Special Issue "The Progressive Replacement of Traditional Agriculture by Precision Livestock Farming and Super-Intensive Crops: Effects on Land Degradation and New Challenges"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 August 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Simone di Prima
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Dr. Jesús Rodrigo-Comino
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Physical Geography, University of Trier, 54296 Trier, Germany
2. Instituto de Geomorfología y Suelos, Department of Geography, University of Málaga, 29071 Málaga, Spain
Interests: Soil geography; soil erosion; land degradation
Dr. Mirko Castellini
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

According to United Nations projections, humanity must face a new challenge: feeding ca. 9 billion people by 2050, of which more than half will live in cities and will experience a higher consumption of meat. In parallel to this geographic process, humankind will also experience a greater demand in terms of the quality of agricultural products: shape, size, color, organic origin, biolabeling, etc.; this goes along with significant advances in machinery and knowledge (e.g., tractors driven by GPS systems) within a globalized context of market agriculture and climate change.

These coming changes will lead to revolutionary transformations in systems that we have considered as traditional (e.g., slash and burn agriculture, rainfed olive trees and vineyards, extensive rangelands and grasslands, etc.) due to their long permanence in time and their legacy to local communities. Presumably, more productive areas will be intensified, and the less-productive ones will be abandoned although the economic and environmental limits (context depending) of each system will undoubtedly alter this hypothetical linearity.

At present, many territories are already experiencing significant changes in land use/management. Many farmers have adapted their farming systems to precision livestock farming principles in order to involve smart sensors in their farm management. This phenomenon, along with previous livestock husbandry intensification, is progressively converting extensive increases in marginal practices that are economically supported by the European Union thanks to their provision of ecological services and the possibility of fixing rural populations within rural environments.

For instance, in the millenary rainfed Mediterranean agriculture, the arrival of super-intensive crops of vineyard and olive trees using smart drop irrigation systems and precision machinery is dramatically changing the landscape configuration, the temporary jobs of the local population, water resources, and the temporal dynamics of the product prices.

Considering the factors mentioned above, in this Special Issue we are particularly interested in better knowing and understanding how this progressive replacement of traditional systems with new ones is affecting land degradation processes, including:

  • Soil erosion;
  • Loss of biodiversity;
  • Depletion of water resources;
  • Soil and water pollution;
  • Soil salinization;
  • Soil compaction;
  • and other agro-environmental processes.

Research papers focusing on geographical areas that are now experiencing significant changes in land use/management in terms of the substitution of traditional practices are welcome. Models or in situ experiments as well as reviews or technical reports are strongly encouraged.

Prof. Dr. Manuel Pulido Fernández
Dr. Simone di Prima
Dr. Jesús Rodrigo-Comino
Dr. Mirko Castellini
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Land management
  • Machinery
  • Technology
  • Soil quality

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Article
Shade-Grown Coffee in Colombia Benefits Soil Hydraulic Conductivity
Sustainability 2021, 13(14), 7768; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13147768 - 12 Jul 2021
Viewed by 440
Abstract
Secondary tropical forests and coffee agroforestry systems contain fewer trees than native forests but can positively impact soil hydrological functions, such as water infiltration compared to the pasture land that they replace. However, for both land uses it remains in how far the [...] Read more.
Secondary tropical forests and coffee agroforestry systems contain fewer trees than native forests but can positively impact soil hydrological functions, such as water infiltration compared to the pasture land that they replace. However, for both land uses it remains in how far the soil hydraulic characteristics are comparable to that of native forest. Therefore, we investigated the saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks) and some hydrophysical soil attributes in four land-use types: (i) a shade-grown coffee; (ii) a natural regenerated forest 15 years ago; (iii) a pasture; and (iv) a reference forest, in the municipality of La Jagua de Ibirico, César department, Colombia. We determined historical land use and conducted soil sampling, using the Beerkan method to determine the Ks values. We also measured canopy cover, vegetation height, diameter at breast height and total number of trees in the forest covers. Our results indicate that Ks values were similar for the coffee and the reference forest, reflecting the positive effect of trees on soil hydrological functioning in agroforestry systems. Our results suggest that 15 years of forest regeneration after land abandonment in Sub-Andean Forest, can improve the soil hydraulic attributes. Additionally, soil water repellency was observed for the reference forest soil. Full article
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Article
Long-Term Trial of Tillage Systems for Sugarcane: Effect on Topsoil Hydrophysical Attributes
Sustainability 2021, 13(6), 3448; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063448 - 20 Mar 2021
Viewed by 472
Abstract
Seeking to provide essential information about sustainable tillage systems, this work aimed to assess the effects of liming and soil cultivation systems on the soil hydrophysical attributes of a long-term cultivated sugarcane field in the tropical region of southeast Brazil. Infiltration tests and [...] Read more.
Seeking to provide essential information about sustainable tillage systems, this work aimed to assess the effects of liming and soil cultivation systems on the soil hydrophysical attributes of a long-term cultivated sugarcane field in the tropical region of southeast Brazil. Infiltration tests and soil sampling down to 0.10 m were performed in order to determine saturated soil hydraulic conductivity, soil bulk density, soil total porosity, macroporosity, microporosity, and soil resistance to penetration. The studied areas include no-tillage (NT) and conventional tillage (CT) systems with 0 (CT0 and NT0) and 4 (CT4 and NT4) Mg ha−1 of lime, and an adjoining area with native forest (NF). The data analysis included an analysis of variance followed by the Tukey test to compare different systems, assessment of the Pearson correlation coefficient between variables, and a principal component analysis of the dataset. The lowest bulk density and highest soil total porosity, macroporosity and saturated hydraulic conductivity were found in the NF. The bulk density in CT4 and NT0 was higher than in other systems, indicating the need for amelioration. NT4 is suggested as the most viable system for conservation agriculture in sugarcane fields, combining the benefits of no-tillage and liming to enhance soil hydrophysical functions. Full article
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Article
Tillage Impacts on Initial Soil Erosion in Wheat and Sainfoin Fields under Simulated Extreme Rainfall Treatments
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 789; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020789 - 15 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 442
Abstract
The main aim of this research was to determine the potential effects of different tillage systems (TT: traditional tillage and RT: reduced tillage) on runoff and erosion at two different locations (Kahramanmaras and Tarsus, Southern Turkey) under (i) fallow, (ii) wheat (Triticumaestivum [...] Read more.
The main aim of this research was to determine the potential effects of different tillage systems (TT: traditional tillage and RT: reduced tillage) on runoff and erosion at two different locations (Kahramanmaras and Tarsus, Southern Turkey) under (i) fallow, (ii) wheat (Triticumaestivum L.), and (iii) sainfoin (Onobrychissativa L.) crops. Rainfall simulations with intensity of 120 mm h−1 and 30-min duration, representing a typical extreme thunderstorm in this area, were used. We quantified the elapsed time to runoff generation (ET), total runoff volume (R), soil loss (SL), sediment concentration (SC), and runoff coefficient (RC). At both locations, the fallow plots indicated the first runoff response ranging between 1.2 and 3.1 min, while the range was between 9.4 and 8.9 min for the sainfoin plots. The highest runoff coefficient was recorded for the fallow parcel in Tarsus (57.7%), and the lowest runoff coefficient was recorded for the sainfoin parcel in Kahramanmaras (4%). For both study sites, the fallow plots showed higher soil erosion rates (871 and 29.21 g m−2) compared with the wheat plots (307 and 11.25 g m−2), while sainfoin recorded the lowest soil losses (93.68 and 3.45 g m−2), for Tarsus and Kahramanmaras, respectively. Runoff and sediment yield generated from sainfoin and wheat parcels under the RT system were less than under the TT system at the Kahramanmaras location. At the Tarsus location, the effect of soil tillage on soil and water losses was insignificant on the sainfoin planted plots. The reduced tillage system was successful in reducing sediment yield and runoff generated from parcels growing wheat and sainfoin compared to traditional tillage in Tarsus location, but runoff and soil loss were found to be very high compared to parcels constructed in the Kahramanmaras location. Full article
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Article
Anthropogenic Disturbances and Precipitation Affect Karst Sediment Discharge in the Nandong Underground River System in Yunnan, Southwest China
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 3006; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12073006 - 09 Apr 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 670
Abstract
In fragile karst environments that have seen past and current human exploitation of agricultural and forest resources, the quantification of underground riverine sediment has been widely used to evaluate subterranean stream basin erosion. These measures are highly influenced by both precipitation and anthropogenic [...] Read more.
In fragile karst environments that have seen past and current human exploitation of agricultural and forest resources, the quantification of underground riverine sediment has been widely used to evaluate subterranean stream basin erosion. These measures are highly influenced by both precipitation and anthropogenic factors; therefore, soil erosion control measures must be urgently designed and applied. In this study, 17 years of sediment discharge across the Nandong underground river system in southwest China was monitored. To achieve this goal, the Mann–Kendal mutation test and proxy indicators were used to estimate the general influence of human activities and precipitation on sediment discharge. The results showed that: (1) Both anthropologic disturbance and rainfall have impacted the sediment discharge, although the influence of the anthropologic factor on sediment discharge was greater (61.53%), and (2) rainfall showed a hysteresis effect on sediment discharge. We obtained three different stages based on the mutation points and variation characteristics of the studied sediment discharge resulting from different driving forces, from 1998 to 2014. Prior to 2004, in the whole basin, the decrease of sediment yield was the result of the Natural Forest Protection Project. During the period from 2004 to 2008, due to continuous droughts, flood disasters, and intensive cultivation practices on the steeper hillslopes, the total sediment discharge of the whole basin increased. After 2009, the sediment discharge decreased due to the development of soil conservation projects and mushrooming reservoirs. These findings are expected to provide insights into watershed management and ecological restoration in fragile karst ecosystems, specifically, in southwestern Chinese river systems. More research must be conducted to monitor, with in situ measurements and observations, possible extreme events that can determine the exact erosion control measures that need to be designed and applied. Full article
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Article
Exploring Livelihood Strategies of Shifting Cultivation Farmers in Assam through Games
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2438; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062438 - 20 Mar 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 945
Abstract
Understanding landscape change starts with understanding what motivates farmers to transition away from one system, shifting cultivation, into another, like plantation crops. Here we explored the resource allocation strategies of the farmers of the Karbi tribe in Northeast India, who practice a traditional [...] Read more.
Understanding landscape change starts with understanding what motivates farmers to transition away from one system, shifting cultivation, into another, like plantation crops. Here we explored the resource allocation strategies of the farmers of the Karbi tribe in Northeast India, who practice a traditional shifting cultivation system called jhum. Through a participatory modelling framework, we co-developed a role-playing game of the local farming system. In the game, farmers allocated labour and cash to meet household needs, while also investing in new opportunities like bamboo, rubber and tea, or the chance to improve their living standards. Farmers did embrace new options where investment costs, especially monetary investments, are low. Returns on these investments were not automatically re-invested in further long-term, more expensive and promising opportunities. Instead, most of the money is spend on improving household living standards, particularly the next generation’s education. The landscape changed profoundly based on the farmers’ strategies. Natural ecological succession was replaced by an improved fallow of marketable bamboo species. Plantations of tea and rubber became more prevalent as time progressed while old practices ensuring food security were not yet given up. Full article
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Article
Spatio-Temporal Variability and the Factors Influencing Soil-Available Heavy Metal Micronutrients in Different Agricultural Sub-Catchments
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 5912; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11215912 - 24 Oct 2019
Viewed by 690
Abstract
Information on the spatial variability of soil-available micronutrients is important for farming and soil management practices. As current knowledge of factors influencing soil available micro-nutrients in the long-term scales is limited, we analyzed 821 and 812 representative surface (0–20 cm) soil samples from [...] Read more.
Information on the spatial variability of soil-available micronutrients is important for farming and soil management practices. As current knowledge of factors influencing soil available micro-nutrients in the long-term scales is limited, we analyzed 821 and 812 representative surface (0–20 cm) soil samples from five sub-catchments in the Ping Gu intermontane basin in Beijing, China in 2007 and 2017. The objectives of this study were to assess the temporal and spatial distribution characteristics of soil-available micronutrients (Cu, Zn, Fe and Mn) and their relationships with soil’s chemical properties. The concentration of available Cu ranged from 1–2 mg∙kg−1 distributing over a large area in 2007, but it was more than 2 mg∙kg−1 in the hilly regions in 2017. The concentration of available Zn (>5 mg∙kg−1) increased significantly from 2007 to 2017, and showed an uneven distribution. The distribution of available Fe and Mn decreased from the northeast to the southwest region of the study area between 2007 and 2017, this being consistent with the topography in this area. Soil’s available P (AP) had a higher contribution to available Cu and Zn in different sub-catchments. In addition, soil pH had a significant negative influence on available Fe in sub-catchments 1, 2 and 3, and on available Mn in all sub-catchments, except for sub-catchment 4. Moreover, the effects of soil chemical properties on soil-available micronutrients increased in each sub-catchment from 2007 to 2017. We conclude that differences in soil properties and land-use types were the main reasons for the spatial variability of soil-available micronutrients in the Ping Gu intermontane basin. Full article
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Article
Effects of Applying Liquid Swine Manure on Soil Quality and Yield Production in Tropical Soybean Crops (Paraná, Brazil)
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3898; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143898 - 17 Jul 2019
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 1188
Abstract
Brazil is one of the main producers of pork meat in the world. It is well-known that the agricultural sector is a key component of the economic development of this country, where super-intensive fields are only competitive in the globalized market. For the [...] Read more.
Brazil is one of the main producers of pork meat in the world. It is well-known that the agricultural sector is a key component of the economic development of this country, where super-intensive fields are only competitive in the globalized market. For the farmers, the application of swine manure to fertilize the soil can increase the yearly income, but it also may cause serious environmental problems related to soil health and soil quality. In this research, we assessed the effects of applying liquid swine manure in a tropical soybean (Glycine max) plantation to better understand when this technique stops being effective and starts causing a threat to soil health and quality. Therefore, we compared values of several soil properties and the soybean yield on treated fields at 10 random points belonging to 7 different plots that were treated with the liquid swine manure over a period ranging from 0 to 15 years. The results showed a positive linear trend in soybean production from 2.45 to 3.08 Mg ha−1 yr−1. This positive trend was also recorded for some key soil parameters such as porosity and exchangeable cations content (Ca, Mg, K, and Al). Additionally, positive effects were also found for organic matter content after 10 years of application. Our findings suggest that the use of liquid swine manure has a positive effect on soybean yield and improves soil quality, particularly on mixed farms where pigs are intensively raised nearby cultivated fields. Full article
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