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Special Issue "Agroecology: Principles and Application for Efficient and Sustainable Agricultural Production"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. M. Anowarul Islam

University of Wyoming, 1000 E, University Ave, Laramie, WY 82071, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +1-307-766-4151
Interests: germplasm search and evaluation; best management practices for profitable and sustainable crops and livestock production; grazing management and integration with cropping systems; establishment and incorporation of legumes into grass systems; alternative/multipurpose use of forages; forage nutritive value; seed production

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Intensification of world agricultural production and striving to maximize economic returns have brought important environmental and social consequences. Along with these consequences, climate change, volatile markets, and agroecosystem vulnerability to urbanization have become a challenge to producers and researchers in pursuit of developing highly-adaptable, productive, yet environmentally-friendly production practices. Agricultural crops and grasslands play a major role in many nations’ economy. However, agricultural efficiency and productivity have been declining. There are a number of factors that contribute to this low efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. Examples include declining plant diversity, reduction of biodiversity, less adapted plant species, monoculture practices, soil degradation, especially soil mining, and rapid urbanization. Maintaining plant diversity with adapted species is important for the productivity, efficiency, and resiliency of agricultural production systems. This Special Issue assembles critical studies within agricultural crop and grassland production systems that apply agroecology principles. Papers for this Special Issue will address a variety of agroecological topics. Examples include, but are not limited to, agroecology, priciples of agroecology, application of agroecoclogy in agricultural crop and grassland production systems, agronomic crops and management, forage crops and their management and utilization, pasture systems and grazing management, plant diversity, plant physiology, biodiversity, plant-soil interaction, soil and environment, microbial community, and economic consideration. Papers selected for this Special Issue are subject to a rigorous peer-review procedure with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results, developments, and applications.

Dr. M. Anowarul Islam
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • agricultural crop
  • agroecosystem
  • biodiversity
  • economics
  • forage crop
  • grassland
  • microbial community
  • pasture
  • plant diversity and physiology
  • resiliency
  • soil and environment
  • urbanization

Published Papers (35 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Evolution of a Development Model for Fruit Industry Against Background of Rising Labor Cost: Intensive or Extensive Adjustment?
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3864; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143864
Received: 6 June 2019 / Revised: 3 July 2019 / Accepted: 13 July 2019 / Published: 16 July 2019
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Abstract
As an important starting point for optimizing the structure of agricultural products and implementing green production methods, the direction of orchard management development is directly related to the success of “supply side” reform in the fruit industry in China. However, in the context [...] Read more.
As an important starting point for optimizing the structure of agricultural products and implementing green production methods, the direction of orchard management development is directly related to the success of “supply side” reform in the fruit industry in China. However, in the context of the progressive rise of labor force, is the labor force still capable of the high labor intensity and fine cultivation management needed, such as for pruning? In this paper, based on the micro-production data of peach farmers in different provinces, we set up a decision model of fruit trees management to analyze the effects of changes in the labor cost on orchard management’s input for farmers with different trading characteristics under the information asymmetry theory. The results show that with the increase of labor force cost, although the total labor investment of farmer households has somewhat reduced, significant differences exist in the distribution of labor investment between the different farmers due to the different labor demands from the various trading characteristics. By repeated transactions that transmit information of quality, farmers can get a high marginal price of fruit, and these relatively repeated transactions further increase the labor investment of fine management. Foreseeably, the rising of rural labor cost will have a negative impact on fine cultivation management in the fruit and nut industries, which have the same management methods for pruning and flower (fruit) thinning. Therefore, this paper offers relevant policy recommendations for the support of agriculture products brand, optimization of production tools, expansion of operation scale, and the establishment of networks of companies, aimed at sharing skilled labor for the execution of quality work, etc. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Linking Soil Health to Sustainable Crop Production: Dairy Compost Effects on Soil Properties and Sorghum Biomass
Sustainability 2019, 11(13), 3552; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11133552
Received: 17 May 2019 / Revised: 11 June 2019 / Accepted: 24 June 2019 / Published: 28 June 2019
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Abstract
Dairy compost is utilized in agricultural fields to supplement nutrients, yet its role in optimizing nutrient supply and health of semiarid soils is not clear. A greenhouse study was conducted over two months to evaluate soil properties and forage sorghum production under various [...] Read more.
Dairy compost is utilized in agricultural fields to supplement nutrients, yet its role in optimizing nutrient supply and health of semiarid soils is not clear. A greenhouse study was conducted over two months to evaluate soil properties and forage sorghum production under various compost rates. The study had six treatments and four replications. Treatments included compost application rates at 6.7 (C1), 13.5 (C2), 20.2 (C3), 26.9 (C4), and 33.6 Mg ha−1 (C5) and a control (C0). Soil samples were analyzed for soil organic carbon (SOC), potentially mineralizable carbon (PMC), total nitrogen (N), inorganic N, potentially mineralizable N (PMN), available phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). Plant biomass production and biomass C, N, and lignin contents were also estimated. High compost rates improved soil properties significantly (p < 0.05) indicated by increased SOC, N, P, K, Ca, and cation exchange capacity (CEC). Sorghum biomass production did not increase significantly with compost rate, while shoot N content increased at higher rates of compost. A nutrient management plan that integrates dairy compost application has potential to improve soil health and support sustainable forage production in semiarid regions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Variation of the Soil Bacterial and Fungal Community Is Linked to Land Use Types in Northeast China
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3286; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123286
Received: 29 March 2019 / Revised: 26 May 2019 / Accepted: 8 June 2019 / Published: 14 June 2019
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Abstract
From the west to the east across Northeast China, there are three major land use types, ranging from agricultural-pastoral interlaced land, crop land, and forest land. The soil microbial community of each land use type has been reported; however, a thorough comparison of [...] Read more.
From the west to the east across Northeast China, there are three major land use types, ranging from agricultural-pastoral interlaced land, crop land, and forest land. The soil microbial community of each land use type has been reported; however, a thorough comparison of the soil microbial ecology of soils from each land use type has not been made. In the current study, soil samples from agricultural-pastoral land, crop land, and an artificial economic forest were collected from Tongliao, Siping, and Yanji, respectively. The structure and composition of bacterial and fungal communities was investigated by a next generation sequencing protocol, and soil physicochemical properties were also determined. Pair-wise analysis showed some soil parameters were significantly different between agricultural-pastoral land and crop land or forest land, while those soil parameters shared more similarities in crop land and forest land soils. Principal coordinates analysis and dissimilarity analyses jointly indicated that bacterial and fungal communities from each sampling site were quite different. Canonical correspondence analysis and a partial Mantel test showed that the community structures of bacteria and fungi were mainly affected by clay, pH, water soluble organic carbon (WSOC), and total soluble nitrogen (TN). Co-occurrence network analysis and the associated topological features revealed that the network of the bacterial community was more complex than that of the fungal community. Clay, pH, WSOC, and NH4+-N were major drivers and pH and WSOC were major factors in shaping the network of the bacterial community and the fungal community, respectively. In brief, our results indicated that microbial diversity, co-occurrence network patterns, and their shaping factors differed greatly among soils of distinct land use types in Northeast China. Our data also provided insights into the sustainable use of soils under different land use types. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Responses of Soil Respiration and Organic Carbon to Straw Mulching and Ridge Tillage in Maize Field of a Triple Cropping System in the Hilly Region of Southwest China
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3068; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113068
Received: 8 March 2019 / Revised: 28 May 2019 / Accepted: 28 May 2019 / Published: 30 May 2019
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Abstract
Soil disturbance by tillage practices promotes soil respiration which is a main source of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere. The present study was conducted to investigate the effect of different tillage practices on soil respiration and the carbon source/sink characteristics of maize [...] Read more.
Soil disturbance by tillage practices promotes soil respiration which is a main source of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere. The present study was conducted to investigate the effect of different tillage practices on soil respiration and the carbon source/sink characteristics of maize farmland ecosystems in the wheat–maize–soybean cropping system. Six tillage treatments, namely, traditional tillage (T), ridge tillage (R), traditional tillage + straw mulching (TS), ridge tillage + straw mulching (RS), traditional tillage + straw mulching + decomposing inoculants (TSD), and ridge tillage + straw mulching + decomposing inoculants (RSD), were used to measure the soil respiration and its hydrothermal factors. The results showed that the intensity of soil respiration increased initially and decreased afterwards throughout the growth period of maize ranging from 1.011 to 5.575 μmol (m2·s)−1. The soil respiration rate under different treatments varied remarkably presenting a trend of RSD > TSD > TS > RS > T > R. Ridge tillage reduced the soil respiration rate of maize farmland while straw mulching improved it. Meanwhile, ridge tillage and straw mulching increased the soil temperature sensitivity index of soil respiration, but the addition of decomposing inoculants reduced this trend. The soil moisture response threshold under ridge tillage was lower, while the straw mulching was found to increase it, compared with the control. Moreover, there was a positive correlation between trapped soil fauna and soil respiration. Compared with the control, ridge tillage and straw mulching were beneficial to the carbon sink of the farmland ecosystem as shown by the maize field for the entire growing season. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Performance of Permanent Vegetable Production Systems Designed with the PermVeg Model for the Red River Delta, Vietnam
Sustainability 2019, 11(10), 2719; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102719
Received: 25 March 2019 / Revised: 29 April 2019 / Accepted: 9 May 2019 / Published: 14 May 2019
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Abstract
The aim of the research described was to design permanent vegetable production systems for the Red River Delta in Vietnam. Permanent vegetable production systems better meet the increasing consumer demand for vegetables and may increase farmers’ income. Optimum crop sequences for permanent vegetable [...] Read more.
The aim of the research described was to design permanent vegetable production systems for the Red River Delta in Vietnam. Permanent vegetable production systems better meet the increasing consumer demand for vegetables and may increase farmers’ income. Optimum crop sequences for permanent vegetable production in the Red River Delta were designed with the recently developed model PermVeg. The crop sequences designed were tested in a field experiment from May 2007 to May 2009. The production systems tested were five systems designed according to the scenarios of (i) high profitability, (ii) low labor requirement, (iii) low costs of pesticide use, (iv) high level of crop biodiversity, and (v) low perishable products, respectively. The five systems were compared with the traditional vegetable production system. At local prices, only the high profitability and low labor requirement systems yielded significantly higher profits than the traditional system. At city wholesale market prices, profits of all permanent vegetable production systems were significantly higher than that of the traditional system, except for the low perishability system. Permanent vegetable production systems required more labor than the traditional system. Labor-day incomes of permanent vegetable production systems generally were not higher than those of the traditional system. The labor-day income increased only with the low labor requirement system at city wholesale market prices. The model outcomes correlated reasonably well with the labor requirement and the length in days of production systems in the field. The model poorly predicted profits and costs of pesticide use. We concluded that permanent vegetable production systems can yield higher profits than the traditional system, and can contribute to enhancing employment opportunities and increasing household income. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Contrasting Effects of Tillage and Landscape Structure on Spiders and Springtails in Vineyards
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2095; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072095
Received: 4 February 2019 / Revised: 15 March 2019 / Accepted: 30 March 2019 / Published: 8 April 2019
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Abstract
Interactions between predatory species and their potential prey are little studied in vineyards, especially considering the surrounding landscape structure. We examined the effects of soil tillage intensities in vineyard inter-rows on the activity density and diversity of spiders (Araneae) and springtails (Collembola), their [...] Read more.
Interactions between predatory species and their potential prey are little studied in vineyards, especially considering the surrounding landscape structure. We examined the effects of soil tillage intensities in vineyard inter-rows on the activity density and diversity of spiders (Araneae) and springtails (Collembola), their potential preys, and assessed whether these effects are altered by non-crop elements in the surrounding landscape. We collected data in 16 vineyards in Austria; eight were periodically mechanically disturbed (PMD), eight had permanent green cover (PGC). The study vineyards were embedded in landscapes ranging from structurally simple to complex. Both, spiders and springtails were collected with pitfall traps. Data analyses using generalized linear mixed models (GLMM) showed different effects of soil tillage intensities on spiders and springtails and an interaction with semi-natural elements (SNEs) in the surrounding landscape. Activities of springtails were higher under PMD than under PGC while spider activity density remained unaffected. Spider family Shannon diversity was lower under PMD than under PGC, while springtail species Shannon diversity was unaffected by tillage. Under PMD, spider activity and family diversity decreased with increasing SNEs in the surroundings indicating spider emigration away from vineyards. Under PGC, spider activity density increased with increasing SNE proportions in the surroundings when springtail activity density was high. Our findings suggest that recommendations on sustainable vineyard management should include both site and landscape factors. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluating the Environmental-Technology Gaps of Rice Farms in Distinct Agro-Ecological Zones of Ghana
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2072; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072072
Received: 30 January 2019 / Revised: 15 March 2019 / Accepted: 19 March 2019 / Published: 8 April 2019
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Abstract
Rice (Oryza sativa) is an important food staple and a cash crop, which is cultivated in all the ten regions of Ghana under varying agro-ecological conditions. These conditions also reflect the production technologies used and the total farm output. In an [...] Read more.
Rice (Oryza sativa) is an important food staple and a cash crop, which is cultivated in all the ten regions of Ghana under varying agro-ecological conditions. These conditions also reflect the production technologies used and the total farm output. In an attempt to determine the potential sources of production shortfalls on rice farms in Ghana, this paper estimates the production efficiency and the environmental-technology gaps of rice-producing households in the forest-savannah transition and guinea savannah agro-ecological zones of Ghana. The paper adopts the stochastic metafrontier framework, which permits technology-related inefficiency effects to be extricated from managerial inefficiency effects for appropriate policy formulation. In contrast to past studies, the empirical findings reveal that farms in the two agro-ecological zones adopt heterogeneous production technologies due to differences in their production environments. This is indicated by the estimated mean environmental-technology gap ratios of 0.95 and 0.50, and mean metafrontier technical efficiencies of 0.56 and 0.42 for farms in the forest-savannah transition and guinea savannah zones, respectively. These findings call for agricultural policy formulation in Ghana to be targeted at the prevailing environmental conditions of the various agro-ecological zones rather than being all-inclusive in addressing the extant inefficiencies in the rice production systems of Ghana. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation of Suitable Amount of Water and Fertilizer for Mature Grapes in Drip Irrigation in Extreme Arid Regions
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2063; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072063
Received: 27 February 2019 / Revised: 22 March 2019 / Accepted: 2 April 2019 / Published: 7 April 2019
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Abstract
Low water and fertilizer use efficiency have become important factors restricting the sustainable development of agriculture in extreme arid areas, typically like Xinjiang in China. In order to optimize the water and fertilizer management system of grape drip irrigation in the region, field [...] Read more.
Low water and fertilizer use efficiency have become important factors restricting the sustainable development of agriculture in extreme arid areas, typically like Xinjiang in China. In order to optimize the water and fertilizer management system of grape drip irrigation in the region, field experiments were carried out to study the effects of different water and fertilizer treatments on the physiological growth, yield, and quality of grapes. Meanwhile, principal component analysis, grey correlation analysis, and regression analysis were used to quantify the relative optimal amount of water and fertilizer. The results showed that the effects of water and fertilizer interaction on the photosynthetic index and fluorescence index of grape leaves, in different growth periods, ng reached extremely significant levels (p < 0.01). The physiological indicators showed regular changes with the increase and decrease of water and fertilizer use and the appropriate amount of water and fertilizer could maintain the index at a superior level. Meanwhile, there are differences in the index of different growth stages and regular changes with the growth period. The effects of water and fertilizer interaction on the yield, water use efficiency, and quality of drip irrigation reached a very significant level (p < 0.01). The yield reached the maximum in W3F2 treatment and the yield increased by 29.76% compared with the minimum yield of W1F1. The quality index reached a superior level in W3F2 treatment. The results of principal component analysis and grey correlation analysis showed that the optimal water and fertilizer dosage was W3F2 (irrigation 750 mm, fertilization 750 kg ha−1), of which N (300 kg ha−1)-P2O5 (150 kg ha−1)-K2O (300 kg ha−1), and multiple regression analysis was employed to determine the optimal range of water and fertilizer use is the following: Irrigation volume 725–825 mm and fertilization amount 684–889 kg ha−1, of which N (273.6–355.6 kg ha−1) - P2O5 (136.8–177.8 kg ha−1) - K2O (273.6–355.6 kg ha−1). The research results can provide a scientific basis for the water and fertilizer management and drip irrigation technology of drip irrigation in seedless white grape fields in extremely arid areas and it is of great significance for the efficient use of regional water and fertilizer resources and the realization of sustainable socio-economic development in the region. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Adaptability of Cattle-Raising to Multiple Stressors in the Dry Tropics of Chiapas, Mexico
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 1955; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11071955
Received: 5 January 2019 / Revised: 27 March 2019 / Accepted: 28 March 2019 / Published: 2 April 2019
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Abstract
Using the sustainable livelihoods analytical framework, the adaptability of cattle-raising to multiple stressors (e.g., climate change and market conditions) in the dry tropics of Chiapas, Mexico, was evaluated. Three case studies located in the Frailesca region of Chiapas were analyzed: (I) peasant cattle [...] Read more.
Using the sustainable livelihoods analytical framework, the adaptability of cattle-raising to multiple stressors (e.g., climate change and market conditions) in the dry tropics of Chiapas, Mexico, was evaluated. Three case studies located in the Frailesca region of Chiapas were analyzed: (I) peasant cattle raising in a rural village in the Frailesca Valley; (II) peasant cattle raising in a rural village in a natural protected area in the Frailesca Highlands; and (III) holistic cattle raising by farmers with private land ownership in the Frailesca Valley. Three livelihood strategies were identified: a cattle raising-crop cultivation strategy with high use of purchased inputs (case 1); (II) a diversified strategy including extensive livestock raising (case 2); and (III) a strategy specialized in holistic cattle raising (case III). Adaptability was evaluated using an index on a scale of 1 to 100; average values were: case I = 20.9 ± 1.4; case II = 32.1 ± 1.8; and case III = 63.6 ± 3.5. In order to increase farms’ adaptability and reduce the vulnerability of cattle-raising families, there is a need to modify public policy to take into account the conditions of the most vulnerable farmers (cases I and II). Given the economic, environmental, and social context of Mexico’s dry tropics, establishing ecological or organic cattle raising and silvopastoral systems may reduce farm families’ vulnerability and increase the level of adaptability of their farms to multiple stressors. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Adaptation to Climate Change and its Impacts on Wheat Yield: Perspective of Farmers in Henan of China
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 1928; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11071928
Received: 26 February 2019 / Revised: 19 March 2019 / Accepted: 28 March 2019 / Published: 1 April 2019
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Abstract
This paper explored farm households’ autonomous climate change adaptation strategies and corresponding impacts on wheat yield. Based on a survey of 314 wheat farmers in rural China, results show that Chinese wheat farmers have a high rate of climate change awareness and adoption [...] Read more.
This paper explored farm households’ autonomous climate change adaptation strategies and corresponding impacts on wheat yield. Based on a survey of 314 wheat farmers in rural China, results show that Chinese wheat farmers have a high rate of climate change awareness and adoption of climate change adaptation measures. Farmers’ cultivated area, cognition level and information accessibility on climate change significantly affect their adaptation decisions. However, these farmers are given limited adaptation strategies, mainly including increasing irrigation, and using more chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Through employing a simultaneous equations model with endogenous switching, we find farmers’ adaptation to climate change is maladaptive with negative effects on wheat yield. This study, therefore, suggests policymakers be mindful of farmers’ maladaptive responses to climate change and provide effective adaptation measures, to help farmers cope with the risks of climate change and ensure farmer’s livelihood security and sustainable agriculture development. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Key Role of Variety and Method of Sowing Selection in Pea Roots’ Parameters Development under Sustainable Practice
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 1824; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11071824
Received: 9 January 2019 / Revised: 15 March 2019 / Accepted: 19 March 2019 / Published: 27 March 2019
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Abstract
The selection of varieties is extremely important for decreasing fertilizer consumption. However, little attention is devoted to assessing the effectiveness of row spacing in tandem with types of varieties of pea on root development in the context of limited nutrition. As essential knowledge [...] Read more.
The selection of varieties is extremely important for decreasing fertilizer consumption. However, little attention is devoted to assessing the effectiveness of row spacing in tandem with types of varieties of pea on root development in the context of limited nutrition. As essential knowledge in this area is lacking, a study was conducted with two objectives using an ordinal regression model. (i): To determine whether qualitative variables (cultivar, fertilization, and row spacing) or quantitative variables (root parameters) affect the root dry mass density, and (ii): To assess the variation in root architecture of two pea cultivars (fodder vs. edible type) grown under different P supply levels (0, 45, and 90 kg P2O5) and row spacing (narrow—15 cm—and wide—30 cm). The ordinal regression model showed that row spacing and cultivar type are meaningful predictors of root dry mass density (RDMD). The root dry mass density increased at wider row spacing in the fodder pea cultivar. As root surface area density (RSAD) and SRL-specific root length (SRL) most accurately describe root mass, it was concluded that the cultivar type and row spacing are crucial factors for increasing root plasticity, which can improve soil utilization. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Effect of Freeze–Thaw Cycles on Phosphorus Fractions and Their Availability in Biochar-Amended Mollisols of Northeast China (Laboratory Experiment)
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1006; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041006
Received: 26 November 2018 / Revised: 19 January 2019 / Accepted: 12 February 2019 / Published: 15 February 2019
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Abstract
Freeze–thaw cycles stimulate the release of available soil phosphorus (P) in winter, and biochar as a soil amendment could improve P availability. Nevertheless, it is unclear how freeze–thaw cycles and biochar amendment interact to affect the soil P fractions and their availability in [...] Read more.
Freeze–thaw cycles stimulate the release of available soil phosphorus (P) in winter, and biochar as a soil amendment could improve P availability. Nevertheless, it is unclear how freeze–thaw cycles and biochar amendment interact to affect the soil P fractions and their availability in winter, particularly under different soil water conditions. We simulateda freeze–thaw cycle experimentto assess the effects of three factors on soil P fractions: soil moisture content (22%, 31%, and 45%), frequencies of freeze–thaw cycles (0, 1, 3, 6, and 12 times) and biochar amendment (soil and biochar-amended soil). Modified Hedley sequential P fractionation was conducted to measure the soil P fractions. Increasing the number of freeze–thaw cycles increased soil labile P fractions in the soil with the lowest moisture content (22%). After biochar amendment, the content of labile P decreased as the number of freeze–thaw cycles increased. Biochar amendment enhanced P availability in Mollisols owing to the direct effect of NaOH-Po, which has a large direct path coefficient. Principal components analysis showed that moisture content was a major factor influencing the variation in the P fractions. The P fractions were separated by the interactive effects of biochar amendment and freeze–thaw cycles in soils with a higher moisture content (45%), indicating that the effects of freeze–thaw cycles on P availability appear to be more pronounced in biochar-amended Mollisols of higher water contents. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Complex Systems, Agroecological Matrices, and Management of Forest Resources: An Example of an Application in Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3496; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103496
Received: 9 May 2018 / Revised: 20 August 2018 / Accepted: 27 August 2018 / Published: 29 September 2018
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Abstract
Today humanity faces several complex problems, two of which are global warming and the loss of biological diversity. An agroecological matrix approach, conceives the territory as patches of natural and cultivated vegetation, interconnected to maintain watershed integrity. Many ethnic groups maintain a high [...] Read more.
Today humanity faces several complex problems, two of which are global warming and the loss of biological diversity. An agroecological matrix approach, conceives the territory as patches of natural and cultivated vegetation, interconnected to maintain watershed integrity. Many ethnic groups maintain a high biological heterogeneity as in the case of the agrological matrix. This study analyzed features and trends in a specific agroecological matrix, integrating local and scientific knowledge with environmental and social information, as a complex system. For the last 15 years we studied agroecological spaces used by the Ntaj’uy (Zoque-Popoluca) people in Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico. Participatory methods were used to understand social interactions and land management decisions. Ecology field methods allowed us to assess soil loss, litter production, water quality, and vegetation structure. Soil erosion, vegetation fragmentation and social marginalization are the most important problems in the region; the tropical sub-evergreen forest has decreased by about 60%, the deciduous forest is down by 80%, and cultivated pastures have increased over 400%. Coffee and milpa agroecosystems could be improved, through product diversification, along with interconnectivity among vegetation patches, to prevent environmental degradation, and improve conditions to reach food sovereignty and income diversification, in a context of Ntaj’uy self-determination in their territories. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Growth, Development, Leaf Gaseous Exchange, and Grain Yield Response of Maize Cultivars to Drought and Flooding Stress
Sustainability 2018, 10(10), 3492; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10103492
Received: 13 August 2018 / Revised: 25 September 2018 / Accepted: 27 September 2018 / Published: 29 September 2018
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Abstract
The prevalence of extreme drought and flooding is posing a threat to the food security of Sub-Saharan African countries. There are national and international calls for actions to investigate the level of resilience of existing crop cultivars to multiple abiotic stress conditions. A [...] Read more.
The prevalence of extreme drought and flooding is posing a threat to the food security of Sub-Saharan African countries. There are national and international calls for actions to investigate the level of resilience of existing crop cultivars to multiple abiotic stress conditions. A two-year study was carried out in South Africa to determine growth, development, yield, yield components, and physiological responses of two contrasting maize cultivars—PAN 413 (drought tolerant) and PAN 6Q-245 (drought intolerant) under drought and flooding. The drought effect on grain yield was more pronounced from mid-vegetative to tasselling stages, regardless of the cultivar with yields deviating from the control by 53–58% (2015/2016) and 34–42% (2016/2017). The effect of flooding on grain yield was pronounced at the early vegetative stage for both cultivars, with yield reductions ranging between 26–30% (2015/2016) and 15–21% (2016/2017). Results from the study indicated that existing maize cultivars (drought tolerant and drought intolerant) are both prone to likely extreme drought events experienced during the tasselling stage. Results also showed that both cultivars are prone to probable flooding events before the tasselling stage. It is recommended that plant breeders’ efforts be directed to developing maize cultivars with multiple stress tolerances. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Changes in Soil Properties and Productivity under Different Tillage Practices and Wheat Genotypes: A Short-Term Study in Iran
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3273; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093273
Received: 25 August 2018 / Revised: 6 September 2018 / Accepted: 7 September 2018 / Published: 13 September 2018
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Abstract
Natural resources are the most limiting factors for sustainable agriculture in Iran. Traditional practices are intensive tillage that leads to a negative impact on crop productivity and soil properties. Conservation agriculture including tillage reductions, better agronomy, and improved varieties, showed encouraging results. The [...] Read more.
Natural resources are the most limiting factors for sustainable agriculture in Iran. Traditional practices are intensive tillage that leads to a negative impact on crop productivity and soil properties. Conservation agriculture including tillage reductions, better agronomy, and improved varieties, showed encouraging results. The goal of this study was to test combined effect of tillage practices and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) genotypes on soil properties as well as crop and water productivity. The experiment was conducted at Zarghan, Fars, Iran during 2014–2016. Experimental treatments were three-tillage practices—conventional tillage (CT), reduced tillage (RT), and no tillage (NT)—and four wheat genotypes were randomized in the main and subplots, respectively using split-plot randomized complete block design with three replications. Results showed NT had higher soil bulk density at surface soil, thereby lower cumulative water infiltration. The lowest soil organic carbon and total nitrogen were obtained under CT that led to the highest C:N ratio. Reduced tillage produced higher wheat yield and maize (Zea mays L.) biomass. Maximum irrigation water was applied under CT, which leads lower water productivity. The findings are based on short-term results, but it is important to evaluate medium- and long-term effects on soil properties, crop yields and water use in future. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Agricultural Transition and Technical Efficiency: An Empirical Analysis of Wheat-Cultivating Farms in Samarkand Region, Uzbekistan
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3232; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093232
Received: 31 July 2018 / Revised: 3 September 2018 / Accepted: 7 September 2018 / Published: 10 September 2018
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Abstract
Wheat and wheat products are an important part of the daily diet of Uzbek people, and thus, are under strategic consideration in terms of food security in Uzbekistan since the beginning of independence. In this study, wheat production during agricultural transition is reviewed [...] Read more.
Wheat and wheat products are an important part of the daily diet of Uzbek people, and thus, are under strategic consideration in terms of food security in Uzbekistan since the beginning of independence. In this study, wheat production during agricultural transition is reviewed and determinants of technical efficiency of wheat-cultivating farms in the Samarkand region are analyzed. Analyses are accomplished in two steps. In the initial step, technical efficiency of wheat farms is estimated using data envelopment analyses (DEA) and determenants of inefficiencies are analyzed by the Tobit model in the second step. Data for this study were collected from 124 randomly sampled private farms engaged in wheat production in the Samarkand region. The mean value of technical efficiency scores of wheat-growing farmers were found to be 0.79 and 0.82 under constant return to scale (CRS) and variable return to scale (VRS) assumptions. Empirical results suggest that there is a considerable scope for increasing production through reallocation of existing resources or that private farmers can reduce their input costs by 21 and 18 percent while holding the same production levels. The age of farmers, farmers’ education on agriculture, soil fertility, and the quality of seeds were found as the main determinants of technical efficiency in the study area. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Main Agroecological Structure (MAS) of the Agroecosystems: Concept, Methodology and Applications
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3131; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093131
Received: 8 May 2018 / Revised: 2 August 2018 / Accepted: 3 August 2018 / Published: 3 September 2018
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Abstract
This document presents the concept of the Main Agroecological Structure of agroecosystems (MAS) from the perspective of environmental thinking (ecosystem-culture relationships) and considered as a dissipative cultural structure. It discusses the possible applications of this concept (resilience, production, diversity) both inside and outside [...] Read more.
This document presents the concept of the Main Agroecological Structure of agroecosystems (MAS) from the perspective of environmental thinking (ecosystem-culture relationships) and considered as a dissipative cultural structure. It discusses the possible applications of this concept (resilience, production, diversity) both inside and outside the farms. The potential MAS can be useful in the planning processes of the farms because it allows the quantification of the internal and external corridors, including natural vegetation. At the same time, it can be an important tool in the context of landscape management because it shows a series of cultural relations (economic, social, symbolic and technological) that are normally overlooked by the partial analysis of landscape ecology. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Identifying the Relationship between Soil Properties and Rice Growth for Improving Consolidated Land in the Yangtze River Delta, China
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3072; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093072
Received: 1 August 2018 / Revised: 26 August 2018 / Accepted: 27 August 2018 / Published: 29 August 2018
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Abstract
China has widely implemented land consolidation, which was expected to increase the amount of cultivated land and enhance grain yields. Key components of land consolidation include filling mall waterbodies and leveling land, both of which have strong impacts on the environment in the [...] Read more.
China has widely implemented land consolidation, which was expected to increase the amount of cultivated land and enhance grain yields. Key components of land consolidation include filling mall waterbodies and leveling land, both of which have strong impacts on the environment in the Yangtze River Delta. The impacts of land consolidation on soil ecology and agricultural production are not yet clear. Here, we conducted a field survey of soil properties and rice growth to detect the effects of land consolidation in the first growing season. The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) was used to analyze the remote sensing data. We found significant differences in the soil properties under different types of land leveling, with a general NDVI pattern of: control > borrowed topsoil area > filled waterbodies area > topsoil cutting area. We found significant heterogeneity in rice NDVI after land consolidation. The NDVI of rice had extremely significant positive correlations with soil organic matter and available zinc. The spatial variation in soil properties caused by land consolidation was a dominant factor leading to the heterogeneity of rice NDVI. Fertilizing soil and strengthening field management should be adopted to provide more ecological services while increasing quantity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
An Empirical Study on Spatial–Temporal Dynamics and Influencing Factors of Tea Production in China
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3037; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093037
Received: 29 May 2018 / Revised: 9 August 2018 / Accepted: 18 August 2018 / Published: 27 August 2018
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Abstract
Revealing the characteristics of spatial–temporal dynamics and influencing factors is important for optimizing the spatial distribution of tea production. Taking prefecture-level cities as the basic spatial unit, this study uses the Herfindahl index and exploratory spatial data analysis to reveal the spatial–temporal dynamics [...] Read more.
Revealing the characteristics of spatial–temporal dynamics and influencing factors is important for optimizing the spatial distribution of tea production. Taking prefecture-level cities as the basic spatial unit, this study uses the Herfindahl index and exploratory spatial data analysis to reveal the spatial–temporal dynamics of China’s tea production from 2000 to 2015. A theoretical analysis framework is established and a spatial econometric model is used to explore its influencing factors. The results show a U-shaped trend in the degree of tea spatial agglomeration, which gradually declined during 2000–2010, and rapidly increased during 2011–2015. The proportion of tea production shifted from the eastern region to the central and western regions, and spatial distribution coverage expanded to the north. Tea production had significant spatial correlation, and spatial agglomeration characteristics were exhibited for similar values (high or low). Tea production had a significant spatial spillover effect. Natural resources, labor cost, specialized production, and policies all affected the spatial–temporal dynamics of tea production somewhat, but the effects of traffic conditions and technological level were insignificant. Finally, this study proposed optimizing four aspects of the tea spatial layout: regional cooperation, comprehensive suitability evaluation of tea cultivation, spatial agglomeration, and distinctive local brands. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Grass-Legume Mixtures for Improved Soil Health in Cultivated Agroecosystem
Sustainability 2018, 10(8), 2718; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10082718
Received: 1 July 2018 / Revised: 30 July 2018 / Accepted: 30 July 2018 / Published: 2 August 2018
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Abstract
Planting grass-legume mixtures may be a good option to improve soil health in addition to increased forage productivity, improved forage nutritive value, and net farm profit in a hay production system. A field experiment was conducted from 2011 to 2014 at Lingle, Wyoming [...] Read more.
Planting grass-legume mixtures may be a good option to improve soil health in addition to increased forage productivity, improved forage nutritive value, and net farm profit in a hay production system. A field experiment was conducted from 2011 to 2014 at Lingle, Wyoming to evaluate soil microbial biomass under different seeding proportions of two forage grasses (meadow bromegrass, Bromus biebersteinii Roem. & Schult.; and orchardgrass, Dactylis glomerata L.) and one legume (alfalfa, Medicago sativa L.). Nine treatments included monoculture grass, monoculture legume, one grass and one legume mixture, two grasses and one legume mixture, and a control (not seeded with grass or legume). Monoculture grass received either no nitrogen (N) or N fertilizer (150 kg N ha−1 year−1 as urea) whereas monoculture legume, grass-legume mixtures, and control plots received no N fertilizer. The study was laid out as a randomized complete block design with three replications. The plots were harvested 3–4 times each year after the establishment year. Soil samples were collected and analyzed for microbial biomass using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis at the end of May in 2013 and 2014. Soil samples were also analyzed for mineralizable carbon (C) and N in 2013 and 2014. The total above-ground plant biomass was higher in 50–50% mixture of grass and alfalfa than monoculture alfalfa and monoculture grass (with and without N fertilizer) during the entire study period. The application of N fertilizer to the grass hay production system had little effect on improving mineralizable soil C, N, and soil microbial biomass. However, grass-legume mixture without N fertilizer had great effect on improvement of mineralizable soil C and N, and total, bacterial, and actinomycetes microbial biomass in soil. The 50–50% mixture of grass and alfalfa performed consistently well and can be considered to use in Wyoming conditions for improving soil health and forage productivity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation of Silage Corn Yield Gap: An Approach for Sustainable Production in the Semi-Arid Region of USA
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2523; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072523
Received: 28 June 2018 / Revised: 16 July 2018 / Accepted: 17 July 2018 / Published: 19 July 2018
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Abstract
Water and nitrogen (N) play an important role in closing the yield gap of crops by reducing associated stresses and yield variability. Field research data coupled to the CSM-CERES-Maize model of Decision Support System Agrotechnology Transfer were used to advance our understanding of [...] Read more.
Water and nitrogen (N) play an important role in closing the yield gap of crops by reducing associated stresses and yield variability. Field research data coupled to the CSM-CERES-Maize model of Decision Support System Agrotechnology Transfer were used to advance our understanding of the effect of water and N on silage corn growth and yield. The objectives of the study were to determine: (i) the best combination of irrigation water and N for optimum biomass yield, and (ii) the yield gap of silage corn grown at different locations in Wyoming, USA. Field experiments were conducted under sub-surface drip irrigation using a randomized complete block design in a split-plot arrangement with four replications. The main plot was irrigation and consisted of 100% crop evapotranspiration (100ETc), 80% (80ETc), and 60% (60ETc), and the sub-plot was N rates, including 0, 90, 180, 270, and 360 kg N ha−1 as urea-ammonium-nitrate. The simulated results indicated full irrigation and at least 150 kg N ha−1 as the best combination for silage corn production in Wyoming. Our observed and simulated results show the potential to increase the biomass and reduce the yield gap of silage corn in the region if irrigation water and N are properly managed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Impacts of Land Consolidation on Agricultural Technical Efficiency of Producers: A Survey from Jiangsu Province, China
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2490; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072490
Received: 29 June 2018 / Revised: 12 July 2018 / Accepted: 14 July 2018 / Published: 16 July 2018
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Abstract
Since the year 2000, China has implemented large-scale land consolidation, which was used to reduce land fragmentation, enhance grain yield capability, facilitate land tenure transfer, and promote agricultural operational scale. However, the impacts of land consolidation on agricultural technical efficiency of producers in [...] Read more.
Since the year 2000, China has implemented large-scale land consolidation, which was used to reduce land fragmentation, enhance grain yield capability, facilitate land tenure transfer, and promote agricultural operational scale. However, the impacts of land consolidation on agricultural technical efficiency of producers in practice is not yet clear. A field survey was executed at two points of time during July 2010 and July 2016. A total of 900 producers were chosen from 30 land consolidation projects at random in the Jiangsu Province. The agricultural technical efficiency caused by land consolidation was calculated by using a stochastic frontier analysis method. The results of a stochastic frontier production function reveal that land tenure transfer, land fragmentation, non-agricultural income, and crop diversity has undergone significant changes after land consolidation. The overall agricultural technical efficiency of producers had also increased considerably and the average technical efficiency was estimated at 0.924 after land consolidation. Land consolidation directly promotes land tenure transfer while indirectly encouraging non-agricultural employment, which could improve agricultural technical efficiency of producers. Non-agricultural income and crop diversity had a significant correlation with agricultural technical efficiency, but land fragmentation after land consolidation does not significantly improve technical efficiency. These conclusions are helpful in understanding the impacts of land consolidation, which enriches the academic literature in related fields and improves the policy of land consolidation in China and other developing countries. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Low-Input Herbicide Management: Effects on Rapeseed Production and Profitability
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2258; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072258
Received: 30 April 2018 / Revised: 29 May 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 30 June 2018
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Abstract
The oilseed rape conventional system can be moved to a more sustainable one by reducing herbicide application whilst ensuring at the same time effective weed control, maintaining oilseed rape yield, and quality and increasing profitability. Over three growing season periods, two field experiments [...] Read more.
The oilseed rape conventional system can be moved to a more sustainable one by reducing herbicide application whilst ensuring at the same time effective weed control, maintaining oilseed rape yield, and quality and increasing profitability. Over three growing season periods, two field experiments at two different Southern Italy locations were carried out. In both sites, a conventional weed-control management system (recommended label dose), four alternative low-herbicide treatments, and an untreated control were compared. We monitored weeds and crop response to herbicide treatments, and calculated the net economic return, within site and year, for each treatment. In experiment 1, a half dose of herbicide did not show any significant difference in seed yield with respect to conventional treatment in two of three growing seasons. In experiment 2, compared with the conventional system, weedy control and the lowest applied herbicide dose treatment (25% of the recommended label dose) did not underline significant differences with regard to yield level. Net returns from the half dose of metazachlor herbicide were not significantly lower than net returns from conventional treatment in experiment 1 (on a three-year average 748 vs. 812 € ha−1, respectively). Our findings suggest that the herbicide dose might be cut by at least 50% in order not to jeopardize negative effects on production and economic performances. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Greenhouse Gas Emission Intensities for the Livestock Sector in Indonesia, Based on the National Specific Data
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1912; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061912
Received: 29 April 2018 / Revised: 28 May 2018 / Accepted: 5 June 2018 / Published: 7 June 2018
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Abstract
The aims of this study were to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to identify the trends of GHG emission intensity, based on meat production from the livestock sector in Indonesia, which had not been done before. The total emissions from the livestock [...] Read more.
The aims of this study were to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to identify the trends of GHG emission intensity, based on meat production from the livestock sector in Indonesia, which had not been done before. The total emissions from the livestock sector from 2000 to 2015 in Indonesia were calculated using the 2006 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Guideline (2006 IPCC GL) using Tier 1 and Tier 2, with its default values and some of the country specific data that were found in the grey literature. During 2000 to 2015, the change from the Tier 1 to Tier 2 methods resulted in an approximately 7.39% emission decrease from enteric fermentation and a 4.24% increase from manure management, which resulted in a 4.98% decrease in the total emissions. The shared emission from manure management increased by about 9% and 6% using Tier 1 and Tier 2, respectively. In contrast with the total emissions, the overall emission intensity in Indonesia decreased (up to 60.77% for swine), showing that the livestock productivity in Indonesia has become more efficient. In order to meet the meat demand with less GHG emissions, chicken farming is one option to be developed. The increased emission and share from manure management indicated that manure management system needs to be of concern, especially for beef cattle and swine. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Sustainability Performance of Organic and Low-Input Conventional Farms from Eastern Poland with the RISE Indicator System
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1792; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061792
Received: 3 April 2018 / Revised: 27 April 2018 / Accepted: 28 May 2018 / Published: 29 May 2018
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Abstract
The aim of this study was to examine the sustainability performance of organic and low-input conventional farms with the sustainability assessment tool—RISE 3.0. It is an indicator-based method for holistic assessment of sustainability of agricultural production at farm level. Ten organic and 10 [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to examine the sustainability performance of organic and low-input conventional farms with the sustainability assessment tool—RISE 3.0. It is an indicator-based method for holistic assessment of sustainability of agricultural production at farm level. Ten organic and 10 conventional farms from eastern Poland, Lublin province were assessed. According to the thresholds levels of the RISE method, organic farms performed positively for 7 out of 10 themes, while the values of the other 3 topics, biodiversity, working conditions, and economic viability, were at medium level. Conventional farms reached positive scores for 9 out of 10 themes. The only middle-performing theme was biodiversity. None of the two farm types had the lowest, problematic scores for examined themes. For the theme biodiversity and two indicators (greenhouse gas balance and intensity of agricultural production), significant differences between farming systems were found. Biodiversity performance, an important indicator of sustainability, estimated with the RISE system, was highly correlated with measured on-field weed flora and Orthoptera biodiversity of farms. High soil acidity and low crop productivity, improper weed regulation, and energy management were the most common problems in both types of farms. Working hours and wage and income levels were also assessed as being low. Recommendations to improve the sustainability of both organic and conventional farms are presented. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Adsorption and Desorption of Phosphorus in Biochar-Amended Black Soil as Affected by Freeze-Thaw Cycles in Northeast China
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1574; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051574
Received: 10 April 2018 / Revised: 7 May 2018 / Accepted: 14 May 2018 / Published: 15 May 2018
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Abstract
Substantial soil phosphorus (P) losses often occur in the northern temperate regions owing to soil freeze-thaw cycles (FTCs). Presumably, biochar amendment is an efficient method of conserving P and sustaining agricultural production in the black soil region of northeast China. However, how biochar [...] Read more.
Substantial soil phosphorus (P) losses often occur in the northern temperate regions owing to soil freeze-thaw cycles (FTCs). Presumably, biochar amendment is an efficient method of conserving P and sustaining agricultural production in the black soil region of northeast China. However, how biochar interacts with FTCs to affect soil P adsorption and desorption is unclear. A simulated laboratory FTC experiment was conducted on untreated and biochar-amended soil with varying moisture content to assess their effects on P adsorption and desorption. Soil P adsorption and desorption values were fitted with Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms to determine the interaction of the frequency of FTCs with moisture content and biochar amendment. Higher soil moisture content increased soil P adsorption, whereas biochar amendment mitigated decreased P retention by decreasing soil P adsorption capacity. Biochar amendment significantly increased the desorption ratio (Davg) under all the FTCs. The desorption ratio of soil and biochar-amended soil in saturated moisture content treatment was significantly higher than that of 12 FTCs. The FTCs decreased the P availability of biochar-amended soil by enhancing P desorbability. Our results suggest that biochar amendment in arable black soil should not be conducted during FTCs, particularly during snowmelt. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
The Effects of Diversification Activities on the Technical Efficiency of Organic Farms in Switzerland, Austria, and Southern Germany
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 1304; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10041304
Received: 5 March 2018 / Revised: 13 April 2018 / Accepted: 16 April 2018 / Published: 23 April 2018
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Abstract
The diversification of farms can be a result of multifunctional farming, however, in some cases at the cost of lower farm efficiency. In our paper we investigate the influence of para-agricultural diversification on productivity and the technical efficiency of organic farms in Austria, [...] Read more.
The diversification of farms can be a result of multifunctional farming, however, in some cases at the cost of lower farm efficiency. In our paper we investigate the influence of para-agricultural diversification on productivity and the technical efficiency of organic farms in Austria, Switzerland, and Southern Germany. We show the benefits and drawbacks of diversification for organic farms, which go beyond the core agricultural production (para-agriculture). We do this by estimating a Stochastic Frontier (SF) combined with a metafrontier model. The data-set consists of bookkeeping data with 1704 observations in the years 2003 to 2005. Para-agricultural diversification activities have a significant effect on both productivity and technical efficiency of organic farms: The farm output in Austria and Switzerland is positively influenced by diversification, whereas we observe a rather small effect in Southern Germany. On the other hand, diversification can reduce farms’ technical efficiency, as it is the case in Switzerland and Germany. Furthermore, our study confirms previous results that agricultural subsidies significantly influence the technical efficiency of organic farms. We also show expected changes of input use driven by increased farm diversification. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Life Cycle Assessment of a Highly Diverse Vegetable Multi-Cropping System in Fengqiu County, China
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 983; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10040983
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 21 March 2018 / Accepted: 26 March 2018 / Published: 27 March 2018
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Abstract
Agricultural biodiversity usually leads to greater sustainability in production practices. To understand the environmental implications of the development of village-level multi-cropping in rural China, we compared the environmental impact of a highly diverse vegetable multi-cropping system to a conventional wheat/maize rotation system based [...] Read more.
Agricultural biodiversity usually leads to greater sustainability in production practices. To understand the environmental implications of the development of village-level multi-cropping in rural China, we compared the environmental impact of a highly diverse vegetable multi-cropping system to a conventional wheat/maize rotation system based on the method of life cycle assessment (LCA). Using household level cultivation data, this study examined the gate-to-gate environmental impacts of on-site cultivation practices relating to the production of 10,000 nutrient equivalent units. Results show that vegetable multi-cropping resulted in decreased average land requirement, and diesel, water and electricity usage by 69.8%, 62.2%, 71.7%, and 63.4%, respectively, while average nitrogen (Total N), phosphorus (P2O5), and potassium (K2O) usage in vegetable multi-cropping systems decreased by 16.3%, 42.1%, and 75.8%, respectively. Additional corresponding effects led to a decrease in the total global warming, eutrophication, and acidification potentials from external inputs by 21.6%, 16.7%, and 16.2% of the entire system, respectively. Moreover, the midpoint human toxicity potential from pesticide usage of the vegetable multi-cropping system was lower than that of the conventional system. However, the midpoint eco-toxicity potential from pesticide usage was higher due to certain highly toxic substances, and both human and eco-toxicity potentials from heavy metals were all higher by a few orders of magnitudes. Thus, to mitigate these detrimental consequences, some related measures are proposed for sustainable practices in the future implementation of multi-cropping systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Parameter Uncertainty Analysis of the Life Cycle Inventory Database: Application to Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Brown Rice Production in IDEA
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 922; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10040922
Received: 9 February 2018 / Revised: 11 March 2018 / Accepted: 17 March 2018 / Published: 22 March 2018
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Abstract
The objective of this paper is to develop a simple method for analyzing the parameter uncertainty of the Japanese life cycle inventory database (LCI DB), termed the inventory database for environmental analysis (IDEA). The IDEA has a weakness of poor data quality because [...] Read more.
The objective of this paper is to develop a simple method for analyzing the parameter uncertainty of the Japanese life cycle inventory database (LCI DB), termed the inventory database for environmental analysis (IDEA). The IDEA has a weakness of poor data quality because over 60% of datasets in IDEA were compiled based on secondary data (non-site-specific data sources). Three different approaches were used to estimate the uncertainty of the brown rice production dataset, including the stochastic modeling approach, the semi-quantitative DQI (Data Quality Indicator) approach, and a modification of the semi-quantitative DQI approach (including two alternative approaches for modification). The stochastic modeling approach provided the best estimate of the true mean of the sample space and its results were used as the reference for comparison with the other approaches. A simple method for the parameter uncertainty analysis of the agriculture industry DB was proposed by modifying the beta distribution parameters (endpoint range, shape parameter) in the semi-quantitative DQI approach using the results from the stochastic modeling approach. The effect of changing the beta distribution parameters in the semi-quantitative DQI approach indicated that the proposed method is an efficient method for the quantitative parameter uncertainty analysis of the brown rice production dataset in the IDEA. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Multi-Environment Evaluation and Genetic Characterisation of Common Bean Breeding Lines for Organic Farming Systems
Sustainability 2018, 10(3), 777; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10030777
Received: 21 January 2018 / Revised: 2 March 2018 / Accepted: 9 March 2018 / Published: 12 March 2018
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Abstract
It is recognised that one of the main causes for the relative low yields under organic conditions is the use of modern cultivars which are bred for high-input management systems. The work described here aimed to study and test possible breeding strategies to [...] Read more.
It is recognised that one of the main causes for the relative low yields under organic conditions is the use of modern cultivars which are bred for high-input management systems. The work described here aimed to study and test possible breeding strategies to produce cultivars of common bean for organic agriculture. To this purpose, crosses between a traditional Italian landrace named “Gnocchetto” and a cultivar were carried out. The F1 plants obtained were either backcrossed or self-fertilised and the obtained materials subjected to selection for quality traits at different development stages. The resulting lines were tested under four different environmental conditions for three years in order to determine their potential performance. The resulting data were analysed using a Multi-Environment Trial Analysis (MET) approach and different visualisations of the GGE biplot were generated. Furthermore, to assess the level of genetic similarity, the lines were characterised using 25 Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) molecular markers. Results showed that the breeding approach applied allowed to select lines with the same technological and agronomic characteristics as commercially available cultivars, but with different adaptation abilities that make them suitable for organic agriculture. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Intercropping Halophytes to Mitigate Salinity Stress in Watermelon
Sustainability 2018, 10(3), 681; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10030681
Received: 2 February 2018 / Revised: 26 February 2018 / Accepted: 28 February 2018 / Published: 2 March 2018
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Abstract
Saline irrigation water can lead to salt buildup and reduced crop yields. Halophytic plants are known to accumulate excess salts in tissues, removing them from the immediate environment. This two-phase experiment explored the feasibility of intercropping watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. and [...] Read more.
Saline irrigation water can lead to salt buildup and reduced crop yields. Halophytic plants are known to accumulate excess salts in tissues, removing them from the immediate environment. This two-phase experiment explored the feasibility of intercropping watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. and Nakai var. lanatus) with halophytic species to mitigate the negative effects of saline irrigation water while providing a value-added crop. In the first experiment, six greenhouse-grown species were irrigated with water that was either deionized (0 dS m−1) or contained 3 or 6 dS m−1 of salts for 41 days and screened for growth and salt removal. Two halophytes were selected to be additively intercropped with watermelon under field conditions and irrigated with the same saline irrigation levels as the first experiment. Results indicated that garden orache (Atriplex hortensis L.) exhibited the highest growth rates and purslane (Portulaca oleracea L.) accumulated high amounts of sodium in plant tissues under saline irrigation. The field experiment showed that watermelon yields, stem water potential, and fruit quality were not affected by saline irrigation; however, the watermelon/orache intercropping treatment had significantly higher yields. These results suggest intercropping with halophytes has the potential to contribute a value-added crop without reducing watermelon yields. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Hexachlorocyclohexanes, Cyclodiene, Methoxychlor, and Heptachlor in Sediment of the Alvarado Lagoon System in Veracruz, Mexico
Sustainability 2018, 10(1), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10010076
Received: 15 November 2017 / Revised: 2 December 2017 / Accepted: 22 December 2017 / Published: 5 January 2018
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Abstract
Organochlorine pesticides are used in agricultural areas and health campaigns, which reach the coastal environment through rivers, drains, runoffs, and atmospheric transport. In aquatic environments, they are adsorbed by particles of organic matter, depositing themselves in sediments in the bottom of these bodies, [...] Read more.
Organochlorine pesticides are used in agricultural areas and health campaigns, which reach the coastal environment through rivers, drains, runoffs, and atmospheric transport. In aquatic environments, they are adsorbed by particles of organic matter, depositing themselves in sediments in the bottom of these bodies, in which benthic organisms of commercial interest for human consumption inhabit. The objective of this research was to evaluate the concentration of organochlorine pesticides in sediment from the Alvarado lagoon system in Veracruz, Mexico. In 20 out of 41 sampling sites analyzed, 11 banned organochlorine pesticides were identified, such as hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH), lindane, aldrin, dieldrin, and endrin. The highest concentrations were as follows: aldrin: 46.05 ng g−1; β-HCH: 42.11 ng g−1; α-HCH: 38.44 ng g−1; gamma γ-HCH (lindane): 34.20 ng g−1; δ-HCH: 31.61 ng g−1; methoxychlor: 29.40 ng g−1; heptachlor epoxide: 25.70 ng g−1; heptachlor: 24.11 ng g−1; dieldrin: 22.13 ng g−1; endrin: 21.23 ng g−1; endrin aldehyde: 12.40 ng g−1. Concentrations reported are prohibited in international standards. There is a strong need to further evaluate, with scientific studies, the level of concentration reported by impact of compounds widely used in agricultural livestock activities. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Diversified Forage Cropping Systems and Their Implications on Resilience and Productivity
Sustainability 2018, 10(11), 3920; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10113920
Received: 21 September 2018 / Revised: 24 October 2018 / Accepted: 24 October 2018 / Published: 28 October 2018
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Abstract
Plant diversity is associated with resilient ecosystems. Loss of plant biodiversity triggered by anthropogenic and climatic factors jeopardizes environmental stability and sustainable forage production. The understanding of biodiversity mechanisms and functional traits of species can help to design forage production systems to buffer [...] Read more.
Plant diversity is associated with resilient ecosystems. Loss of plant biodiversity triggered by anthropogenic and climatic factors jeopardizes environmental stability and sustainable forage production. The understanding of biodiversity mechanisms and functional traits of species can help to design forage production systems to buffer against perturbations. Resilience and productivity are linked to plant species characteristics and interactions that enable them to recover from adverse conditions and compensate for the loss of susceptible species. Benefits of diversified crops including enhanced carbon assimilation, nitrogen fixation, and turnover are transferred to soil microbes which in return contribute to resilience against drought and poor soil fertility. In the absence of disturbances, these mechanisms are credited for stability and climax ecosystems. Cultivated systems are more fragile because management interferes with many functions while maintaining few. Strategies that sustain an entire range of functions can increase production regardless of climatic and management factors. This has been demonstrated in binary mixtures of cool season grasses including meadow bromegrass (Bromus biebersteinii Roem. & Schult.), orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.), smooth bromegrass (Bromus inermis Leyss.), and intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium (Host) Barkworth & D.R. Dewey) with alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.). Suitable combinations of perennial species and cultivars bred for compatible traits can enhance resilience and productivity in a wide range of ecosystems. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Permaculture—Scientific Evidence of Principles for the Agroecological Design of Farming Systems
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3218; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093218
Received: 30 June 2018 / Revised: 3 September 2018 / Accepted: 6 September 2018 / Published: 8 September 2018
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Abstract
Modern industrial agriculture is largely responsible for environmental problems, such as biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and alteration of biogeochemical cycles or greenhouse gas emission. Agroecology, as a scientific discipline as well as an agricultural practice and movement, emerged as a response to these [...] Read more.
Modern industrial agriculture is largely responsible for environmental problems, such as biodiversity loss, soil degradation, and alteration of biogeochemical cycles or greenhouse gas emission. Agroecology, as a scientific discipline as well as an agricultural practice and movement, emerged as a response to these problems, with the goal to create a more sustainable agriculture. Another response was the emergence of permaculture, a design system based on design principles, as well as a framework for the methods of ecosystem mimicry and complex system optimization. Its emphasis, being on a conscious design of agroecosystems, is the major difference to other alternative agricultural approaches. Agroecology has been a scientific discipline for a few decades already, but only recently have design principles for the reorganization of faming systems been formulated, whereas permaculture practitioners have long been using design principles without them ever being scrutinized. Here, we review the scientific literature to evaluate the scientific basis for the design principles proposed by permaculture co-originator, David Holmgren. Scientific evidence for all twelve principles will be presented. Even though permaculture principles describing the structure of favorable agroecosystems were quite similar to the agroecological approach, permaculture in addition provides principles to guide the design, implementation, and maintenance of resilient agroecological systems. Full article
Open AccessReview
Worldwide Research on Plant Defense against Biotic Stresses as Improvement for Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 391; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020391
Received: 31 December 2017 / Revised: 30 January 2018 / Accepted: 1 February 2018 / Published: 2 February 2018
Cited by 16 | PDF Full-text (4899 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Agriculture is the basis for food production on a global scale. Sustainable agriculture tries to improve or maintain the quality of food without compromising the environment. As sessile organisms, plants cannot avoid adverse environmental conditions and contact with other living organisms. The damage [...] Read more.
Agriculture is the basis for food production on a global scale. Sustainable agriculture tries to improve or maintain the quality of food without compromising the environment. As sessile organisms, plants cannot avoid adverse environmental conditions and contact with other living organisms. The damage caused to plants by other living organisms such as parasites and pathogens (virus, bacteria, fungi, nematodes or insects) brings about what is known as biotic stress. Plants are constantly exposed to biotic stress, which causes changes in plant metabolism involving physiological damages that lead to a reduction of their productivity. To fight biotic stress, plants have developed sophisticated defense mechanisms. Thus, understanding plant defense mechanisms might prevent important crop and economic losses. In this article, a bibliometric analysis of biotic stress is carried out. Different aspects of the publications are analyzed, such as publication type, research field, journal type, countries and their institutions, as well as the keyword occurrence frequency, and finally special attention is paid to the plant studied by the leading countries and institutions. As expected, journals selected by authors to publish their relevant findings are plant-specific journals. However, it should be noted that the fourth position, in terms of the number of publications per journal, is occupied by BMC Genomics journal. Such a journal considers mainly articles on genomics, which indicates the involvement of genetic factors in the control of biotic stress. Analysis of the keywords used in publications about biotic stress shows the great interest in the biotic–abiotic stress interaction, in the gene expression regulation in plants as well as phytohormones in the current research. In short, the great effort made by the scientific community in the biotic and abiotic stresses field with the aim to understand, regulate and control plant damages caused by biotic stress agents will help in the development of sustainable agriculture. Full article
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