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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: closed (31 August 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Bharat Sharma Acharya
E-Mail 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
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Rajan Ghimire
E-Mail 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 2000 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 (15 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

Article
Soil Communities: Who Responds and How Quickly to a Change in Agricultural System?
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 383; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010383 - 30 Dec 2021
Viewed by 113
Abstract
The use of conservation and sustainable practices could restore the abundance and richness of soil organisms in agroecosystems. Fitting in this context, this study aimed to highlight whether and how different soil living communities reacted to the conversion from an integrated to an [...] Read more.
The use of conservation and sustainable practices could restore the abundance and richness of soil organisms in agroecosystems. Fitting in this context, this study aimed to highlight whether and how different soil living communities reacted to the conversion from an integrated to an organic orchard. The metataxonomic approach for fungi and bacteria and the determination of biological forms of diatoms and microarthropods were applied. Soil analyses were carried out in order to evaluate the effect of soil chemical features on four major soil living communities. Our results showed that the different taxa reacted with different speeds to the management changes. Fungi responded quickly to the changes, suggesting that modification in agricultural practices had a greater impact on fungal communities. Bacteria and microarthropods were more affected by abiotic parameters and less by the management. The diatom composition seemed to be affected by seasonality but the highest H’ (Shannon index) value was measured in the organic system. Fungi, but also diatoms, seemed to be promising for monitoring changes in the soil since they were sensitive to both the soil features and the anthropic impact. Our study showed that soil biodiversity could be affected by the conversion to sustainable management practices from the early years of an orchard onwards. Therefore, better ecological orchard management may strengthen soil sustainability and resilience in historically agricultural regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
The Synergic Effect of Whey-Based Hydrogel Amendment on Soil Water Holding Capacity and Availability of Nutrients for More Efficient Valorization of Dairy By-Products
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10701; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910701 - 26 Sep 2021
Viewed by 593
Abstract
Agricultural production is influenced by the water content in the soil and the availability of nutrients. Recently, changes in the quantity and seasonal water availability are expected to impact agriculture due to climate change. This study aimed to test an agricultural product with [...] Read more.
Agricultural production is influenced by the water content in the soil and the availability of nutrients. Recently, changes in the quantity and seasonal water availability are expected to impact agriculture due to climate change. This study aimed to test an agricultural product with promising properties to improve soil quality and water-holding capacity during agricultural application. Most of the traditional hydrogels are low-biodegradable synthetic materials with under-researched long-term fate in field soil conditions. The novel, biodegradable hydrogel made from acid whey and cellulose derivatives cross-linked with citric acid was used. The soil-improving effects were tested under controlled experimental conditions with the sandy artificial soil consisting of 10% finely ground sphagnum peat, 20% kaolinite clay, and 70% quartz sand. Soil pH, the content of organic carbon (Cox), total nitrogen (N), available forms of the essential macronutrients (P, K, Ca, and Mg), the cation exchange capacity (CEC), the maximum water capacity (MWC) and water holding capacity (WHC) were determined. The results showed a positive effect on water retention and basic soil properties after the different levels of hydrogel had been introduced into the soil. Generally, the addition of whey-based hydrogel increases the available nutrients concentration and water retention in soil. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
An Optimization Scheme of Balancing GHG Emission and Income in Circular Agriculture System
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7154; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137154 - 25 Jun 2021
Viewed by 577
Abstract
With the rapid development of circular agriculture in China, balancing agricultural income and environmental impact by adjusting the structure and scale of circular agriculture is becoming increasingly important. Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas and income earned from agriculture drives sustainable [...] Read more.
With the rapid development of circular agriculture in China, balancing agricultural income and environmental impact by adjusting the structure and scale of circular agriculture is becoming increasingly important. Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas and income earned from agriculture drives sustainable agricultural development. This paper built a multi-objective linear programming model based on greenhouse gas emission and agricultural product income and then optimized the structure and scale of circular agriculture using Beiqiu Farm as a case study. Results showed that greenhouse gas emission was mainly from manure management in livestock industry. While the agriculture income increased by 64% after optimization, GHG emission increased by only 12.3%. The optimization made full use of straw, manure and fodder, but also minimized soil nitrogen loss. The results laid a generalized guide for adjusting the structure and scale of the planting and raising industry. Measures for optimizing the management of manure were critical in achieving low agricultural carbon emissions in future agricultural development efforts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
Impact of Land Configuration and Strip-Intercropping on Runoff, Soil Loss and Crop Yields under Rainfed Conditions in the Shivalik Foothills of North-West, India
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 6282; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13116282 - 02 Jun 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 813
Abstract
Maintaining sustainable crop production on undulating, sloppy, and erodible soils in Shivalik foothills of North-west India is a challenging task. Intercropping is accepted as a highly sustainable system to reduce soil erosion and ensure sustainable production by making efficient use of resources. Field [...] Read more.
Maintaining sustainable crop production on undulating, sloppy, and erodible soils in Shivalik foothills of North-west India is a challenging task. Intercropping is accepted as a highly sustainable system to reduce soil erosion and ensure sustainable production by making efficient use of resources. Field experiments were conducted in the rainy season (July to September) during 2015, 2016, and 2017 to evaluate the effect of land slopes and maize and cowpea strip-intercropping on productivity and resource conservation at the Regional Research Station, Ballowal Saunkhri located in the Shivalik foothills. During three years of experimentation, a total of 23–26 runoff events were observed in the maize crop grown in the rainy season. The results from this 3-year field study indicate that maize grain yield was significantly higher on a 1% slope and cowpea on a 2% slope. This accounted for significantly higher net returns (US$ 428 ha−1) with a benefit-cost (BC) ratio of 2.0 on a 1% slope. Runoff, soil, and nutrient losses were higher on a 3% slope as compared to 1% and 2% slopes. N, P, and K loss on a 3% slope were 3.80, 1.82, and 4.10 kg ha−1 higher, respectively than a 1% slope. The adoption of a strip-intercropping system with a 4.8 m maize strip width and 1.2 m cowpea strip width resulted in significantly higher maize equivalent yield than sole maize and other strip-intercropping systems. This system showed the highest land equivalent ratio value (1.24) indicating a 24% yield advantage over sole cropping systems of maize and cowpea, and fetched the highest net returns (US$ 530 ha−1) with a benefit-cost ratio (BC ratio) of 2.09. This system also reduced runoff and soil loss by 10.9% and 8.3%, respectively than sole maize crop. On all the land slopes, maize and cowpea strip-intercropping systems showed a significant reduction in N, P, K, and organic carbon loss as compared to sole maize. Thus, on sloping land, the maize and cowpea strip-intercropping system decreases surface runoff, soil, and nutrient loss, and increases yield and income of the farmers as compared to a sole maize crop. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
Carbon and Nitrogen Sourcing in High Elevation Landscapes of Mustang in Central Nepal
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 6171; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13116171 - 30 May 2021
Viewed by 1703
Abstract
Mustang valley in the central Himalaya of Nepal is a unique landscape formed by massive soil mass during a glacial period, which is attributed to a mix of vegetations and long agricultural history. Soil nutrients and their sourcing is highly important to understand [...] Read more.
Mustang valley in the central Himalaya of Nepal is a unique landscape formed by massive soil mass during a glacial period, which is attributed to a mix of vegetations and long agricultural history. Soil nutrients and their sourcing is highly important to understand the vegetation assemblage and land productivity in this arid zone. Twenty soil samples (from 0 to 20 cm depth) were collected from three landscape positions in Mustang district: valley, ridge, and midslope. We explored nutrient sourcing using natural abundance carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen isotope (δ15N) employing isotope ratio mass spectrophotometry. The results showed that the total soil carbon (TC) and total nitrogen (TN) ranged from 0.3 to 10.5% and 0.3 to 0.7%, respectively. Similarly, the CN ratio ranged from 0.75 to 15.6, whereas soil pH ranged from 6.5 to 7.5. Valley soil showed higher values of TN, CN, and soil pH than the ridge and midslope soils. The valleys had more positive δ15N signatures than ridge and midslope, which indicates higher inorganic and organic N fertilizer inputs in the valley bottom than in the midslope and ridge. This suggests that a higher nutrient content in the valley bottom likely results from agro-inputs management and the transport of nutrients from the ridge and midslope. Soil pH and CN ratio were a non-limiting factor of nutrient availability in the study regions. These findings are crucial in understanding the nutrient dynamics and management in relation to vegetation and agricultural farming in this unique topography of the Trans-Himalayan zone of Mustang in central Nepal. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
Interrelationships of Chemical, Physical and Biological Soil Health Indicators in Beef-Pastures of Southern Piedmont, Georgia
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 4844; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13094844 - 26 Apr 2021
Viewed by 528
Abstract
The study of interrelationships among soil health indicators is important for (i) achieving better understanding of nutrient cycling, (ii) making soil health assessment cost-effective by eliminating redundant indicators, and (iii) improving nitrogen (N) fertilizer recommendation models. The objectives of this study were to [...] Read more.
The study of interrelationships among soil health indicators is important for (i) achieving better understanding of nutrient cycling, (ii) making soil health assessment cost-effective by eliminating redundant indicators, and (iii) improving nitrogen (N) fertilizer recommendation models. The objectives of this study were to (i) decipher complex interrelationships of selected chemical, physical, and biological soil health indicators in pastures with history of inorganic or broiler litter fertilization, and (ii) establish associations among inorganic N, potentially mineralizable N (PMN), and soil microbial biomass (SMBC), and other soil health indicators. In situ soil respiration was measured and soil samples were collected from six beef farms in 2017 and 2018 to measure selected soil health indicators. We were able to establish associations between easy-to-measure active carbon (POXC) vs. PMN (R2 = 0.52), and N (R2 = 0.43). POXC had a noteworthy quadratic relationship with N and nitrate, where we found dramatic increase of N and nitrate beyond an inflection point of 500 mg kg−1 POXC. This point may serve as threshold for soil health assessment. The relationships of loss-on-ignition (LOI) carbon with other soil health indicators were discernable between inorganic- and broiler litter-fertilized pastures. We were able to establish association of SMBC with other soil variables (R2 = 0.76) and there was detectable difference in SMBC between inorganic-fertilized and broiler litter-fertilized pastures. These results could be useful for cost-effective soil health assessment and optimization of N fertilizer recommendation models to improve N use efficiency and grazing system sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
Effects of Landscape Positions and Landscape Types on Soil Properties and Chlorophyll Content of Citrus in a Sloping Orchard in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area, China
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4288; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084288 - 12 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 583
Abstract
In recent years, soil degradation and decreasing orchard productivity in the sloping orchards of the Three Gorges Reservoir Area of China have received considerable attention both inside and outside the country. More studies pay attention to the effects of topography on soil property [...] Read more.
In recent years, soil degradation and decreasing orchard productivity in the sloping orchards of the Three Gorges Reservoir Area of China have received considerable attention both inside and outside the country. More studies pay attention to the effects of topography on soil property changes, but less research is conducted from the landscape. Therefore, understanding the effects of landscape positions and landscape types on soil properties and chlorophyll content of citrus in a sloping orchard is of great significance in this area. Our results showed that landscape positions and types had a significant effect on the soil properties and chlorophyll content of citrus. The lowest soil nutrient content was detected in the upper slope position and sloping land, while the highest exists at the footslope and terraces. The chlorophyll content of citrus in the middle and upper landscape position was significantly higher than the footslope. The redundancy analysis showed that the first two ordination axes together accounted for 81.32% of the total variation, which could be explained by the changes of soil total nitrogen, total phosphorus, total potassium, available nitrogen, available potassium, organic matter, pH, and chlorophyll content of the citrus. Overall, this study indicates the significant influence of landscape positions and types on soil properties and chlorophyll content of citrus. Further, this study provides a reference for the determination of targeted land management measures and orchard landscape design so that the soil quality and orchard yield can be improved, and finally, the sustainable development of agriculture and ecology can be realized. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
Irrigation with Coalbed Methane Co-Produced Water Reduces Forage Yield and Increases Soil Sodicity However Does Not Impact Forage Quality
Sustainability 2021, 13(6), 3545; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063545 - 23 Mar 2021
Viewed by 559
Abstract
The extraction of coalbed methane produces a significant amount of coalbed methane co-produced water (CBMW). Coalbed methane co-produced water is often characterized by high levels of pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), sodium (Na) and bicarbonate (HCO−3) and if used for irrigation [...] Read more.
The extraction of coalbed methane produces a significant amount of coalbed methane co-produced water (CBMW). Coalbed methane co-produced water is often characterized by high levels of pH, total dissolved solids (TDS), sodium (Na) and bicarbonate (HCO−3) and if used for irrigation without treatment, it may be detrimental to the surrounding soil, plants and environment. CBMW ideally should be disposed of by reinjection into the ground, but because of the significant cost associated, CBMW is commonly discharged onto soil or water surfaces. This study was conducted to elucidate the effect of the CBMW (with TDS value of <1500 ppm) at various blending ratios with fresh water on the yield and quality of representative forage crops [i.e., oat (Avena sativa) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa)]. Various blends of CBMW with fresh water reduced fresh and dry weight of alfalfa by 21.5–32% and 13–30%, respectively, and fresh and dry weight of oat by 0–17% and 0–14%, respectively. Irrigation with various blends of CBMW and fresh water increased soil pH and soil sodium adsorption ratio. However, forage quality parameters such as crude protein (CP), acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), total digestible nutrients (TDN) and relative feed value (RFV) of both forage crops remained unaffected. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Article
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
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 671
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)
Article
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
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 884
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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Article
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
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1001
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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Article
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 681
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

Jump to: Research

Review
Managing Micronutrients for Improving Soil Fertility, Health, and Soybean Yield
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 11766; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132111766 - 25 Oct 2021
Viewed by 635
Abstract
Plants need only a small quantity of micronutrients, but they are essential for vital cell functions. Critical micronutrients for plant growth and development include iron (Fe), boron (B), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), chlorine (Cl), and nickel (Ni). The deficiency [...] Read more.
Plants need only a small quantity of micronutrients, but they are essential for vital cell functions. Critical micronutrients for plant growth and development include iron (Fe), boron (B), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), chlorine (Cl), and nickel (Ni). The deficiency of one or more micronutrients can greatly affect plant production and quality. To explore the potential for using micronutrients, we reviewed the literature evaluating the effect of micronutrients on soybean production in the U.S. Midwest and beyond. Soil and foliar applications were the major micronutrient application methods. Overall, studies indicated the positive yield response of soybean to micronutrients. However, soybean yield response to micronutrients was not consistent among studies, mainly because of different environmental conditions such as soil type, soil organic matter (SOM), moisture, and temperature. Despite this inconsistency, there has been increased pressure for growers to apply micronutrients to soybeans due to a fact that deficiencies have increased with the increased use of high-yielding cultivars. Further studies on quantification and variable rate application of micronutrients under different soil and environmental conditions are warranted to acquire more knowledge and improve the micronutrient management strategies in soybean. Since the SOM could meet the micronutrient need of many crops, management strategies that increase SOM should be encouraged to ensure nutrient availability and improve soil fertility and health for sustainable soybean production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agroecological Approaches for Soil Health and Water Management)
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Review
Nitrogen Losses and Potential Mitigation Strategies for a Sustainable Agroecosystem
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2400; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042400 - 23 Feb 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 1800
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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Review
Biochar Role in the Sustainability of Agriculture and Environment
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1330; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031330 - 27 Jan 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1418
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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