Special Issue "Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 August 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Bharat Sharma Acharya
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mines, State of Oklahoma, 2915 North Classen Blvd., Suite 213, Oklahoma City, OK 73106, USA
Interests: ecohydrology; mining hydrology; irrigation; soil and water management
Prof. Rajan Ghimire
Website
Chief Guest Editor
Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003, USA
Interests: soil carbon sequestration, soil health, sustainable agriculture, nutrient cycling, soil organic matter, greenhouse gas emissions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Soils sustain our food systems, regulate the flow of freshwater, store vast quantities of carbon and nutrients, and support numerous organisms. Innovations in agricultural technologies in the last century that have been centered on maximizing food production to feed the growing population have contributed to significant changes in agroecosystem processes, including carbon, nutrients, and water cycling. There is growing concern regarding soil fertility depletion, soil carbon loss, greenhouse gas emissions, irrigational water scarcity, and water pollution, consequently affecting soil health, agricultural productivity, system sustainability, and environmental quality. An improved understanding of biochemical pathways of soil organic matter and nutrient cycling, microbial community involved in regulating soil health, and soil processes associated with water flow and retention in soil profile will help in designing better agricultural systems and ultimately support plant growth and productivity. Agroecological approaches in soil and water management can provide, maintain or enhance multiple ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, nutrient and water cycling, greenhouse gas mitigation, and ultimately create a sustainable agro-environment.

This Special Issue will present a collection of original research and review papers, which study the physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur in soils under diverse agroecosystems. We will cover topics related to tillage, nutrients, irrigation, amendments, crop rotations, crop residue management with reference to soil health, soil C and nutrient cycling, greenhouse gas emissions, soil water dynamics, and hydrological processes. We also cover topics that discuss impacts and implications of natural processes and anthropogenic effects, such as climate change, drought, and other forms of environmental stresses on soil and water dynamics and agricultural sustainability.

Prof. Rajan Ghimire
Dr. Bharat Sharma Acharya
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. 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 1900 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

  • Agroecosystem management
  • Climate change
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Hydrological processes
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Nutrient management
  • Organic matter
  • Soil carbon cycling and sequestration
  • Soil health
  • Soil microbial community
  • Soil–plant–environment interaction
  • Sustainable cropping systems
  • Water management

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
A Portfolio of Effective Water and Soil Conservation Practices for Arable Production Systems in Europe and North Africa
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2726; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052726 - 03 Mar 2021
Viewed by 223
Abstract
To secure sustainable food production for meeting the growing global demand for food, it is imperative, while at the same time challenging, to make efficient use of natural resources with minimal impact on the environment. The study objective is to provide insights into [...] Read more.
To secure sustainable food production for meeting the growing global demand for food, it is imperative, while at the same time challenging, to make efficient use of natural resources with minimal impact on the environment. The study objective is to provide insights into the multiple benefits and trade-offs of different sustainable agricultural practices that are relevant across pedo-climatic zones in Europe and North Africa, including conservation agriculture, crop diversification, organic agriculture, and agroforestry. Widespread adoption of these practices in specific regions depends on the effectiveness with which their applications and attributes are communicated to farmers, and their suitability to local conditions and opportunities. Scale impacts of the practices range from field to catchment levels, but the best empirical evidence has been generated at field level in on-farm and experimental trials. The outcomes from the application of each of these practices depend on variables specific to each site, including pedo-climatic zone, geography, weather, ecology, culture, and traditions. Each practice has trade-offs and the same practice can have different effects when compared to conventional agriculture. To make site-specific recommendations, a careful assessment of overall benefits must be made. Adoption can be stimulated when farmers have the opportunity to experiment on their own land and discover the advantages and disadvantages of different practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
Open AccessArticle
Effect of Biochar on Soil and Water Loss on Sloping Farmland in the Black Soil Region of Northeast China during the Spring Thawing Period
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1460; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031460 - 30 Jan 2021
Viewed by 485
Abstract
Biochar, as a kind of soil amendment, has attracted wide attention from scholars in various countries, and the effects of biochar on soil and water loss have been well reported. However, soil erosion is significantly affected by geographical conditions, climate, and other factors, [...] Read more.
Biochar, as a kind of soil amendment, has attracted wide attention from scholars in various countries, and the effects of biochar on soil and water loss have been well reported. However, soil erosion is significantly affected by geographical conditions, climate, and other factors, and research on the characteristics of soil erosion and the effects of biochar application in seasonally frozen soil areas is currently unclear. The purpose of this study was to explore the effect of corn straw biochar application on soil and water conservation during the spring thawing period. Specifically, through field experiments, the addition of 0, 6, and 12 kg m−2 biochar on slopes of 1.8, 3.6, 5.4, and 7.2° and the effects on runoff and the soil erosion rate of farmland were analyzed. The results showed that in the 6 and 12 kg m−2 biochar addition treatments, the saturated water content of the soil increased by 24.17 and 42.91%, and the field capacity increased by 32.44 and 51.30%, respectively. Compared with the untreated slope, with an increase in biochar application rate, runoff decreased slightly, and soil erosion decreased significantly. This study reveals that biochar can be used as a potential measure to prevent soil and water loss on sloping farmland in cold regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Open AccessArticle
Modeling Climate Change Effects on Rice Yield and Soil Carbon under Variable Water and Nutrient Management
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020568 - 08 Jan 2021
Viewed by 465
Abstract
Soil organic carbon (SOC) conservation in agricultural soils is vital for sustainable agricultural production and climate change mitigation. To project changes of SOC and rice yield under different water and carbon management in future climates, based on a two-year (2015 and 2016) field [...] Read more.
Soil organic carbon (SOC) conservation in agricultural soils is vital for sustainable agricultural production and climate change mitigation. To project changes of SOC and rice yield under different water and carbon management in future climates, based on a two-year (2015 and 2016) field test in Kunshan, China, the Denitrification Decomposition (DNDC) model was modified and validated and the soil moisture module of DNDC was improved to realize the simulation under conditions of water-saving irrigation. Four climate models under four representative concentration pathways (RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5, RCP 6.0, and RCP 8.5), which were integrated from the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5), were ensembled by the Bayesian Model Averaging (BMA) method. The results showed that the modified DNDC model can effectively simulate changes in SOC, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and rice yield under different irrigation and fertilizer management systems. The normalized root mean squared errors of the SOC and DOC were 3.45–17.59% and 8.79–13.93%, respectively. The model efficiency coefficients of SOC and DOC were close to 1. The climate scenarios had a great impact on rice yield, whereas the impact on SOC was less than that of agricultural management measures on SOC. The average rice yields of all the RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5, RCP 6.0, and RCP 8.5 scenarios in the 2090s decreased by 18.41%, 38.59%, 65.11%, and 65.62%, respectively, compared with those in the 2020s. The long-term effect of irrigation on the SOC content of paddy fields was minimal. The SOC of the paddy fields treated with conventional fertilizer decreased initially and then remained unchanged, while the other treatments increased obviously with time. The rice yields of all the treatments decreased with time. Compared with traditional management, controlled irrigation with straw returning clearly increased the SOC and rice yields of paddy fields. Thus, this water and carbon management system is recommended for paddy fields. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Open AccessArticle
How Tillage and Fertilization Influence Soil N2O Emissions after Forestland Conversion to Cropland
Sustainability 2020, 12(19), 7947; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12197947 - 25 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 415
Abstract
Soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions are influenced by land use adjustment and management practices. To meet the increasing socioeconomic development and sustainable demands for food supply, forestland conversion to cropland occurs around the world. However, the effects of forestland conversion to [...] Read more.
Soil nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions are influenced by land use adjustment and management practices. To meet the increasing socioeconomic development and sustainable demands for food supply, forestland conversion to cropland occurs around the world. However, the effects of forestland conversion to cropland as well as of tillage and fertilization practices on soil N2O emissions are still not well understood, especially in subtropical regions. Therefore, field experiments were carried out to continuously monitor soil N2O emissions after the conversion of forestland to cropland in a subtropical region in Southwest China. One forestland site and four cropland sites were selected: forestland (CK), short-term croplands (tillage with and without fertilization, NC-TF and NC-T), and long-term croplands (tillage with and without fertilization, LC-TF and LC-T). The annual cumulative N2O flux was 0.21 kg N ha−1 yr−1 in forestland. After forestland conversion to cropland, the annual cumulative N2O flux significantly increased by 76‒491%. In the short-term and long-term croplands, tillage with fertilization induced cumulative soil N2O emissions that were 94% and 235% higher than those from tillage without fertilization. Fertilization contributed 63% and 84% to increased N2O emissions in the short-term and long-term croplands, respectively. A stepwise regression analysis showed that soil N2O emissions from croplands were mainly influenced by soil NO3 and NH4+ availability and WFPS (water-filled pore space). Fertilization led to higher soil NH4+ and NO3 concentrations, which thus resulted in larger N2O fluxes. Thus, to reduce soil N2O emissions and promote the sustainable development of the eco-environment, we recommend limiting the conversion of forestland to cropland, and meanwhile intensifying the shift from grain to green or applying advanced agricultural management practices as much as possible. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Nitrogen Losses and Potential Mitigation Strategies for a Sustainable Agroecosystem
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2400; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042400 - 23 Feb 2021
Viewed by 452
Abstract
Nitrogen (N) in the agricultural production system influences many aspects of agroecosystems and several critical ecosystem services widely depend on the N availability in the soil. Cumulative changes in regional ecosystem services may lead to global environmental changes. Thus, the soil N status [...] Read more.
Nitrogen (N) in the agricultural production system influences many aspects of agroecosystems and several critical ecosystem services widely depend on the N availability in the soil. Cumulative changes in regional ecosystem services may lead to global environmental changes. Thus, the soil N status in agriculture is of critical importance to strategize its most efficient use. Nitrogen is also one of the most susceptible macronutrients to environmental loss, such as ammonia volatilization (NH3), nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, nitrate leaching (NO3), etc. Any form of N losses from agricultural systems can be major limitations for crop production, soil sustainability, and environmental safeguard. There is a need to focus on mitigation strategies to minimize global N pollution and implement agricultural management practices that encourage regenerative and sustainable agriculture. In this review, we identified the avenues of N loss into the environment caused by current agronomic practices and discussed the potential practices that can be adapted to prevent this N loss in production agriculture. This review also explored the N status in agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic and the existing knowledge gaps and questions that need to be addressed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Open AccessReview
Biochar Role in the Sustainability of Agriculture and Environment
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1330; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031330 - 27 Jan 2021
Viewed by 481
Abstract
The exercise of biochar in agribusiness has increased proportionally in recent years. It has been indicated that biochar application could strengthen soil fertility benefits, such as improvement in soil microbial activity, abatement of bulk density, amelioration of nutrient and water-holding capacity and immutability [...] Read more.
The exercise of biochar in agribusiness has increased proportionally in recent years. It has been indicated that biochar application could strengthen soil fertility benefits, such as improvement in soil microbial activity, abatement of bulk density, amelioration of nutrient and water-holding capacity and immutability of soil organic matter. Additionally, biochar amendment could also improve nutrient availability such as phosphorus and nitrogen in different types of soil. Most interestingly, the locally available wastes are pyrolyzed to biochar to improve the relationship among plants, soil and the environment. This can also be of higher importance to small-scale farming, and the biochar produced can be utilized in farms for the improvement of crop productivity. Thus, biochar could be a potential amendment to a soil that could help in achieving sustainable agriculture and environment. However, before mainstream formulation and renowned biochar use, several challenges must be taken into consideration, as the beneficial impacts and potential use of biochar seem highly appealing. This review is based on confined knowledge taken from different field-, laboratory- and greenhouse-based studies. It is well known that the properties of biochar vary with feedstock, pyrolysis temperature (300, 350, 400, 500, and 600 °C) and methodology of preparation. It is of high concern to further investigate the negative consequences: hydrophobicity; large scale application in farmland; production cost, primarily energy demand; and environmental threat, as well as affordability of feedstock. Nonetheless, the current literature reflects that biochar could be a significant amendment to the agroecosystem in order to tackle the challenges and threats observed in sustainable agriculture (crop production and soil fertility) and the environment (reducing greenhouse gas emission). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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