Special Issue "Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2022) | Viewed by 14407

Special Issue Editors

1. Department of Agronomy, Universidad de Almería, 04120 La Cañada de San Urbano, Almería, Spain
2. ERASME - Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence on Sustainability, Polytech Clermont, 63170 Aubière, France
Interests: circular economy; agronomy; environmental economics; agricultural waste management; development economics; agricultural profitability; Sustainable Development Goals
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Department of Agronomy, Universidad de Almería, 04120 La Cañada de San Urbano, Almería, Spain
Interests: agronomy; biofertilizers; alternative crops; fruit quality; vegetable production; soil fertility; rootstock; drylands agriculture; grafting; plant pathology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sustainable development is a global priority that, since 2015, has received renewed interest following the publication of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Agriculture must become sustainable (SDG-2), focusing on production systems that respect the environment and help to reduce climate change (SDG-12). In this framework, circular economy and bioeconomy are the ideal tools for transforming conventional–linear agriculture into a more circular one, thus reducing, reusing, and recycling the inputs and outputs from agricultural activity. The aim of this Special Issue is to collect the research that is being conducted on the circular economy in agriculture in order to show the scientific community the new advances in the reduction in negative externalities from agriculture, new forms of sustainable production that reuse part of the plant waste as organic fertilizer, and new technologies and production structures that contribute to the reduction of certain agricultural inputs (water, fertilizer, etc.) or to the reduction of crop waste (debris). Scientific articles reflecting the results of a field study will be accepted, as well as review articles that contribute to the recognition of new research trends regarding circular economy and agriculture.

Prof. Dr. Luis Jesús Belmonte-Ureña
Prof. Dr. Francisco Camacho-Ferre
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 submissions that pass pre-check are 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 2200 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

  • circular economy
  • bioeconomy
  • agricultural waste management
  • new agricultural inputs
  • alternative crops
  • sustainable agriculture
  • cost-benefit analysis
  • new technologies

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
A Profitable Alternative for the Spanish Southeast: The Case of Production of Figs in Greenhouses
Agronomy 2022, 12(10), 2577; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12102577 - 20 Oct 2022
Viewed by 908
Abstract
Spain is one of the main fruit and vegetable export centers, as it allocates more than 80% of its total production to foreign trade. In recent years, the stable demand for fruit and vegetables has been affected by the incorporation of third countries [...] Read more.
Spain is one of the main fruit and vegetable export centers, as it allocates more than 80% of its total production to foreign trade. In recent years, the stable demand for fruit and vegetables has been affected by the incorporation of third countries outside the European Union, which compete by marketing the same portfolio of products. This situation causes farmers to have to look for other crops to expand the current supply. However, the introduction of alternative crops leaves aside the environmental importance in order to choose a profitable and sustainable alternative for farmers from the economic, logistical and social point of view. The key strategy must be to increase the range of products with new crops that are both profitable and sustainable, especially given the difficulties encountered in agricultural practices, such as pollution from chemical products, water scarcity, and waste generation. In this context, the need arises to propose national crops that can complement the necessary supply and avoid negative externalities. For this reason, the objective of this study is to demonstrate the profitability of the sustainable production of figs inside greenhouses so that the agricultural sector may invest in this alternative crop to complement the supply of intensive horticulture in southeastern Spain. Therefore, this analysis seeks to answer the initial question, Can fig cultivation be a profitable alternative to the current model of agriculture in the Almeria region? The field test consisted of cultivating 11 national varieties of biferous fig trees under greenhouse conditions. The chosen location was the Spanish southeast, specifically an experimental farm in the province of Almeria, and the selected dates were the years 2018–2020. The results indicate that the intensive cultivation of early figs and figs is a good alternative since it both allows the recovery of the investment from the fourth year, depending on the selected variety, and contributes favorably to sustainable agricultural production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
EU27 Countries’ Sustainable Agricultural Development toward the 2030 Agenda: The Circular Economy and Waste Management
Agronomy 2022, 12(10), 2270; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12102270 - 22 Sep 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 844
Abstract
An increasing population and increasing industrial demand for resources has created a need to ensure the supply can keep up. With sustainable development on the agenda, the European Union established the strategy 2030 Agenda with set goals to fulfil. Some of those are [...] Read more.
An increasing population and increasing industrial demand for resources has created a need to ensure the supply can keep up. With sustainable development on the agenda, the European Union established the strategy 2030 Agenda with set goals to fulfil. Some of those are connected to the principles of the circular economy. This study aimed to identify the state of the circular economy based on the current level of waste management in the agricultural sector of EU27 countries in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The main focus was on the 12th goal of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, for which countries are analyzed according to five indicators. The results showed heterogeneity between EU countries, and while we analyzed this in relation to countries’ GDP, no relationship between the agricultural waste management and GDP was found. To confirm and develop the results obtained, we outline possibilities for future research and methodological improvements that will support more robust conclusions, such as expanding the research sample. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
Study of the Potential for Agricultural Reuse of Urban Wastewater with Membrane Bioreactor Technology in the Circular Economy Framework
Agronomy 2022, 12(8), 1877; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12081877 - 10 Aug 2022
Viewed by 996
Abstract
The growing demand for water by the population and industry, as well as water scarcity due to climate change, has created a need to reuse treated water for agricultural purposes. In this context, the European Union, through its Regulation (EU) 2020/741, establishes minimum [...] Read more.
The growing demand for water by the population and industry, as well as water scarcity due to climate change, has created a need to reuse treated water for agricultural purposes. In this context, the European Union, through its Regulation (EU) 2020/741, establishes minimum requirements for wastewater reuse, specifying that reuse for agricultural purposes can help to promote the circular economy and reduce the need for fertiliser use by setting high-quality standards. The aim of this article is to study whether the treated water from a pilot plant with membrane bioreactor technology operating with real urban wastewater from the city of Granada (Spain) satisfies the quality standards required for its reuse for agricultural purposes, as well as assessing the use of other resources produced during wastewater treatment, such as biogas and biostabilised sludge. This plant works in four cycles of operation at two different hydraulic retention times (6 and 12 h) and different concentrations of mixed liquor (2429–6696 mg/L). The pilot plant consists of a membrane bioreactor where there are four ultrafiltration membranes working in continuous operation and a sludge treatment line working in discontinuous mode. Subsequently, a tertiary treatment of advanced oxidation process was applied to the treated water for a time of 30 min, with different concentrations of oxidant. The results showed that the effluent has sufficient quality to be used in agriculture, complying with the characteristics established in the European legislation. Furthermore, the biostabilised sludge and biogas can be potentially reusable. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
The Circular Economy as an Axis of Agricultural and Rural Development: The Case of the Municipality of Almócita (Almería, Spain)
Agronomy 2022, 12(7), 1553; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12071553 - 28 Jun 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1015
Abstract
In recent years, the concept of the circular economy has been gaining relevance and its importance has grown both in academia and in rural municipalities in general. The rural development policy of the European Union, in addition to prioritizing the diversification of the [...] Read more.
In recent years, the concept of the circular economy has been gaining relevance and its importance has grown both in academia and in rural municipalities in general. The rural development policy of the European Union, in addition to prioritizing the diversification of the productive activities of municipalities, encourages the adoption of the circular economy. The aim of this article is to show and publicize the applications relating to the circular economy that are being carried out in a rural mountain municipality with a small population focused on agriculture, and which are setting an example for others that are suffering the endemic problem of depopulation. A diagnosis is carried out taking into consideration local sustainable development methodologies. In relation to the results, the positive impact of these practices with a rural development approach based on awareness and education regarding the basic 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) is highlighted. Almócita is an example that can be extrapolated to many mountain municipalities at national and international levels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
Alternative Mulches for Sustainable Greenhouse Tomato Production
Agronomy 2022, 12(6), 1333; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12061333 - 31 May 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1182
Abstract
Soil mulching has advantages for horticultural crops, from both agronomic and phytosanitary points of view. The most common material used is polyethylene (PE); however, promising alternatives from the circular economy exist, such as straw (ST) and biodegradable biopolymers (BBs). The effect of the [...] Read more.
Soil mulching has advantages for horticultural crops, from both agronomic and phytosanitary points of view. The most common material used is polyethylene (PE); however, promising alternatives from the circular economy exist, such as straw (ST) and biodegradable biopolymers (BBs). The effect of the three aforementioned mulches was evaluated and compared to non-mulched soil in a Mediterranean greenhouse for two years of an organic tomato crop. Physical (moisture and temperature) and physicochemical properties of the soil, in addition to crop yield and the effect of the mulches on weed control, were assessed. Additionally, the deterioration of plastic mulches was assessed. The temperature was higher in the mulched soils, but few differences were found between soil and BB at the end of the second cycle. Evaporation was lower in mulched soil, in general, without big differences among the types of mulch. Crop yield did not show differences. At the end of the trials, of the 16 physicochemical variables evaluated, only a slight increase in pH was detected in the ST-mulched plots. BB film degradation reached 5.6% and 6.7% of the total surface at the end of the first and second cycles, respectively. Weeds were equally limited for PE, BB, and ST mulches, but cereal seeds contained within the straw germinated randomly all over the crop cycle. In summary, straw and biodegradable plastic mulches offered the same benefits as conventional PE mulch. Therefore, they can be considered a feasible and more sustainable option, in addition to being consistent with the principles of the bioeconomy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuels Production Processes in Viticulture in the Context of Circular Economy
Agronomy 2022, 12(6), 1320; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12061320 - 30 May 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 986
Abstract
Globally, as the population and the living standards expanded, so did the use of energy and materials. Renewable energy resources are being used to help address the energy issue and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Because lignocellulosic biomass resources are widely available and [...] Read more.
Globally, as the population and the living standards expanded, so did the use of energy and materials. Renewable energy resources are being used to help address the energy issue and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Because lignocellulosic biomass resources are widely available and renewable, various processes are used to convert these resources into bioenergy. In the current study, two production processes were evaluated, namely the transformation of vine shoot waste into value-added biofuels, i.e., pellets/briquettes and bioethanol. The life cycle assessment (LCA) technique was used for simulating and documenting the environmental performance of two biomass waste to biofuels pathways, possible candidates for closing loops in the viticulture production, according to the circular economy models. The SimaPro software was used to perform the LCA. The results show that the pellets/briquettes production process has a lower negative influence on the studied environmental impact categories compared to the production of bioethanol. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
The Assessment of the Bioeconomy and Biomass Sectors in Central and Eastern European Countries
Agronomy 2022, 12(4), 880; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12040880 - 05 Apr 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1098
Abstract
Since the enlargement of the European Union, the CEE (Central and Eastern European) countries have brought a larger share of agricultural and forest land with high potential for biomass and bioenergy. The progress of bioeconomy is intercorrelated with the dimension of agriculture, which [...] Read more.
Since the enlargement of the European Union, the CEE (Central and Eastern European) countries have brought a larger share of agricultural and forest land with high potential for biomass and bioenergy. The progress of bioeconomy is intercorrelated with the dimension of agriculture, which is the major provider of biomass for food and feed and for other bio-based industries. This research aims to assess the dimension of agriculture-based and food-based bioeconomy, with focus on the production and use of biomass. Conducted over the 2008–2019 period with data from the EU and OECD, the study pointed out the role of CEE countries in the European bioeconomy. Thus, we estimated that the bioeconomy market reached, in 2019, a turnover of almost EUR 324 billion (around 14% of the EU level), respectively, EUR 79 billion from agriculture-based sectors and EUR 116.8 billion from food-based sectors. The number of employees has decreased; in 2019, in bioeconomy sectors were employed 6.9 million people (almost 40% of the EU bioeconomy employment). Regarding the production of biomass, the study has revealed an increase of the share in EU production from 25.7% in 2008 to 27.8% in 2019, due to a growth of biomass by 7.1%. With this study, we emphasize the need to support more sustainable demand of biomass and to make the bioeconomy market more competitive. In addition, we point out several problems of the bioeconomy sector, such as insufficient data, low productivity, and the unused or underused sources of biomass. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
An Evolutionary Approach on the Framework of Circular Economy Applied to Agriculture
Agronomy 2022, 12(3), 620; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12030620 - 02 Mar 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2342
Abstract
In this current and global context led by scarcity of resources, environmental degradation, global climate change, and a progressive demand for food, the circular economy (CE) represents a key economic model or framework for sustainable, restorative, and regenerative agriculture. Hence, CE applied to [...] Read more.
In this current and global context led by scarcity of resources, environmental degradation, global climate change, and a progressive demand for food, the circular economy (CE) represents a key economic model or framework for sustainable, restorative, and regenerative agriculture. Hence, CE applied to agriculture seeks to close the life cycle of products, services, waste, water, and energy to obtain a better use of resources and a reduction of the ecological impact. An initial review of the literature corroborates the hypothesis that the CE framework has not yet been comprehensively adapted to the field of agriculture. This research seeks to overcome this gap in relation to the performance of the circularity of agricultural production systems in support of decision-making processes. A bibliometric analysis of 1060 documents was carried to synthesize the knowledge base on this topic. The results show recent studies that identify weaknesses derived from food production, such as waste generation, biomass, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. It has been identified how their analysis has developed to date and what terms allow us to visualize new approaches; consequently, it is a useful tool for researchers and sponsors who provide financial resources for the development of new lines of research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
Biodisinfection as a Profitable Fertilization Method for Horticultural Crops in the Framework of the Circular Economy
Agronomy 2022, 12(2), 521; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12020521 - 19 Feb 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1735
Abstract
Intensive agriculture has resulted in various environmental impacts that affect ecosystems. In some cases, the application of conventional fertilizers has deteriorated water quality, which includes the marine environment. For this reason, institutions have designed various strategies based on the principles of the circular [...] Read more.
Intensive agriculture has resulted in various environmental impacts that affect ecosystems. In some cases, the application of conventional fertilizers has deteriorated water quality, which includes the marine environment. For this reason, institutions have designed various strategies based on the principles of the circular economy and the bioeconomy. Both of these dynamics aim to reduce excessive fertilization and to inhibit the negative externalities it generates. In our work, a field trial is presented in which a 100% reduction in conventional inorganic fertilizers has been evaluated through a production methodology based on fertilization with reused plant debris in combination with other organic compounds. Based on one tomato crop, the profitability of this production technique has been analyzed in comparison with other conventional vegetable production techniques. The productivity and economic yield of the alternative crop was similar to that of the conventional crop, with a 37.2% decrease in water consumption. The reuse of biomass reduced production costs by 4.8%, while the addition of other organic amendments increased them by up to 22%. The results of our trial show that farms are more sustainable and more profitable from a circular point of view when using these strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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Article
Farmers’ Attitudes towards Irrigating Crops with Reclaimed Water in the Framework of a Circular Economy
Agronomy 2022, 12(2), 435; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12020435 - 09 Feb 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1231
Abstract
In a global situation where water constraints are a daily concern and expected to worsen in the upcoming years, finding new water alternatives to guarantee its supply is of critical importance. Against this background, reclaimed water has proved to be a sustainable alternative [...] Read more.
In a global situation where water constraints are a daily concern and expected to worsen in the upcoming years, finding new water alternatives to guarantee its supply is of critical importance. Against this background, reclaimed water has proved to be a sustainable alternative that recycles wastewater from a circular economy approach, thus enhancing water availability for key sectors such as agriculture. In such a context where public policies should encourage the implementation of this sustainable resource that helps reduce climate change by allowing wastewater reuse, there is too often a lack of knowledge of farmers’ perceptions, thus resulting in them being ineffective. In this sense, studying and analyzing agriculturalists’ perceptions is of interest for the development of appropriate policies that truly foster reclaimed water use in agriculture and enhance its shift from waste to resource. For this research 231 farmers, both long-time users of reclaimed water and non-users, were surveyed to find common and differing attitudes and perceptions. Results show how once farmers start irrigating their crops with this alternative resource there is a marked improvement in their opinion. The high price is the most widespread barrier, which can be tempered with public subsidies that absorb part of this cost. The insights obtained from this research may be of interest to other regions, especially for those in arid and semi-arid climates where water scarcity is a critical problem and sustainability a growing concern. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Circular Economy and Sustainable Development in Agriculture)
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