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Evidence-Based Solutions for an Agro-Ecological Transition

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2021) | Viewed by 10048

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi), Budapest, Hungary
Interests: Agricultural and Biological Sciences Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology Immunology and Microbiology Neuroscience Energy Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics Multidisciplinary

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi), Budapest, Hungary
Interests: agroecology; organic agriculture; crop diversification; heterogeneous materials; sustainable intensification

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The transition towards sustainable agricultural production systems defines the current debate in European agricultural policy. The European Green Deal ambitiously aims to tackle environmental challenges in relation to agriculture through the transformation of current agricultural practices to climate-friendly, sustainable, and animal welfare friendly farming methods, such as organic agriculture or agroecology. This ambition is clearly articulated in the international discussion around the upcoming Farm to Fork Strategy, the new Common Agricultural Policy, and on the new research and innovation framework program, Horizon Europe 2021–27. In order to help implement the more sustainable direction of European agricultural policy, it is paramount to showcase new and innovative research results and evidence-based practical solutions for realizing and mainstreaming “sustainable intensification”, agroecological, and other environmentally sustainable production methods. Temporal and spatial diversification of cropping systems, multifunctional land use, or novel water and nutrient-saving techniques for building up climate resilience are just some of the practical examples that may contribute to the implementation of sustainability in agroecosystems.

This Special Issue of Sustainability aims to collect a wide range of applied research results on new, practical solutions and innovative sustainable technologies applied within the context of organic agriculture, agroecology, agroforestry, permaculture and farm animal production systems (including pastoralism, bee-keeping, or other animal farming methods), that contribute to (but are not restricted to):

  • Increased resource use efficiency;
  • Enhancement of agrobiodiversity,
  • Increased productivity and profitability via agroecological solutions (including crop diversification and multifunctional land use with or without livestock production)
  • Transitioning towards sustainable animal husbandry and an increased level of on-farm animal welfare;
  • Solutions for overcoming lock-ins of existing market operations to implement more sustainable farming systems;
  • Evaluating the performance of agroecological systems, including solutions for monitoring sustainability-related environmental changes.

Studies of sustainable practices and solutions conducted in cooperation with farmer networks and communities and/or using a Living Laboratory approach are especially welcome.

Dr. Szilvia Bencze
Dr. Dóra Drexler
Dr. Mariann Molnár
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. 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

  • Agroecological practices
  • Diversification
  • Farm animal welfare
  • Multifunctional land use
  • Organic farming
  • Resource use efficiency
  • Sustainable agricultural practices
  • Sustainable intensification

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

13 pages, 2129 KiB  
Article
Grazing Sheep in Organic Vineyards: An On-Farm Study about Risk of Chronic Copper Poisoning
by Martin Trouillard, Amélie Lèbre and Felix Heckendorn
Sustainability 2021, 13(22), 12860; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132212860 - 20 Nov 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2239
Abstract
Many winegrowers and sheep breeders are interested in wintertime grazing in vineyards, as an agroecological alternative to mowing or herbicide spraying, and additional supply of forage. Still, strong concern is raised by the use of copper-based fungicides, particularly in organic vineyards, since copper [...] Read more.
Many winegrowers and sheep breeders are interested in wintertime grazing in vineyards, as an agroecological alternative to mowing or herbicide spraying, and additional supply of forage. Still, strong concern is raised by the use of copper-based fungicides, particularly in organic vineyards, since copper is known to induce chronic toxicosis in sheep. We conducted an on-farm study with n = 12 1-year-old Merinos × Mourerous ewes grazing the cover vegetation of vineyard plots during wintertime, in order to check whether this agricultural practice might be harmful to sheep. Our results indicate that most copper found in the cover vegetation originates from fungicide spraying versus plant uptake from the soil, and that rain-induced washing-off and plant growth-triggered dilution of copper are crucial to reach close-to-safe grazing conditions. Furthermore, we found that while sheep remained globally healthy during the 2 months of the experimental period, the plasma activity of Glutamate Dehydrogenase increased by 17.3 ± 3.0 U/L upon vineyard grazing (p < 0.001), reflecting liver storage of copper. We also discovered that the dynamics of molybdenum in sheep plasma are strongly affected by exposure to copper, suggesting a possible adaptation mechanism. Overall, our results suggest that winter grazing of sheep in organic vineyards is reasonably safe, but that care should be taken about grazing period duration. More research should be conducted with respect to long-term copper accumulation, spring and summer grazing, and possible protective mechanisms against copper chronic poisoning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Solutions for an Agro-Ecological Transition)
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17 pages, 1519 KiB  
Article
Bioeconomic Assessment of an Alley Cropping Field Trial in North Carolina, U.S.: Tree Density, Timber Production, and Forage Relationships
by Kenneth Dunn, Lori Unruh Snyder, James McCarter, Gregory Frey, Joshua Idassi, David Schnake and Frederick Cubbage
Sustainability 2021, 13(20), 11465; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132011465 - 17 Oct 2021
Viewed by 2086
Abstract
Silvopasture, the combination of trees, forage, and livestock, is a management practice that is gaining interest throughout the southeastern U.S. This research analyzed a hay-based alley cropping field trial that is transitioning into a silvopasture system. We planted four different tree spacings—2.4 × [...] Read more.
Silvopasture, the combination of trees, forage, and livestock, is a management practice that is gaining interest throughout the southeastern U.S. This research analyzed a hay-based alley cropping field trial that is transitioning into a silvopasture system. We planted four different tree spacings—2.4 × 2.4 m, 2.4 × 3.0 m, 3.0 × 3.0 m, and 1.8 × 3.0 m (8 × 8 ft, 8 × 10 ft, 10 × 10 ft, and 6 × 10 ft)—of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) and used secondary data for the possible planting of two different grass species—big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii Vitman) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). Tree inventories, forage samples, biometric modeling, and economic analysis of forage and timber monocultures and mixed systems were analyzed with discounted cash flow and capital budgeting analyses. Tree growth on the pasture site was exceptionally fast, generating high projected returns for timber monocultures, which exceeded returns for monoculture grass crops. Projected timber stand returns had the greatest Net Present Values (NPV) at the 4% discount rate, ranging between USD 3196 and USD 3552 per ha (USD 1294 and USD 1438 per ac) for a 2.4 × 3.0 m or 2.4 × 2.4 m tree spacing yield. Representative grass yields were obtained from secondary sources and had lower productivity, with switchgrass having the highest returns at USD 2581 per ha (USD 1045 per ac). Optimal NPVs for mixed silvopasture stands ranged between about USD 1500 per ha and USD 3500 per ha (USD 600/ac and USD 1400/ac), depending on the tree spacing within bands, the alley spacing, and the degree of competition between trees and grasses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Solutions for an Agro-Ecological Transition)
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25 pages, 1228 KiB  
Article
Natural Infrastructure Practices as Potential Flood Storage and Reduction for Farms and Rural Communities in the North Carolina Coastal Plain
by Meredith Hovis, Joseph Chris Hollinger, Frederick Cubbage, Theodore Shear, Barbara Doll, J. Jack Kurki-Fox, Daniel Line, Andrew Fox, Madalyn Baldwin, Travis Klondike, Michelle Lovejoy, Bryan Evans, Jaclyn West and Thomas Potter
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 9309; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169309 - 19 Aug 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 4700
Abstract
Increased global temperatures resulting from anthropogenically induced climate changes have increased the frequency and severity of adverse weather events, including extreme rainfall events, floods, and droughts. In recent years, nature-based solutions (NBS) have been proposed to retain storm runoff temporarily and mitigate flood [...] Read more.
Increased global temperatures resulting from anthropogenically induced climate changes have increased the frequency and severity of adverse weather events, including extreme rainfall events, floods, and droughts. In recent years, nature-based solutions (NBS) have been proposed to retain storm runoff temporarily and mitigate flood damages. These practices may help rural farm and forest lands to store runoff and reduce flooding on farms and downstream communities and could be incorporated into a conservation program to provide payments for these efforts, which would supplement traditional farm incomes. Despite their potential, there have been very few methodical assessments and detailed summaries of NBS to date. We identified and summarized potential flood reduction practices for the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. These include agricultural practices of (1) cover cropping/no-till farming; (2) hardpan breakup; (3) pine or (4) hardwood afforestation, and (5) agroforestry; establishing the wetland and stream practices of (6) grass and sedge wetlands and earthen retention structures, (7) forest wetland banks, and (8) stream channel restoration; and establishing new structural solutions of (9) dry dams and berms (water farming) and (10) tile drainage and water retention. These practices offer different water holding and storage capacities and costs. A mixture of practices at the farm and landscape level can be implemented for floodwater retention and attenuation and damage reduction, as well as for providing additional farm and forest ecosystem services. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Solutions for an Agro-Ecological Transition)
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