Special Issue "Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 July 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Francesco Montemurro
Website1 Website2 Website3
Guest Editor
Council for Agricultural Research and Economics - Research Centre for Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (CREA-OF), Monsampolo del Tronto (AP), 00198 Roma, Italy
Interests: agronomy; organic farming; composting process, compost application and organic fertilization; sustainable development; crop rotations and cropping systems; agro-ecosystem techniques; nutrient management, efficiency, and balance
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Mariangela Diacono
Website1 Website2 Website3 Website4
Guest Editor
Council for Agricultural Research and Economics - Research Center for Agriculture and Environment (CREA-AA), Via Celso Ulpiani 5, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: organic farming; agro-ecology; compost production, evaluation and application; sustainable agriculture assessment
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Alessandra Trinchera
Website1 Website2 Website3 Website4
Guest Editor
Council for Agricultural Research and Economics - Research Center for Agriculture and Environment (CREA-AA), 00198 Roma, Italy
Interests: belowground functional biodiversity in diversified organic cropping systems; plant strengtheners and biostimulants in organic farming; crop mycorrhizal symbiosis

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Increasing land degradation, loss of agrobiodiversity, and climate changes are the main significant threats to achieving food and nutrition security. One solution is sustainable intensification, producing with a high eco-efficiency by maximizing the agricultural products per unit of inputs. However, to reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture, win–win approaches are required. Agroecology is the application of ecological principles to agricultural systems by incorporating environmental, economic, ethical, and social aspects. Organic farming can be considered as the main driver of the agroecological approach to sustainable farming, aiming at diversifying food systems, reducing external inputs, and enhancing ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, soil functional biodiversity, pest and disease control, soil conservation, and carbon sequestration. We invite experts and researchers to contribute to our Special Issue with original research and reviews covering all issues related to agroecology and organic agriculture. Authors are particularly encouraged to consider the most important topics such as agrobiodiversity improvement, climate change resilience, soil fertility, and closing the nutrient cycle, assessing the environmental performance of agriculture systems.

Dr. Francesco Montemurro
Dr. Mariangela Diacono
Dr. Alessandra Trinchera
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. 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 1600 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

  • agroecology
  • belowground functional biodiversity
  • crop diversification
  • climate change resilience
  • soil fertility
  • sustainable agriculture
  • environmental performance assessment
  • organic agriculture
  • ecosystem services

Published Papers (11 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Open AccessArticle
Assessment of the Suitability of 10 Winter Triticale Cultivars (x Triticosecale Wittm. ex A. Camus) for Organic Agriculture: Polish Case Study
Agronomy 2020, 10(8), 1144; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10081144 - 06 Aug 2020
Abstract
The aim of the study was to compare 10 winter triticale varieties according to their traits useful for cultivation in organic farming. The study was carried out in the years 2014–2017 in the experimental organic farm of the Institute of Soil Science and [...] Read more.
The aim of the study was to compare 10 winter triticale varieties according to their traits useful for cultivation in organic farming. The study was carried out in the years 2014–2017 in the experimental organic farm of the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation–State Research Institute in Pulawy (Poland). The highest-yielding varieties under organic conditions were Pizarro and Subito. Borowik cultivar showed the highest competitive ability against weeds. The highest number of weeds was found in the Leontyno cultivar, which was connected to the lowest plant density, the lowest weight of the above-ground parts of the canopy and smaller value of tillering coefficient. The most affected by the fungal pathogens Drechslera tritici-repentis (Died.) Shoem. and Puccinia striiformis Schwein. were Fredro and Algoso. Cluster analyses indicated that the most useful cultivars for cultivation in the organic system were: Borowik, Subito, and Tomko, which all showed higher yielding potential, bigger competitiveness against weeds, and average resistance against fungal pathogens. Pizarro, Tulus, and Twingo, which showed high resistance to fungal pathogens with lower competitiveness to weeds, were classified to the second group of usefulness. The least useful for the organic system were: Algoso, Fredro, Grenado, and Leontyno. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Bioactive Properties of Fruits and Leafy Vegetables Managed with Integrated, Organic, and Organic No-Tillage Practices in the Mediterranean Area: A Two-Year Rotation Experiment
Agronomy 2020, 10(6), 841; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10060841 - 12 Jun 2020
Abstract
The sustainability of current farming systems has been questioned in the last decades, especially in terms of the environmental impact and mitigation of global warming. Also, the organic sector, which is supposed to impact less on the environment than other more intensive systems, [...] Read more.
The sustainability of current farming systems has been questioned in the last decades, especially in terms of the environmental impact and mitigation of global warming. Also, the organic sector, which is supposed to impact less on the environment than other more intensive systems, is looking for innovative solutions to improve its environmental sustainability. Promisingly, the integration of organic management practices with conservation agriculture techniques may help to increase environmental sustainability of food production. However, little is known about the possible impact of conservation agriculture on the content of bioactive compounds in cash crops. For this reason, a two-year rotation experiment used 7 cash crops (4 leafy vegetables and 3 fruit crops) to compare integrated (INT), organic farming (ORG), and organic no-tillage (ORG+) systems to evaluate the possible influence of cropping systems on the nutritional/nutraceutical values of the obtained fruits and leafy vegetables. The results pointed out specific responses based on the species as well as the year of cultivation. However, cultivation with the ORG+ cropping system resulted in effective obtainment of fruits and vegetables with higher levels of bioactive compounds in several cases (11 out 16 observations). The ORG+ cropping system results are particularly promising for leafy vegetable cultivation, especially when ORG+ is carried out on a multi-year basis. Aware that the obtained data should be consolidated with longer-term experiments, we conclude that this dataset may represent a good starting point to support conservation agriculture systems as a possible sustainable strategy to obtain products with higher levels of bioactive compounds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
The Effects of Wind Erosion Depending on Cropping System and Tillage Method in a Semi-Arid Region
Agronomy 2020, 10(5), 732; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10050732 - 20 May 2020
Abstract
Wind erosion is a major environmental problem in arid and semi-arid regions, where it has significant impacts on desertification and soil degradation. To understand the effects of cropping systems and tillage methods on the reduction of soil wind erosion, wind tunnel investigations were [...] Read more.
Wind erosion is a major environmental problem in arid and semi-arid regions, where it has significant impacts on desertification and soil degradation. To understand the effects of cropping systems and tillage methods on the reduction of soil wind erosion, wind tunnel investigations were performed on soil samples from an irrigated field in an experiment conducted in semi-arid northwestern China in 2016–2018. Three cropping systems for annual spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)/maize (Zea mays L.) strip intercropping (W/M), a two-year wheat-winter rape-maize rotation (WRM), and a two-year wheat-maize rotation (WM)) were each evaluated with two tillage methods (conventional tillage without wheat straw retention (CT) and no-tillage with 25–30 cm tall wheat straw (NT)). The mean rate of soil erosion by wind with NT was 18.9% to 36.2% less than that with CT. With increasing wind velocity, the rate of soil erosion by wind increased for both CT and NT but was faster with CT than NT. Soil wind erosion occurred with a wind velocity ≥14 m s−1, and NT greatly decreased the rate of soil erosion when wind velocity exceeded 14 m s−1. W/M, WRM, and WM with NT increased non-erodible aggregates by 53.7%, 53.7%, and 54.9% in 2017, and 51.3%, 49.6% and 44.6% in 2018, respectively, than conventional tillage. At a height of 0–20 cm, the rate of soil transport with CT decreased with increasing height. The volume of soil transport at a height of 0–4 cm and soil transport percentage at a height of 0–4 and 0–20 cm (Q0–4/Q0–20) with NT were less than with CT. These findings show that NT with cropping system intensification can be an effective strategy for resisting wind erosion in irrigated semi-arid regions, thereby reducing the negative environmental impacts of crop production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Cover Crop as Living Mulch: Effects on Energy Flows in Mediterranean Organic Cropping Systems
Agronomy 2020, 10(5), 667; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10050667 - 09 May 2020
Abstract
Sustainability of agricultural practices is one of the most important issues in organic agriculture and its assessment is crucial. To this aim, evaluating the balance between the energy inputs and outputs in crop rotations could be a valuable tool. Therefore, we compared different [...] Read more.
Sustainability of agricultural practices is one of the most important issues in organic agriculture and its assessment is crucial. To this aim, evaluating the balance between the energy inputs and outputs in crop rotations could be a valuable tool. Therefore, we compared different management strategies in a four-year organic cropping system, by estimating the energy balance of crop production. Two different living mulches with no-till (B1) and green manure (B2) were compared with a cropping system without cover crop (B3), performing both energy analysis and energy balance. Energy parameters were also evaluated. The energy input of fertilizers and water was more than 55% of the total energy required by the cropping systems, suggesting that these agronomic practices should be tailored by farmers to decrease total energy inputs. The potential energy output was significantly higher in the B1 than the B2 and B3 cropping systems (20% and 54%, respectively). Results indicated that B1 and B2 could enhance the energy outputs without negatively affecting the energy consumption, since these cropping systems also showed higher energy efficiency. The introduction of the cover crop as living mulch combined with no-till could be a powerful tool to enhance systems sustainability, without compromising the crop yields. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Pennycress as a Cash Cover-Crop: Improving the Sustainability of Sweet Corn Production Systems
Agronomy 2020, 10(5), 614; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10050614 - 25 Apr 2020
Abstract
Commercial sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa) production has a proportionally high potential for nutrient loss to waterways, due to its high nitrogen (N) requirements and low N use efficiency. Cover crops planted after sweet corn can help ameliorate [...] Read more.
Commercial sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa) production has a proportionally high potential for nutrient loss to waterways, due to its high nitrogen (N) requirements and low N use efficiency. Cover crops planted after sweet corn can help ameliorate N lost from the field, but farmers are reluctant to utilize cover crops due to a lack of economic incentive. Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) is a winter annual that can provide both economic and environmental benefits. Five N-rates (0, 65, 135, 135 split and 200) were applied pre-plant to sweet corn. After the sweet corn harvest, pennycress was planted into the sweet corn residue with two seeding methods and harvested for seed the following spring. Residual inorganic soil N (Nmin), pennycress biomass, biomass N and yield were measured. The nitrogen rate and seeding method had no effect on pennycress yield, biomass, or biomass N content. The nitrogen rate positively affected Nmin at pennycress seeding, wherein 200N plots had 38–80% higher Nmin than 0N plots, but had no effect on Nmin at pennycress harvest. Control treatments without pennycress had an average of 27–42% greater Nmin. In conclusion, pennycress can act as an effective N catch crop, and produce an adequate seed yield after sweet corn without the need for supplemental fertilization. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessCommunication
Innovative Pro-Smallholder Farmers’ Permanent Mulch for Better Soil Quality and Food Security Under Conservation Agriculture
Agronomy 2020, 10(4), 605; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10040605 - 23 Apr 2020
Abstract
Soil degradation is the greatest threat to agricultural production globally. The practice of applying or retaining crop residues in the field as mulch is imperative to prevent soil erosion, maintain soil quality and improve crop productivity. However, smallholder farmers resort to maximizing profit [...] Read more.
Soil degradation is the greatest threat to agricultural production globally. The practice of applying or retaining crop residues in the field as mulch is imperative to prevent soil erosion, maintain soil quality and improve crop productivity. However, smallholder farmers resort to maximizing profit by removing crop residues after harvest to sell or use them as feed for livestock. Agrimats are innovative pro-smallholder farming mulching materials that are manufactured using cheap or freely available organic waste materials. These materials include forestry waste, grasses, etc., therefore allowing smallholder farmers to make more profit through improved crop productivity for better food security. The most notable attributes of agrimats include their ability to prevent soil erosion, increase and sustain soil organic matter, suppress weeds, and conserve soil moisture. Food security challenge can be addressed by adopting agrimat technology as a sustainable permanent soil cover to improve soil quality and crop productivity. Agrimat incorporation in conservation agriculture practice could produce more food from less input resources (chemical fertilizers, water, etc.) with minimal or no adverse effect on the environment. This study aims to advocate permanent soil cover using agrimat as an innovative pro-smallholder farmer technology to improve soil quality for better food security. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Cover Crops Affect Performance of Organic Scarlotta Seedless Table Grapes Under Plastic Film Covering in Southern Italy
Agronomy 2020, 10(4), 550; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10040550 - 10 Apr 2020
Abstract
In sustainable or organic vineyard systems, the introduction of cover crops could represent a powerful tool for farmers to influence, positively, the agro-ecosystem by promoting the whole soil-plant system equilibrium. Concerning table grape production, nitrogen fertilizers are medium-high; for environmental aspects, organic viticulturists [...] Read more.
In sustainable or organic vineyard systems, the introduction of cover crops could represent a powerful tool for farmers to influence, positively, the agro-ecosystem by promoting the whole soil-plant system equilibrium. Concerning table grape production, nitrogen fertilizers are medium-high; for environmental aspects, organic viticulturists are more interested in legume inter-row cover crops. Research on cover crop effects was carried out in 2015–2016, on organic table grapes (the Sugranineteen variety) in Mediterranean conditions. Three inter-row soil management techniques were compared: (TR) inter-row spacing was cultivated with subterranean clover; (V) inter-row spacing with common vetch incorporated in the soil as green manure, and (RC) inter-row spacing with common vetch flattened by the roller crimper technique, making a living mulch. No significant difference was recorded in grapevine water status among the treatments. RC vines performed the highest net photosynthesis rate from shoot growth to veràison. Cover crops did not affect cluster weight, berry weight, and juice composition; however, they influenced berry detachment force. Our research findings confirmed that legume cover crops (subterranean clover and common vetch) increased soil organic matter and could represent an economic and sustainable soil use to reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizers applied in table grape production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Origin of Phosphonic Acid Residues in Organic Vegetable and Fruit Crops: The Biofosf Project Multi-Actor Approach
Agronomy 2020, 10(3), 421; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10030421 - 19 Mar 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Recently, on the EU market, phosphonic acid residues were detected in many organic goods, although fosetyl-derivates and phosphite salts are not allowed by Reg. EC n. 889/2009. The BIOFOSF project “Solving phosphite issue in organic fruit and horticultural crops” aimed at verifying whether [...] Read more.
Recently, on the EU market, phosphonic acid residues were detected in many organic goods, although fosetyl-derivates and phosphite salts are not allowed by Reg. EC n. 889/2009. The BIOFOSF project “Solving phosphite issue in organic fruit and horticultural crops” aimed at verifying whether the phosphonic acid contamination could be due to unproper use of fertilizers/plant protection products by organic farmers, or to the plant’s ability to self-produce it spontaneously. Applying a participative approach, field case-studies on potato, rocket lettuce, and pears were carried out (organic vs. integrated systems). The ethyl-phosphonic acid and phosphonic acid were determined in soil, tubers, leaves, fruits, tree woody organs, used fertilizers, and plant protection products to correlate them to the applied farming management. Tested crops were not able to self-synthetize phosphonic acid, being its detection due to: (i) external inputs not allowed in organic farming; (ii) fertilizers/plant protection products allowed in organic farming, contaminated by fosetyl or phosphite. In addition, it was found that tree crops can stock the phosphite in their woody organs, then translocate it from branches to leaves and fruits over time. Regression models applied to field data showed that fruit trees decontamination could take more than 5 years, depending on the starting value of phosphonic acid contamination, useful to define the phosphite maximum residue limit in organic fruit crops. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Open AccessArticle
High Maize Density Alleviates the Inhibitory Effect of Soil Nitrogen on Intercropped Pea
Agronomy 2020, 10(2), 248; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10020248 - 07 Feb 2020
Abstract
Nitrogen (N) fixation is essential in the development of sustainable agriculture, but nodulation of legumes is usually inhibited by N fertilization. In this study, we evaluated the increased density of intercropped maize (Zea mays L.) as a means to alleviate the inhibitory [...] Read more.
Nitrogen (N) fixation is essential in the development of sustainable agriculture, but nodulation of legumes is usually inhibited by N fertilization. In this study, we evaluated the increased density of intercropped maize (Zea mays L.) as a means to alleviate the inhibitory effect of soil mineral N on intercropped pea (Pisum sativum L.) and improve system performance. A field experiment was conducted in the Hexi Corridor region of northwestern China from 2012 to 2014. The experiment consisted of monoculture pea, monoculture maize, and a pea/maize strip-intercropping system. Two levels of N fertilization were evaluated in both cropping systems during the co-growth period of intercropping, i.e., 0 kg N ha−1 (N0) and 135 kg N ha−1 (N1), and three maize densities were evaluated with both levels of N fertilization in the intercropping system, i.e., 45,000 plants ha−1 (D1), 52,500 plants ha−1 (D2), and 60,000 plants ha−1 (D3). The application of N reduced the number of nodules of intercropped pea by 135% at D1 and by 9% at D2 compared to no application of N, in all the years examined. The alleviation of the inhibitory effect of soil mineral N on the nodulation of intercropped pea (Cis) was calculated as the percentage increase in nodulation with intercropping relative to monoculture for a given level of N fertilization. With the application of N, Cis was improved by increased intercropped maize density (D3 > D2 > D1) at all stages. The internal efficiency of nitrogen (IEN) of pea was improved with intercropping and, on average, was 19% and 12% greater at D3 than at D1 and D2, respectively. These results demonstrate that increased maize density can alleviate the inhibitory effect of soil N on the nodulation of pea and sustain the productivity of maize/pea intercropping while reducing N fertilizer requirements in arid regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Sustainability Assessment of the Green Compost Production Chain from Agricultural Waste: A Case Study in Southern Italy
Agronomy 2020, 10(2), 230; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10020230 - 04 Feb 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
Horticultural farms are faced with the problem of disposing of huge amounts of agricultural by-products whose management requires sustainable solutions. Composting means to recycle organic waste to make compost—a high agronomic value product—able to positively affect soil quality: A good occasion to switch [...] Read more.
Horticultural farms are faced with the problem of disposing of huge amounts of agricultural by-products whose management requires sustainable solutions. Composting means to recycle organic waste to make compost—a high agronomic value product—able to positively affect soil quality: A good occasion to switch definitively from a conventional agriculture to an organic one. Nevertheless, composting can have negative direct/indirect environmental impacts. The aim of this research was to assess the sustainability of a windrow composting system, able to treat agricultural green waste of different typology (“light” and “heavy” with dry matter below or above 10%, respectively). Environmental impacts, energy consumptions, and production costs of all composting stages were evaluated by Life Cycle Assessment. Results show that the production of 1 ton of compost caused CO2eq emissions ranging from 199 to 250 kg and required between 1500 and 2000 MJ of energy; costs ranged between 98 and 162 euro, nevertheless lesser than the commercial green compost. The raw material typology affected significantly the composting process making compost based on “heavy” materials the most sustainable. These findings underline the need to spread this low technology process, easy to apply, especially in organic farms, and to promote the agronomic use of compost. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Supporting Crop and Different Row Spacing as Factors Influencing Weed Infestation in Lentil Crop and Seed Yield under Organic Farming Conditions
Agronomy 2020, 10(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10010009 - 19 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
A field study was conducted at the Certified Organic Farm in Poland over the period 2014–2016. This study evaluated weed infestation and seed yield of the lentil varieties ‘Tina’ and ‘Anita’, as well as of a mixture of these two varieties, sole cropped [...] Read more.
A field study was conducted at the Certified Organic Farm in Poland over the period 2014–2016. This study evaluated weed infestation and seed yield of the lentil varieties ‘Tina’ and ‘Anita’, as well as of a mixture of these two varieties, sole cropped and row intercropped with naked oats as a supporting crop. Additionally, lentil was sown at a different row spacing of 20 and 25 cm. The lentil variety ‘Anita’ produced 25.3% higher yields than var. ‘Tina’. Weight of 1000 seed, number of pods per plant, and first pod height did not differ significantly in the treatments with the lentil varieties. The lentil seed yield obtained in the treatments with a supporting crop was lower by 9.4% compared with the sole cropped plots. In turn, the 1000 seed weight was 3.9% higher in the treatment where a supporting crop was used. The presence of oats as a supporting crop in lentil crop allowed crop competitiveness against weeds to be increased significantly, thus reducing their total number and dry weight by 5.3% and 30.5%, respectively. Sowing lentil at different row spacings did not have a significant effect on seed yield and weed infestation in crop. The greatest diversity of weed species was found in the treatments where the mixture of the lentil varieties was sown and in the treatment with the smaller row spacing. Intercropping of lentil with oats resulted in reduced occurrence of monocotyledonous weeds such as Echinochloa crus-galli and Elymus repens. The presence of oat as a supporting crop can effectively reduce the pressure from weeds without significantly reducing lentil cultivar yield in organic farming. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecology and Organic Agriculture for Sustainable Crop Production)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop