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Agriculture, Land and Farm Management

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 26 April 2024 | Viewed by 5366

Special Issue Editor

Department of Mechanical, Energy and Biotechnology Engineering, Vytautas Magnus University Agriculture Academy, K. Donelaičio Str. 58, LT-44248 Kaunas, Lithuania
Interests: life cycle assessment of bioenergy systems; bioeconomy; bio-energy efficiency; biofuel production; biogas technologies; biomethane; biomass

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Agriculture plays a critical role in ensuring global food security, environmental sustainability, and economic development. With the ever-increasing global population and the challenges posed by climate change, it has become imperative to enhance agricultural practices and optimize land and farm management strategies. Agricultural biomass refers to the organic material derived from plants and animals that can be utilized for various purposes, such as food, feed, fiber, and energy production. It encompasses a wide range of materials, including crop residues, animal manure, dedicated energy crops, and forestry residues. The sustainable utilization and valorization of agricultural biomass has gained significant attention due to its potential to simultaneously address multiple challenges. Soil management is another crucial aspect of sustainable agriculture as healthy soils are vital for maintaining high-level crop productivity, nutrient cycling, water retention, and carbon sequestration. The farm energy balance refers to the efficient utilization of energy resources within agricultural systems. Optimizing energy use, minimizing energy losses, and exploring renewable energy options are essential for achieving sustainability in farm operations. Energy audits, energy-efficient technologies, and on-farm renewable energy generation can help farmers reduce their carbon footprint, lower production costs, and enhance energy security.

This Special Issue aims to provide a platform for researchers, scientists, academicians, and industry professionals to share their latest findings, methodologies, and innovative approaches related to agriculture, land management, and farm sustainability. We encourage original research articles, review papers, and case studies that address the challenges and opportunities in the aforementioned areas of interest.

Suggest themes:

  • The optimization of agricultural biomass production and utilization;
  • Novel approaches to soil management and conservation;
  • Energy balance analysis and optimization at the farm level;
  • The environmental impact assessment of agricultural systems;
  • The life cycle assessment of agricultural practices;
  • The economic viability of sustainable farming practices;
  • The integration of precision agriculture technologies for improved resource management.

I look forward to receiving your contributions.

Dr. Kęstutis Venslauskas
Guest Editor

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. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly 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 2400 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

  • agricultural biomass
  • biomass
  • soil management
  • farm energy balance
  • life cycle assessment
  • techno-economic assessment

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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13 pages, 2689 KiB  
Article
Processing of Agricultural Residues with a High Concentration of Structural Carbohydrates into Biogas Using Selective Biological Products
Sustainability 2024, 16(4), 1553; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16041553 - 12 Feb 2024
Viewed by 495
Abstract
Biomass, particularly agricultural residues and biomass rich in structural carbohydrates, offers significant potential for sustainable biogas production. Biological pretreatment using microorganisms, particularly Trichoderma species, is discussed as a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable approach to improving the decomposition of structural carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. [...] Read more.
Biomass, particularly agricultural residues and biomass rich in structural carbohydrates, offers significant potential for sustainable biogas production. Biological pretreatment using microorganisms, particularly Trichoderma species, is discussed as a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable approach to improving the decomposition of structural carbohydrates into fermentable sugars. This study aimed to assess the impact of employing a selective biological product (BP) on the biogas production process and biomethane potential using winter wheat straw (WWS) as a representative feedstock. The biological product, consisting of microorganisms of the Trichoderma spp. genus, was introduced to enhance microbial activity. The biogas potential results showed that WWS treated with the BP exhibited a remarkable improvement in biogas production. Specifically, biogas yield increased from 364.1 L/kg of mass in untreated straw to 439.9 L/kg in BP-treated straw, representing a substantial 20.8% increase. Furthermore, in continuous loading tests, the steady-state biogas yield from BP-treated straw ranged from 553.6 to 582.0 L/kg VS, which was notably higher compared to untreated straw with a yield of 490.0 L/kg VS. Overall, the results of this study demonstrated that the application of selective biological products significantly enhanced biogas production and biomethane potential from structural carbohydrates containing biomass sources. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture, Land and Farm Management)
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22 pages, 924 KiB  
Article
Economic and Environmental Effects of Replacing Inorganic Fertilizers with Organic Fertilizers in Three Rainfed Crops in a Semi-Arid Area
Sustainability 2023, 15(24), 16897; https://doi.org/10.3390/su152416897 - 15 Dec 2023
Viewed by 460
Abstract
This study evaluates the economic and environmental effects of replacing inorganic fertilization with organic fertilization (manure and compost) in three characteristic crops of the rainfed land of southeastern Spain: almond, olive, and barley. To do this, the conventional cultivation model of the three [...] Read more.
This study evaluates the economic and environmental effects of replacing inorganic fertilization with organic fertilization (manure and compost) in three characteristic crops of the rainfed land of southeastern Spain: almond, olive, and barley. To do this, the conventional cultivation model of the three production systems was established and analyzed through the LCC (Life Cycle Costing) and LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) methodologies. Next, a sensitivity analysis was performed to see the effects of the substitution. In the three conventional systems, inorganic fertilizers represent at least 11% of the total costs. At the same time, they are the element with the greatest global contribution to environmental impacts (between 60 and 88%). Through the sensitivity analysis, it was shown that tillage practices that involve the addition of manure or compost not only reduce costs for the three crops (with a maximum reduction of EUR 88/ha in the case of olive trees with compost application), but also most of the impact categories evaluated. In terms of global warming, the reduction varies from 2–9% depending on the crop and the organic fertilizer used. And if we take into account that the production of inorganic fertilizers is avoided, the results of this category decrease between 28% and 48%. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture, Land and Farm Management)
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11 pages, 432 KiB  
Article
Financial Ratio Analysis as an Advisory Tool for Sustainable Pig Farm Management in Greece
Sustainability 2023, 15(21), 15536; https://doi.org/10.3390/su152115536 - 01 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1107
Abstract
This paper aims to provide pig farmers with the necessary information to guide strategic decisions through the development of a tool that allows them to calculate and control their production costs. A financial ratio analysis can be used as a starting point when [...] Read more.
This paper aims to provide pig farmers with the necessary information to guide strategic decisions through the development of a tool that allows them to calculate and control their production costs. A financial ratio analysis can be used as a starting point when assessing and improving a farm’s economic sustainability. The objective of the present article is to (1) provide insight into the financial ratios commonly used for pig farm assessments and (2) how they may be applied through an advisory tool to assess farm economic sustainability. Moreover, in this study, different financial ratios were examined to uncover trade-offs and synergies between them. Using the Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN), we analyzed Spearman correlations between financial ratios. The correlation between these sets of indicators suggested that they could be used to estimate dairy farm economic sustainability. Our results showed that pig farms face a financial situation that can be improved. Pig farmers can benefit from this tool in multiple ways, by gaining an understanding of the costs and revenues leading to investment decisions, managing the risks, planning for potential growth, and having greater access to funding opportunities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture, Land and Farm Management)
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23 pages, 9456 KiB  
Article
Unveiling Ancestral Sustainability: A Comprehensive Study of Economic, Environmental, and Social Factors in Potato and Quinoa Cultivation in the Highland Aynokas of Puno, Peru
Sustainability 2023, 15(17), 13163; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151713163 - 01 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1040
Abstract
Centuries of cultivation in the Highland Aynoka of Puno, Peru, have endowed indigenous crops such as potato and quinoa with rich cultural and nutritional value deeply ingrained in local traditions. This study meticulously evaluates their economic viability, environmental implications, and cultural importance by [...] Read more.
Centuries of cultivation in the Highland Aynoka of Puno, Peru, have endowed indigenous crops such as potato and quinoa with rich cultural and nutritional value deeply ingrained in local traditions. This study meticulously evaluates their economic viability, environmental implications, and cultural importance by employing a mixed-methods research approach involving surveys, interviews, and observations. The outcome reveals that while the Economic Sustainability Index (EKI) moderately supports potato and quinoa production sustainability, with a value of 2.98, it falls short of significant impact. Conversely, the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) and the Social Sustainability Index (SSI) exhibit moderate levels of sustainability, recording values of 4.04 and 3.38 for ESI and SSI, respectively. These crops demonstrate acceptable economic feasibility, marked by consistent sales, income generation, and manageable production expenses. The findings underscore the urgency of endorsing sustainable farming methods to safeguard cultural heritage, boost market prospects, and fortify regional ecological robustness. Rooted in ancestral sustainability, potato and quinoa cultivation is a cornerstone in local food systems. Recognizing the cultural, economic, and environmental significance inherent to these crops, efforts can be channeled towards nurturing sustainable agricultural systems that uphold community well-being, conserve biodiversity, and facilitate cultural resilience in Puno’s Highland Aynoka. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture, Land and Farm Management)
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21 pages, 5310 KiB  
Article
Evaluation of the Level of Farmland Infrastructure Based on High-Resolution Images of UAV
Sustainability 2023, 15(17), 12778; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151712778 - 23 Aug 2023
Viewed by 521
Abstract
The evaluation of the level of farmland infrastructure is a necessary objective condition for the use of arable land and agricultural development. In order to investigate the evaluation index system and method of farmland infrastructure level, this article uses the Kenli District of [...] Read more.
The evaluation of the level of farmland infrastructure is a necessary objective condition for the use of arable land and agricultural development. In order to investigate the evaluation index system and method of farmland infrastructure level, this article uses the Kenli District of the Yellow River Delta as the research region. In the study region, six typical observation sample areas are chosen. Each area receives high-resolution UAV photos, which are then used to extract information about the farmland infrastructure of the field. A farming infrastructure evaluation index system was built, consisting of 10 indexes for four aspects, including farmland roads, field plots, ditches, and forest belts, using the 100 m by 100 m grid method to divide the evaluation units. The comprehensive index technique was used to calculate the farmland infrastructure score of each unit and identify the degree of excellent, good, and poor farmland infrastructure. The weight of each indication was decided by the hierarchical analysis method. There were 20 excellent grades, 77 good grades, and 29 poor grades among the 126 evaluation units in the study area, with excellent and good grades accounting for 79.13% and area proportions of 14.29%, 64.84%, and 20.87%, respectively. Among the six sample areas, sample areas E and F had the highest percentages of excellent grades, sample area A had 82.62% of the good grades, and all sample areas except A and C had a percentage of poor grades that was higher than 20%. Regularity of the fields, average size of the fields, and the agricultural plot’s slope are the dominant indexes of farmland infrastructure in each observation sample area, and the indexes of the ratio of the perimeter of roads to the perimeter of fields, density of ditches, and the ratio of area of agricultural forest networks to area of fields need to be optimized and improved. The spatial distribution of each grade differs significantly. The evaluation results are consistent with the real situation in the study region and have positive reference meaning for the development and management of farming infrastructure, according to the study’s proposed evaluation system and methodology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture, Land and Farm Management)
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Review

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20 pages, 2412 KiB  
Review
Review: Modified Urea Fertilizers and Their Effects on Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE)
Sustainability 2024, 16(1), 188; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16010188 - 25 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1247
Abstract
Urea has served as the primary nitrogenous fertilizer globally since the early 1950s. It is widely recognized as the most concentrated nitrogen source, containing approximately 46% nitrogen. Presently, around 220 million t/year of urea compounds are manufactured globally to fit the requirements of [...] Read more.
Urea has served as the primary nitrogenous fertilizer globally since the early 1950s. It is widely recognized as the most concentrated nitrogen source, containing approximately 46% nitrogen. Presently, around 220 million t/year of urea compounds are manufactured globally to fit the requirements of the agricultural sector. However, a significant drawback of this is that approximately 30–35% of the urea used in soil can be lost to the environment because of its limited effectiveness. Enhancing the efficiency of urea utilization can be achieved by regulating the release of urea-nitrogen in the soil. Numerous researchers have reported that the use of slow or controlled fertilizers can regulate the release and accumulation of nitrogen in the soil. Moreover, the augmentation of soil nitrogen levels can be accomplished by using the slow or controlled release of urea fertilizers. The regulation of the release process can play a vital role in the peril of N loss. This can be effectively alleviated by delaying the release of nitrogen in ammonium form configuration for several days. This delay functions to diminish nitrogen losses, which are caused by the rapid hydrolysis of urea, and loss by leaching or volatilization. Therefore, this review aims to comprehensively explore the use of conventional urea and various materials employed for modifying urea. It will explain the distinctions among modification processes and their respective mechanisms. This review will also discuss the pros and cons of applying slow- and controlled-release nitrogen, the impact of modified urea compounds on crop productivity, and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture, Land and Farm Management)
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