE was also increased by covering the soil with mulch. The experiments point out that accurate management of irrigation water using a drip irrigation system associated with soil mulching increases yield and improves the WUE of lettuce crops in the Central Dry Zone, Myanmar. Full article
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Article
Evaluation of Organic Substrates and Microorganisms as Bio-Fertilisation Tool in Container Crop Production
Agronomy 2019, 9(11), 705; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy9110705 - 01 Nov 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1154
Abstract
Microorganisms are only effective when adequate conditions for their survival and development are provided. Among the factors that influence its effectiveness includes the type of soil or culture substrate, which works as an energy source reserve. Therefore, a tomato and a melon crop [...] Read more.
Microorganisms are only effective when adequate conditions for their survival and development are provided. Among the factors that influence its effectiveness includes the type of soil or culture substrate, which works as an energy source reserve. Therefore, a tomato and a melon crop were established in different cycles to assess the effect of the physicochemical properties of organic substrates based on coconut fibre and vermicompost in three proportions, 0:100, 40:60 and 60:40 (% v:v), on the microbial activity in the rhizosphere when the bacteria Azotobacter vinelandii, Bacillus megaterium and Frateuria aurantia were applied. Concentrations of NO3, H2PO4, K+ and Ca2+ in the petiole cellular extract (PCE) were quantified at 60, 90 and 120 days after transplantation (DAT) for tomato and 45 and 65 DAT for melon. We analysed dehydrogenase activity (DHA), acid phosphatase activity (FTA) and β-glucosidase activity (β-GLU). In order to maintain optimal volumetric moisture for the survival of microorganisms, automatic control was used to manage the irrigation frequency between 22%–28%. The results showed that physicochemical substrate properties, by incorporating 40% vermicompost into the coconut fibre mixture, increased enzymatic activity. Plants that were inoculated with Azotobacter vinelandii and Frateuria aurantia showed an improvement in NO3 and K+ assimilation achieving highest yields. Full article
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