Special Issue "Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Roberto Mancinelli
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Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, 01100, Viterbo, Italy
Interests: crop production; crop protection; weed control; agricultural systems and management; environment and climate change in agriculture; greenhouse gas emissions
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Emanuele Radicetti
Website1 Website2 Website3
Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture and Forest Sciences (DAFNE), University of Tuscia, 01100, Viterbo, Italy
Interests: crop management and production; weed management; weed community composition; integrated weed management (IWM); soil fertility and plant nutrition; sustainable cropping systems; environmental science
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The agricultural models that have been developed in the last century, mainly in industrialized countries, have contributed to changes in agroecosystems and environmental quality; some of these changes have been quite extensive. By simplifying agroecosystems, the adoption of intensive systems designed in accordance with the maximum crop specialization principle have taken place at the expense of the massive use of auxiliary energy in the form of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, synthetic substances, etc. The consequent challenges are of an energetic nature, and there are concerns regarding the loss of soil fertility, soil carbon reduction, eutrophication and water pollution, the breakdown of biological balances, poisoning of the food chain, and danger to the health of agricultural operators. All of these aspects require a revision of the ways in which food is produced. Farms should operate by adhering more closely to the principles that govern the functioning of natural ecosystems. Cropping systems should be designed and managed with a high level of environmental sustainability, using natural resources (water, solar radiation, etc.) and with production directed towards both achieving a high quality and quantity sufficient for satisfying consumers’ food demands. Hence, the transfer of specialized cropping systems to integrated agroecosystems has become a pressing need.

To realize these objectives, demanding and in-depth studies are needed to find new cultivation strategies with suitable agronomic techniques which lead to sustainable agriculture and greater environmental balance. The components and functions of farms (agroecosystems) must be integrated and persist over time.

Suitable agronomic techniques, such as crops managed in a correct rotation and/or intercropping, soil tillage tools and management, weed control, and pest strategies, etc., should be applied singularly and/or in combination.

This Special Issue of Sustainability will present a collection of papers which analyze modern and innovative agronomic techniques suitable for both herbaceous and tree sustainable cropping systems. The innovative agronomic techniques described in this Special Issue should amplify the current knowledge and contribute to shedding light on new pathways for sustainable food production in farm cropping systems.

Dr. Agr. Roberto Mancinelli
Dr. Emanuele Radicetti
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • agronomic techniques
  • sustainable agroecosystems
  • cropping systems management
  • soil tillage and management
  • crop yield
  • soil nutrient management
  • soil carbon sequestration
  • weed control
  • food quality production
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • precision agriculture

Published Papers (41 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Minimizing Lentil Harvest Loss through Improved Agronomic Practices in Sustainable Agro-Systems
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1896; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041896 - 10 Feb 2021
Viewed by 229
Abstract
Lentils are one of the most common legume crops used to diversify the cereal-oilseed cropping system in semi-arid environments. Lentils are a major source of protein and fiber for human consumption worldwide. However, the morphological characteristics of lentil plants—such as a short stem [...] Read more.
Lentils are one of the most common legume crops used to diversify the cereal-oilseed cropping system in semi-arid environments. Lentils are a major source of protein and fiber for human consumption worldwide. However, the morphological characteristics of lentil plants—such as a short stem and low pod positioning—and complicated combine harvesting methods often result in yield loss. This also increases the susceptibility of a lentil crop to disease and render it less competitive against weeds. As a result, producers have resorted to using pesticides in order to mitigate the effects of weeds and disease. As a consequence, there have been undesirable negative environmental impacts on sustainable agroecosystems. Although land rolling, stubble management, and pesticide usage are common agronomic practices used to increase lentil yield and mitigate the issues associated with its morphology, their comprehensive effects on lentil growth and harvest loss are still not fully understood. In this study, we examined the impact of stubble management, the timing of land rolling, and the application of common fungicides and herbicides on lentil growth and yield. We found that stubble management and the timing of rolling modified lentil morphological structures, and thus impacted lentil yield and seed loss. These results were influenced by environmental factors, such as precipitation during the growing season. Although the results did not show significant interaction between fungicide application and lentil growth and yield, herbicide applications, stubble management, and the timing of rolling, along with common pesticide application strategies tested in our study, showed effects that were dependent on environmental conditions. Based on our results, we concluded that stubble management and the timing of rolling, combined with pesticide applications, can affect lentil seed loss and yield by modifying plant morphology. This was largely influenced by environmental conditions such as precipitation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluating Different Catch Crop Strategies for Closing the Nitrogen Cycle in Cropping Systems—Field Experiments and Modelling
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010394 - 04 Jan 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 390
Abstract
For arable stockless farming systems, the integration of catch crops (CC) during the fallow period might be a key for closing the nitrogen (N) cycle, reducing N leaching and increasing the transfer of N to the subsequent crop. However, despite considerable research efforts, [...] Read more.
For arable stockless farming systems, the integration of catch crops (CC) during the fallow period might be a key for closing the nitrogen (N) cycle, reducing N leaching and increasing the transfer of N to the subsequent crop. However, despite considerable research efforts, the fate of N in such integrated systems remains unclear. To address this, a two-year field experiment was carried out in northern Germany with different CC, including frost-tolerant and frost-killed CC. The experiment started following a two-year ryegrass/red clover ley, which was subsequently sown with a cereal (CE) or a grain legume (field pea, PE). This provided two contrasting systems with high residual N in autumn. The results showed high N uptake of the CC, ranging from 84 to 136 kg N ha−1 with PE as the pre-crop, and from 33 to 110 kg N ha−1 with CE. All CC reduced N leaching compared with the control, a bare fallow over autumn/winter. Of the various CC, the frost-killed CC showed higher leaching compared with the other CCs, indicating mineralisation of the CC residue in the later autumn/winter period. The process based APSIM (Agricultural Production SIMulator) model was used to simulate N cycling for a cereal grain legume rotation, including a frost-killed and a frost resistant CC. While the model simulated the biomass and the N uptake by the crops, as well as the reduction of N leaching with the use of CC well, it under-estimated N leaching from the frost-killed CC. The study showed that all CC were affective at reducing N leaching, but winter hard catch crops should be preferred, as there is a risk of increased leaching following the mineralisation of residues from frost-killed CC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
The Environmental Impacts of the Grassland Agricultural System and the Cultivated Land Agricultural System: A Comparative Analysis in Eastern Gansu
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10602; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410602 - 18 Dec 2020
Viewed by 323
Abstract
“Introducing grass into fields”, the major approach to modern grassland agriculture, is the crucial direction of agricultural structure adjustment in the farming-pastoral zone of Northern China. However, there have been few studies on the environmental impacts of agricultural production in this pattern. We [...] Read more.
“Introducing grass into fields”, the major approach to modern grassland agriculture, is the crucial direction of agricultural structure adjustment in the farming-pastoral zone of Northern China. However, there have been few studies on the environmental impacts of agricultural production in this pattern. We used the life cycle assessment (LCA) method for the first time from the perspective of the entire industry chain from agricultural material production to livestock marketing, which involves the combination of planting and breeding. A comparative analysis of the environmental impact processes of beef and pork, the main products of the two existing agricultural systems in Eastern Gansu, was conducted. The findings showed that based on the production capacity of the 1 ha land system, the comprehensive environmental impact benefit of the grassland agricultural system (GAS) in the farming-pastoral zone was 21.82%, higher than that of the cultivated land agricultural system (CLAS). On Primary energy demand (PED) and environmental acidification potential (AP), the GAS needs improvement because those values were 38.66% and 22.01% higher than those of the CLAS, respectively; on global warming potential (GWP), eutrophication potential (EP), and water use (WU), the GAS performed more environment-friendlily because those values were 25.00%, 68.37%, and 11.88% lower than those of the CLAS, respectively. This indicates that a change in land use will lead to a change in environmental impacts. Therefore, PED and AP should be focused on the progress of grassland agriculture modernization by “introducing grass into fields” and new agricultural technologies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Development of a Soil Quality Index for Soils under Different Agricultural Management Conditions in the Central Lowlands of Mexico: Physicochemical, Biological and Ecophysiological Indicators
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9754; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229754 - 23 Nov 2020
Viewed by 323
Abstract
The Bajío—Mexico’s central lowlands—is a region of economic importance because of its agricultural industry. Over time, agricultural practices have led to soil deterioration, loss of fertility, and abandonment. In this study, six agricultural soils were analyzed: AGQ, CTH, CTJ, JRM, CRC, and CYI, [...] Read more.
The Bajío—Mexico’s central lowlands—is a region of economic importance because of its agricultural industry. Over time, agricultural practices have led to soil deterioration, loss of fertility, and abandonment. In this study, six agricultural soils were analyzed: AGQ, CTH, CTJ, JRM, CRC, and CYI, and used to develop a soil quality index (SQI) that includes the use of physicochemical, biological, and ecophysiological indicators to differentiate soil quality. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used, reducing the indicators from 46 to 4, which represents 80.4% of data variability. It was implemented the equation of additive weights using the variance of the principal components as a weight factor for the SQI. The developed SQI was according to the indicators WHC, SLT, N-NO3, and qCO2, differentiating the quality of soils from the agricultural management in low quality (JRM < CYI < AGQ) and moderate quality (CTJ < CRC < CTH). The use of biological and ecophysiological indicators added to the PCA and the equation of additive weights allowed establishing an SQI with a minimum of indicators, sensitive to agricultural management, facilitating its interpretation and implementation for the Mexican Bajío region and soils in similar conditions around the world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Picture-Based Agricultural Extension Lessons Developed Using Participatory Testing and Editing with Smallholder Women Farmers in Nepal
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9699; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229699 - 20 Nov 2020
Viewed by 710
Abstract
Printed pictures are traditional forms of agricultural extension for smallholder farmers. They receive historical academic criticism but remain inexpensive, do not require technical skills (unlike smartphones), and bypass language/literacy barriers. Here, a comprehensive participatory pipeline is described that included 56 Nepalese women farmer [...] Read more.
Printed pictures are traditional forms of agricultural extension for smallholder farmers. They receive historical academic criticism but remain inexpensive, do not require technical skills (unlike smartphones), and bypass language/literacy barriers. Here, a comprehensive participatory pipeline is described that included 56 Nepalese women farmer editors to develop 100 picture-based lessons. Thereafter, the Theory of Planned Behavior is used as a framework to evaluate 20 diverse lessons using quantitative and qualitative data (Nvivo-11) collected from four groups, focusing on low-literacy women: the women farmer editors (n = 56); smallholder field testers who had prior exposure to extension agents and the actual innovations (control group, n = 120), and those who did not (test group, n = 60); expert stakeholders (extension agents/scientists, n = 25). The expected comprehension difference between farmer groups was non-substantive, suggesting that the participatory editing/testing approaches were effective. There were surprising findings compared to the academic literature: smallholders comprehended the pictures without the help of extension agents, perhaps because of the participatory approaches used; children assisted their mothers to understand caption-based lessons; the farmers preferred printed pictures compared to advanced information and communication technologies (ICTs); and the resource-poor farmers were willing to pay for the printed materials, sufficient to make them cost-neutral/scalable. These findings have implications for smallholder farmers beyond Nepal. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Carbon and Nitrogen Stocks and Soil Quality in an Area Cultivated with Guinea Grass under the Residual Effect of Nitrogen Doses
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9381; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229381 - 11 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 278
Abstract
This study examines the residual effect of nitrogen (N) doses on the carbon (C) and N stocks and on soil quality in an area cultivated with guinea grass. The pastures received three annual doses of N (100, 200 and 300 kg ha−1 [...] Read more.
This study examines the residual effect of nitrogen (N) doses on the carbon (C) and N stocks and on soil quality in an area cultivated with guinea grass. The pastures received three annual doses of N (100, 200 and 300 kg ha−1) from 2015 to 2017. In 2018, N fertilization was not applied so the residual effect of the nutrient could be characterized. Soil chemical attributes, C and N stocks, density and penetration resistance and root system characteristics were evaluated at different depths. No difference was observed between the N doses for soil density, which averaged 1.22 and 1.25 g cm−3 under and between the tussocks of guinea grass, respectively. Penetration resistance was affected by the N doses post-grazing, with the highest value (1.9 MPa) observed in pastures that received 300 kg ha−1 of N for three consecutive years. Root dry mass was not affected by the N doses. There was no effect of N doses on the average (19.7 mg ha−1) or total (134.3 mg ha−1) C stock in the soil. The total N stock did not change (11.3 mg ha−1) in response to the N doses; however, the average N stock was higher in the soil cultivated with guinea grass under the N dose of 300 kg ha−1 (1.7 mg ha−1). The N doses had little interference with the soil chemical and physical aspects. Regardless of the dose, high C and N stocks were observed in the soil cultivated with guinea grass. Therefore, when properly managed, intensive pasture-based animal production systems become important allies of the environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Artificial Intelligence Approach for Tomato Detection and Mass Estimation in Precision Agriculture
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9138; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219138 - 03 Nov 2020
Viewed by 467
Abstract
Application of computer vision and robotics in agriculture requires sufficient knowledge and understanding of the physical properties of the object of interest. Yield monitoring is an example where these properties affect the quantified estimation of yield mass. In this study, we propose an [...] Read more.
Application of computer vision and robotics in agriculture requires sufficient knowledge and understanding of the physical properties of the object of interest. Yield monitoring is an example where these properties affect the quantified estimation of yield mass. In this study, we propose an image-processing and artificial intelligence-based system using multi-class detection with instance-wise segmentation of fruits in an image that can further estimate dimensions and mass. We analyze a tomato image dataset with mass and dimension values collected using a calibrated vision system and accurate measuring devices. After successful detection and instance-wise segmentation, we extract the real-world dimensions of the fruit. Our characterization results exhibited a significantly high correlation between dimensions and mass, indicating that artificial intelligence algorithms can effectively capture this complex physical relation to estimate the final mass. We also compare different artificial intelligence algorithms to show that the computed mass agrees well with the actual mass. Detection and segmentation results show an average mask intersection over union of 96.05%, mean average precision of 92.28%, detection accuracy of 99.02%, and precision of 99.7%. The mean absolute percentage error for mass estimation was 7.09 for 77 test samples using a bagged ensemble tree regressor. This approach could be applied to other computer vision and robotic applications such as sizing and packaging systems and automated harvesting or to other measuring instruments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Influence of Agricultural Management Practices on the Soil Properties and Mineral Composition of Potato Tubers with Different Colored Flesh
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9103; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219103 - 01 Nov 2020
Viewed by 589
Abstract
The objective of the work was to investigate and estimate the effects of conventional, organic, and biodynamic farming systems on biological and agrochemical soil properties and mineral composition of potato tubers with different colored flesh. This study compared the same biological and agrochemical [...] Read more.
The objective of the work was to investigate and estimate the effects of conventional, organic, and biodynamic farming systems on biological and agrochemical soil properties and mineral composition of potato tubers with different colored flesh. This study compared the same biological and agrochemical soil quality indicators on samples collected at three sampling times: before potato planting, the middle of the potato season, and before harvesting. In addition, macro- and microelement contents were determined in the tubers. The results showed that the highest soil microbial biomass contents, dehydrogenase activity, and humus contents were found before potato planting in a conventional farming system. However, from potato planting until the end of the growing season, these soil biological indicators significantly decreased in the soil of conventional farming, but significant increases were recorded in organic and biodynamic treatments. The highest contents of all tested nitrogen forms, phosphorus and potassium, were found in the middle of the potato growing season in a conventional farming system. Before harvesting, significant decreases in all studied agrochemical soil quality indicators were observed in all farming systems. The organic and biodynamic potatoes contained significantly more K, P, and Ca than conventional potatoes. In addition, organic samples had significantly higher contents of Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, and B in comparison to the biodynamic and conventional ones. The cultivar effect on the content of selected minerals in the samples was also observed. Red Emmalie contained more K, N, and B. Salad Blue had the highest contents of Fe, Mn, and Zn in comparison to other studied cultivars. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
Open AccessArticle
Test Rig and Method for Comparative Evaluation of Conventional and Bio-Based Hydraulic Fluids and Lubricants for Agricultural Transmissions
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8564; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208564 - 16 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 454
Abstract
The use of lubricants and hydraulic fluids of both mineral and synthetic origin in agricultural processes could have a deep impact on the environment as a result of their possible dispersion in the ground and aquifers. Replacing them with bio-based fluids, developed to [...] Read more.
The use of lubricants and hydraulic fluids of both mineral and synthetic origin in agricultural processes could have a deep impact on the environment as a result of their possible dispersion in the ground and aquifers. Replacing them with bio-based fluids, developed to provide good tribological properties and high biodegradability, could contribute to reducing their negative effects. The evaluation of the capacity of such innovative fluids to replace the conventional ones is based on work cycles lasting as long as their lifetime, during which their characteristics must prove to be at least equal to those of the fluids they replace. To shorten the evaluation process, CREA (Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia Agraria) developed a fluid test rig (FTR) and related test method, able to apply severe work cycles on small oil volumes, thereby accelerating the aging of the fluid beyond what typically occurs. This paper reports the results of the tests on FTR’s functionality carried out comparing two UTTO (Universal Tractor Transmission Oil) fluids: a widespread conventional fluid and an experimental vegetable-based oil. The FTR will permit, in a relatively short time, the assessment of the most promising formulations to be tested later under real working conditions, e.g., in agricultural tractors, reducing the risk of damage, before their ultimate introduction into the operating reality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Potential Role of Fertilizer Sources and Soil Tillage Practices to Mitigate Soil CO2 Emissions in Mediterranean Potato Production Systems
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8543; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208543 - 15 Oct 2020
Viewed by 464
Abstract
Agricultural practices should be approached with environmental-friendly strategies, able to restore soil organic matter and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. The main objective of this study is to evaluate the environmental benefits, in terms of CO2 emissions and carbon balance, of some [...] Read more.
Agricultural practices should be approached with environmental-friendly strategies, able to restore soil organic matter and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. The main objective of this study is to evaluate the environmental benefits, in terms of CO2 emissions and carbon balance, of some agricultural practices for potato cultivation. A randomized complete block design was adopted where the treatments were: (a) tillage systems (plowing; subsoiler and spading); (b) fertilizer sources (mineral and organic). All treatments were replicated three times. Potato yield and its carbon content, soil CO2 emissions, temperature, and volumetric water content were measured. The CO2 emissions were higher in organic than in mineral fertilizer (0.60 and vs. 0.77 g m−2 h−1, respectively), while they were low in spading compared to the other soil tillage (0.64 vs. 0.72 g m−2 h−1, respectively). Carbon input was the highest in plowing and organic fertilizer 4.76 and 5.59 Mg C ha−1, respectively. The input/output ratio of carbon varied according to the main treatments. The findings suggest that spading tillage and organic fertilizer might result in environmental and agronomical benefits, further research should be performed to evaluate to possibility to extend the results to other environments and crops. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
The Impact of Behavioral Drivers on Adoption of Sustainable Agricultural Practices: The Case of Organic Farming in Turkey
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 6875; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12176875 - 24 Aug 2020
Viewed by 675
Abstract
Adoption decisions represent a crucial topic in sustainable agriculture research, particularly in the organic agriculture sector; to understand farmers’ decision-making, research has to delve more deeply into the influences of farmers’ behavior. The aim of this study, therefore, is to determine the behavioral [...] Read more.
Adoption decisions represent a crucial topic in sustainable agriculture research, particularly in the organic agriculture sector; to understand farmers’ decision-making, research has to delve more deeply into the influences of farmers’ behavior. The aim of this study, therefore, is to determine the behavioral intentions of Turkish sultana raisin producers toward organic farming practices. The proposed model integrates basic elements of the Theory of Planned Behavior and the technology acceptance model, which is then tested with survey data gathered from conventional and organic farmers by applying structural equation modeling, a powerful multivariate statistical technique. The results reveal that organic agriculture is perceived as a useful low-cost innovation by conventional farmers. Relating the results to group comparisons indicates that members of the conventional group are significantly more likely to have a positive intention towards adopting organic farming practices. Our results suggest possible interventions that policymakers should implement not only to stimulate adoption intentions of conventional farmers, but also to sustain continuance of organic practices by current operators. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
An Economic Comparison between Alternative Rice Farming Systems in Tanzania Using a Monte Carlo Simulation Approach
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6528; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166528 - 12 Aug 2020
Viewed by 893
Abstract
Tanzania is the second-largest producer of rice (Oryza sativa) in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa after Madagascar. Unfortunately, the sector has been performing poorly due to many constraints, including poor agricultural practices and climate variability. In addressing the challenge, the government [...] Read more.
Tanzania is the second-largest producer of rice (Oryza sativa) in Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa after Madagascar. Unfortunately, the sector has been performing poorly due to many constraints, including poor agricultural practices and climate variability. In addressing the challenge, the government is making substantial investments to speed the agriculture transformation into a more modernized, commercial, and highly productive and profitable sector. Our objective was to apply a Monte Carlo simulation approach to assess the economic feasibility of alternative rice farming systems operating in Tanzania while considering risk analysis for decision-makers with different risk preferences to make better management decisions. The rice farming systems in this study comprise rice farms using traditional practices and those using some or all of the recommended system of rice intensification (SRI) practices. The overall results show 2% and zero probability of net cash income (NCI) being negative for partial and full SRI adopters, respectively. Meanwhile, farmers using local and improved seeds have 66% and 60% probability of NCI being negative, correspondingly. Rice farms which applied fertilizers in addition to improved seeds have a 21% probability of negative returns. Additionally, net income for rice farms using local seeds was slightly worthwhile when the transaction made during the harvesting period compared to farms applied improved varieties due to a relatively high price for local seeds. These results help to inform policymakers and agencies promoting food security and eradication of poverty on the benefits of encouraging improved rice farming practices in the country. Despite climate variability, in Tanzania, it is still possible for rice farmers to increase food production and income through the application of improved technologies, particularly SRI management practices, which have shown a promising future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Multi-Objective Optimization of Smallholder Apple Production: Lessons from the Bohai Bay Region
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6496; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166496 - 12 Aug 2020
Viewed by 363
Abstract
Transforming apple production to one with high yield and economic benefit but low environmental impact by improving P-use efficiency is an essential objective in China. However, the potential for multi-objective improvement for smallholders and the corresponding implications for horticultural practices are not fully [...] Read more.
Transforming apple production to one with high yield and economic benefit but low environmental impact by improving P-use efficiency is an essential objective in China. However, the potential for multi-objective improvement for smallholders and the corresponding implications for horticultural practices are not fully appreciated. Survey data collected from 99 apple producers in Quzhou County of Bohai Bay Region were analyzed by the Pareto-based multi-objective optimization method to determine the potential of multi-objective improvement in apple production. With current practices, apple yield was 45 t ha−1, and the economic benefit was nearly 83,000 CNY ha−1 but with as much as 344 kg P ha−1 input mainly from chemical fertilizer and manure. P gray water footprint was up to 27,200 m3 ha−1 due to low P-use efficiency. However, Pareto-optimized production, yield, and economic benefit could be improved by 38% and 111%, respectively. With a concurrent improvement in P-use efficiency, P gray water footprint was reduced by 29%. Multi-objective optimization was achieved with integrated horticultural practices. The study indicated that multi-objective optimization could be achieved at a smallholder scale with realistic changes in integrated horticultural practices. These findings serve to improve the understanding of multi-objective optimization for smallholders, identify possible constraints, and contribute to the development of strategies for sustainable apple production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Conservation Agriculture and Integrated Pest Management Practices Improve Yield and Income while Reducing Labor, Pests, Diseases and Chemical Pesticide Use in Smallholder Vegetable Farms in Nepal
Sustainability 2020, 12(16), 6418; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166418 - 10 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 617
Abstract
Improving smallholder vegetable farms are critical for improving food security and livelihoods of people in low-income countries. Vegetable production is labor intensive and prone to pests and diseases. Conservation agriculture (CA) and integrated pest management (IPM) practices provide options to increase yields and [...] Read more.
Improving smallholder vegetable farms are critical for improving food security and livelihoods of people in low-income countries. Vegetable production is labor intensive and prone to pests and diseases. Conservation agriculture (CA) and integrated pest management (IPM) practices provide options to increase yields and minimize the use of chemical pesticides. We compared integration of CA and IPM practices (improved alternative system) with farmers’ traditional practice (conventional system) under replicated on-farm tests in four different locations (Lalitpur, Banke, Surkhet, and Dadeldhura) in Nepal. Data on yield, benefit–cost ratio (B:C), labor requirement, insect and disease infestation, and pesticide sprays on five major vegetable crops (tomato, cucumber, bitter gourd, cabbage, cauliflower) were measured. In tomatoes, cucumbers, and bitter gourds, the improved alternative system produced a significantly higher yield, greater benefit-cost ratio, reduced labor, decreased the infestation of pests and diseases, and required fewer pesticidal sprays. Average yield and net income were superior in cabbages and cauliflowers, but nonsignificant. Improved alternative system for all the vegetables were sprayed significantly fewer times than the conventional system. Overall, the improved alternative system for vegetable crops contributed not only to the improved income and livelihoods of people, but also can improve environment and human health due to the reduced use of pesticides. Further research on scaling these improved alternative practices through appropriate farmer organizations, and government and non-government actors can enhance the adoption of CA and IPM practices by smallholder vegetable producers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Maize Straw Strip Mulching as a Replacement for Plastic Film Mulching in Maize Production in a Semiarid Region
Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 6273; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156273 - 04 Aug 2020
Viewed by 589
Abstract
Straw strip mulching in maize (Zea mays L.) production is showing a positive effect with the increasing negative effects coming from crop straw and plastic film residues. Therefore, it is imperative to develop comprehensive utilization of straw, and promote the green development [...] Read more.
Straw strip mulching in maize (Zea mays L.) production is showing a positive effect with the increasing negative effects coming from crop straw and plastic film residues. Therefore, it is imperative to develop comprehensive utilization of straw, and promote the green development of agriculture in rainfed regions. A dryland field experiment was conducted in semiarid northwestern China in 2017 and 2018 and included three treatments: maize straw strip mulching with alternating strips of mulched and non-mulched soil (MSSM), and double ridge-furrow fully mulched soil with white or black plastic film (DRWP or DRBP, respectively). The results show that the interaction between mulching treatment and year significantly influenced maize silage yield, grain yield, biomass yield, aboveground plant water content at silage maize harvest stage, ears ha−1, kernels ear−1, and thousand kernel weight (p < 0.001, p = 0.002, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, p < 0.001, and p < 0.001, respectively). For silage, maize growth under straw strip mulching was greater than that of the double ridge mulching system. Silage yield of MSSM was significantly higher than that of DRWP and DRBP, but maize grain and biomass yields under MSSM were significantly lower those under DRWP and DRBP in 2017 and 2018. Compared with the double ridge mulching system, net economic return from silage with MSSM was significantly increased by 28.31% and 20.85% in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and net economic return from grain was 6.67% lower in 2017 and 2.34% higher in 2018. The MSSM treatment exhibited water-temperature coupling; the MSSM treatment significantly reduced soil temperature in the 0–25 cm soil layer by 1.23–2.14 °C and increased soil water storage in the 0–200 cm soil layer by 9.75 and 24.10 mm in 2017 and 2018, respectively, thereby delaying growth development of maize by about 13 days. Therefore, straw mulch can replace plastic film mulch and serve as an environmentally friendly cultivation method for maize in semiarid rainfed regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Grass Buffer Strips Improve Soil Health and Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Center-Pivot Irrigated Cropping Systems
Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 6014; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156014 - 27 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 757
Abstract
Declining water resources and soil degradation have significantly affected agricultural sustainability across the world. In the southern High Plains of USA, buffer strips of perennial grasses alternating with cultivated corn strips were introduced in center-pivot irrigated crop fields to increase agronomic production and [...] Read more.
Declining water resources and soil degradation have significantly affected agricultural sustainability across the world. In the southern High Plains of USA, buffer strips of perennial grasses alternating with cultivated corn strips were introduced in center-pivot irrigated crop fields to increase agronomic production and ecosystem services. A study was conducted to evaluate soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and soil health benefits of integrating circular grass buffer strips in the center-pivot irrigated corn production system. Multiple parameters were assessed in the grass buffer strips, and at distances of 1.52, 4.57, and 9.14 m away from the edges of grass strips in corn strips. While grasses in the buffer strips depleted N compared to corn strips, potential C mineralization (PCM) was 52.5% to 99.9% more in grass strips than in corn strips. Soil microbial biomass C (MBC) content was 36.7% to 52.5% greater in grass strips than in corn strips. Grass buffer also reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from corn strips. Grass buffer strips can improve soil health and sustainability in center-pivot irrigated cropping systems by increasing soil C components and reducing GHG emissions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Spray Drift Generated in Vineyard during Under-Row Weed Control and Suckering: Evaluation of Direct and Indirect Drift-Reducing Techniques
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 5068; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12125068 - 22 Jun 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 516
Abstract
The most widespread method for weed control and suckering in vineyards is under-row band herbicide application. It could be performed for weed control only (WC) or weed control and suckering (WSC) simultaneously. During herbicide application, spray drift is one of the most important [...] Read more.
The most widespread method for weed control and suckering in vineyards is under-row band herbicide application. It could be performed for weed control only (WC) or weed control and suckering (WSC) simultaneously. During herbicide application, spray drift is one of the most important environmental issues. The objective of this experimental work was to evaluate the performance of specific Spray Drift Reducing Techniques (SDRTs) used either for WC or WSC spray applications. Furthermore, spray drift reduction achieved by buffer zone adoption was investigated. All spray drift measurements were conducted according to ISO22866:2005 protocol. Sixteen configurations deriving from four nozzle types (two conventional and two air-induction—AI) combined with or without a semi-shielded boom at two different heights (0.25 m for WC and 0.50 m for WSC) were tested. A fully-shielded boom was also tested in combination with conventional nozzles at 0.25 m height for WC. Ground spray drift profiles were obtained, from which corresponding Drift Values (DVs) were calculated. Then, the related drift reduction was calculated based on ISO22369-1:2006. It was revealed that WC spray applications generate lower spray drift than WSC applications. In all cases, using AI nozzles and semi-shielded boom significantly reduced DVs; the optimum combination of SDRTs decreased spray drift by up to 78% and 95% for WC and WSC spray application, respectively. The fully-shielded boom allowed reducing nearly 100% of spray drift generation. Finally, the adoption of a cropped buffer zone that includes the two outermost vineyard rows lowered the total spray drift up to 97%. The first 90th percentile model for the spray drift generated during herbicide application in vineyards was also obtained. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessCommunication
Neural Modeling of the Distribution of Protein, Water and Gluten in Wheat Grains during Storage
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 5050; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12125050 - 20 Jun 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 576
Abstract
An important requirement in the grain industry is to obtain fast information on the quality of purchased and stored grain. Therefore, it is of great importance to search for innovative solutions aimed at the monitoring and fast assessment of quality parameters of stored [...] Read more.
An important requirement in the grain industry is to obtain fast information on the quality of purchased and stored grain. Therefore, it is of great importance to search for innovative solutions aimed at the monitoring and fast assessment of quality parameters of stored wheat The results of the evaluation of total protein, water and gluten content by means of near infrared spectrometry are presented in the paper. Multiple linear regression analysis (MLR) and neural modeling were used to analyze the obtained results. The results obtained show no significant changes in total protein (13.13 ± 0.15), water (10.63 ± 0.16) or gluten (30.56 ± 0.54) content during storage. On the basis of the collected data, a model artificial neural network (ANN) MLP 52-6-3 was created, which, with the use of four independent features, allows us to determine changes in the content of water, protein and gluten in stored wheat. The chosen network returned good error values: learning, below 0.001; testing, 0.015; and validation, 0.008. The obtained results and their interpretation are an important element in the warehouse industry. The information obtained in this way about the state of the quality of stored grain will allow for a fast reaction in case of the threat of lowering the quality parameters of the stored grain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Reduction of Nitrogen Fertilizer Requirements and Nitrous Oxide Emissions Using Legume Cover Crops in a No-Tillage Sorghum Production System
Sustainability 2020, 12(11), 4403; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114403 - 28 May 2020
Viewed by 839
Abstract
Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission from denitrification in agricultural soils often increases with nitrogen (N) fertilizer and soil nitrate (NO3) concentrations. Our hypothesis is that legume cover crops can improve efficiency of N fertilizer and can decrease N2 [...] Read more.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) emission from denitrification in agricultural soils often increases with nitrogen (N) fertilizer and soil nitrate (NO3) concentrations. Our hypothesis is that legume cover crops can improve efficiency of N fertilizer and can decrease N2O emissions compared to non–cover crop systems. The objectives of this study were to (a) evaluate the performance of summer leguminous cover crops in terms of N uptake and carbon (C) accumulation following winter wheat and (b) to quantify the effects of summer leguminous cover crops and N fertilizer rates on N2O emissions and grain yield of the subsequent grain sorghum crop. Field experiments were conducted in the context of a wheat-sorghum rotation for two seasons in Kansas. Treatments consisted of double-cropped leguminous cover crops following winter wheat harvest with no fertilizer applied to the following grain sorghum or no cover crop after wheat harvest and N fertilizer rates applied to the grain sorghum. The cover crops were cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan L. Millsp.), and sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.). The three N treatments (were 0, 90, and 180 kg·N·ha−1). Fallow systems with 90 and 180 kg·N·ha−1 produced significantly greater N2O emissions compared with cropping systems that received no N fertilizer. Emissions of N2O were similar for various cover crops and fallow systems with 0 kg·N·ha−1. Among cover crops, pigeon pea and cowpea had greater C accumulation and N uptake than sunn hemp. Grain yield of sorghum following different cover crops was similar and significantly higher than fallow systems with 0 kg·N·ha−1. Although fallow systems with 90 and 180 kg·N·ha−1 produced maximum sorghum grain yields, N2O emissions per unit of grain yield decreased as the amount of N fertilizer was reduced. We conclude that including leguminous cover crops can decrease N fertilizer requirements for a subsequent sorghum crop, potentially reducing N2O emissions per unit grain yield and providing options for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Sustainable Agriculture and Its Implementation Gap—Overcoming Obstacles to Implementation
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3853; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093853 - 08 May 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1504
Abstract
There are numerous studies and publications about sustainable agriculture. Many papers argue that sustainable agriculture is necessary, and analyze how this goal could be achieved. At the same time, studies question the sustainability of agriculture. Several obstacles, including theoretical, methodological, personal, and practical [...] Read more.
There are numerous studies and publications about sustainable agriculture. Many papers argue that sustainable agriculture is necessary, and analyze how this goal could be achieved. At the same time, studies question the sustainability of agriculture. Several obstacles, including theoretical, methodological, personal, and practical issues, hinder or slow down implementation, resulting in the so-called implementation gap. This study addresses potential obstacles that limit the implementation of sustainable agriculture in practice. To overcome the obstacles and to improve implementation, different solutions and actions are required. This study aims to illustrate ways of minimizing or removing obstacles and how to overcome the implementation gap. Unfortunately, the diversity of obstacles and their complexity mean there are no quick and easy solutions. A broader approach that addresses different dimensions and stakeholders is required. Areas of action include institutionalization, assessment and system development, education and capacity building, and social and political support. To realize the suggestions and recommendations and to improve implementation, transdisciplinary work and cooperation between many actors are required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Small-Scale Variation in Nitrogen Use Efficiency Parameters in Winter Wheat as Affected by N Fertilization and Tillage Intensity
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3621; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093621 - 30 Apr 2020
Viewed by 539
Abstract
Limited information exists on how tillage and nitrogen (N) fertilization affects small-scale variation in nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and crop performance. In a two-year field study under temperate conditions, we investigated how tillage (NT, no-tillage; CT, conventional tillage) and N fertilization affected the [...] Read more.
Limited information exists on how tillage and nitrogen (N) fertilization affects small-scale variation in nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and crop performance. In a two-year field study under temperate conditions, we investigated how tillage (NT, no-tillage; CT, conventional tillage) and N fertilization affected the small-scale variation in NUE and winter wheat performance (grain yield, Gw; grain protein concentration, GPC). A randomized complete block design with three replications was used. Within each tillage plot (12 × 35 m2), N rates (0, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250 kg N ha−1) were completely randomized within each of four groups of microplots (1.5 × 1.5 m2). Early-season soil mineral N (Nmin) was also monitored in both years. At rates < 150 kg N ha−1, NT was not competitive with CT in terms of Gw and NUE. Gw and aboveground plant N were not correlated with Nmin prior to application of N fertilizer. NT usually led to larger spatial heterogeneity of Nmin, Gw, and NUE. The small-scale variability of Gw, GPC, NUE, and N supply decreased with increasing N fertilization rates under both tillage systems. Significant increases in Gw and GPC were observed with increasing N rates, whereas NUE decreased slightly with increasing N rates in both NT and CT. The overall moderate spatial variation in Nmin, Gw, and NUE did not justify site-specific N fertilization in these small fields, with the exception of the stony within-plot positions, which were not responsive to rates of N > 50 kg N ha−1. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation and Screening of Co-Culture Farming Models in Rice Field Based on Food Productivity
Sustainability 2020, 12(6), 2173; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12062173 - 11 Mar 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 696
Abstract
Traditional farming practice of rice field co-culture is a time-tested example of sustainable agriculture, which increases food productivity of arable land with few adverse environmental impacts. However, the small-scale farming practice needs to be adjusted for modern agricultural production. Screening of rice field [...] Read more.
Traditional farming practice of rice field co-culture is a time-tested example of sustainable agriculture, which increases food productivity of arable land with few adverse environmental impacts. However, the small-scale farming practice needs to be adjusted for modern agricultural production. Screening of rice field co-culture farming models is important in deciding the suitable model for industry-wide promotion. In this study, we aim to find the optimal rice field co-culture farming models for large-scale application, based on the notion of food productivity. We used experimental data from the Jiangsu Province of China and applied food-equivalent unit and arable-land-equivalent unit methods to examine applicable protocols for large-scale promotion of rice field co-culture farming models. Results indicate that the rice-loach and rice-catfish models achieve the highest food productivity; the rice-duck model increases the rice yield, while the rice-turtle and rice-crayfish models generate extra economic profits. Simultaneously considering economic benefits, staple food security, and regional food output, we recommend the rice-duck, rice-crayfish, and rice-catfish models. Simulating provincial promotion of the above three models, we conclude that food output increases from all three recommended models, as well as the land production capacity. The rice-catfish co-culture model has the most substantial food productivity. None of the three models threatens staple food security, as they do not compete for land resources with rice cultivation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluating the Contribution of Soybean Rust- Resistant Cultivars to Soybean Production and the Soybean Market in Brazil: A Supply and Demand Model Analysis
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1422; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041422 - 14 Feb 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 666
Abstract
Soybean rust (SBR), caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi (Sydow & Sydow), has become a serious issue in Brazil. As Brazil is one of the largest soybean-producing and exporting countries in the world, a considerable decrease in soybean production due to SBR would have a [...] Read more.
Soybean rust (SBR), caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi (Sydow & Sydow), has become a serious issue in Brazil. As Brazil is one of the largest soybean-producing and exporting countries in the world, a considerable decrease in soybean production due to SBR would have a significant impact on the global soybean market. SBR-resistant cultivars have been developed to prevent a decrease in soybean production. This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of SBR-resistant cultivars on soybean production and the soybean market in Brazil using a supply and demand model. This model consists of functions of yield, cultivated area, exports, and stock changes of soybean and soybean products, demand for soybean products, and price linkages. Five scenarios were simulated to evaluate the economic impact of adopting SBR-resistant cultivars as follows: One without SBR infection, two with serious production losses due to SBR in the south and southeast regions and all the states of Brazil, and two with the adoption of SBR-resistant cultivars in the south and south-east regions and all the states of Brazil. Our simulations suggest that adopting SBR-resistant cultivars reduces the cost of controlling SBR by approximately half and is essential for sustainable soybean production and a stable global soybean market. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Variations in Soil Physico-Chemical Properties along Slope Position Gradient in Secondary Vegetation of the Hilly Region, Guilin, Southwest China
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1303; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041303 - 11 Feb 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 657
Abstract
Understanding the variation of soil physico-chemical properties along slope position gradients is essential for vegetation restoration and reconstruction, but how slope positions impact the soil physico-chemical properties in the secondary vegetation of hilly regions is poorly understood. To address these uncertainties, we examined [...] Read more.
Understanding the variation of soil physico-chemical properties along slope position gradients is essential for vegetation restoration and reconstruction, but how slope positions impact the soil physico-chemical properties in the secondary vegetation of hilly regions is poorly understood. To address these uncertainties, we examined the changes in soil physico-chemical properties and their relationships along the slope position gradient in secondary vegetation of the hilly region in Guilin, southwest China. The results showed that except for the soil water content, soil total phosphorus and soil total potassium which reached the highest value at the footslope, other soil physico-chemical properties reached the highest content in the middle slope, and most of the soil physico-chemical properties showed the lowest content in the upper slope or footslope. Moreover, Pearson’s correlation analysis revealed that there were no significant correlations between most of the soil physico-chemical properties and that the correlations between soil physico-chemical properties were not consistent across different slope positions. Additionally, the principal component analysis showed that the first 4 principal components together explained 84.32% of the total variation and might be interpreted as the change of soil total nitrogen, soil organic matter, soil available nitrogen, soil available potassium, soil water content and soil total potassium. Overall, our results strongly demonstrated that slope positions showed significant effects on most of the soil physico-chemical properties and would provide an important reference for the formulation of restoration strategies in different slope positions to facilitate vegetation restoration and reconstruction and the sustainable development of the ecological environment in the hilly region. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation of Agricultural Sustainability on a Mixed Vineyard and Olive-Grove Farm in Southern Spain through the INSPIA Model
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1090; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031090 - 04 Feb 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 674
Abstract
The volume of the food produced across the world should be related to agricultural sustainability and is crucial for natural capital protection. Hence, sustainability assessment on farms and the identification of improvements is relevant. A mixed farm of vineyard and olive trees was [...] Read more.
The volume of the food produced across the world should be related to agricultural sustainability and is crucial for natural capital protection. Hence, sustainability assessment on farms and the identification of improvements is relevant. A mixed farm of vineyard and olive trees was chosen for sustainability assessment, based on the Best Management Practices (BMPs) that have been implemented. The aim of this research was to assess sustainability on a mixed vineyard and olive-grove farm and validate the INSPIA model for this kind of typology of a farm, which is very typical in the South of Spain. The sustainability assessment was monitored across 5-agricultural seasons based on the INSPIA methodology. INSPIA is based on the application of a set of BMPs, calculated on 31 basic indicators, providing a final composite index of sustainability. The greater the implementation of sustainable farming practices, the higher the value of the composite index. Enhanced soil, water, and air quality, improvement for biodiversity and for ecosystem services help towards sustainable agricultural productivity. Indicators’ results are shown during that period, depicting their relationship with the BMPs. The highest composite index was reached in the 4th year. This paper confirms the relevance of BMPs, such as groundcover establishment and minimum soil disturbance to upgrade sustainability on the permanent croplands in Southern Spain. The indicator-based sustainability assessment is considered a helpful tool in decision-making, which guides farmers towards BMPs performance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Exploring Farmers’ Perceptions of Agricultural Technologies: A Case Study from Tanzania
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 998; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030998 - 30 Jan 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1216
Abstract
The low agricultural productivity of key crops and food insecurity continue to be key issues in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Tanzania. The growing population, depleting resources, and changing climate further amplify these issues. Globally, many agricultural technologies (AgTs) are available as pathways for [...] Read more.
The low agricultural productivity of key crops and food insecurity continue to be key issues in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Tanzania. The growing population, depleting resources, and changing climate further amplify these issues. Globally, many agricultural technologies (AgTs) are available as pathways for improved agricultural productivity and food security, however, they have had relatively little success in SSA and Tanzania. This is because the uptake of AgTs is a complex process, which is highly localized, involving multiple actors, stages, and spatial and time dimensions. Smallholder farmers often experience issues of sustainability, constraints for adoption, and scaling-up throughout the uptake process of AgTs, all of which vary by region. This indicates a need for a systematic and simultaneous understanding of sustainability, constraints for adoption, and scaling-up of AgTs to better guide agricultural strategy and policy interventions in SSA and Tanzania. Moreover, in order to understand the local settings better, a consideration of the perceptions of the farmers themselves, who are the primary actors in the uptake process of AgTs, is key. Acknowledging this, the study takes on a case study approach, using the scaling-up assessment (ScalA) method and three focus group discussions with a total of 44 smallholder farmers to systematically and simultaneously assess the sustainability, constraints for adoption, and scaling-up of three AgTs (use of fertilizers, improved seeds, and small-scale irrigation) in Tanzania. The study finds that the farmers perceive all three AgTs to be sustainable for the study region. Adoption rates are perceived to be medium for use of fertilizers, high for improved seeds, and low for small-scale irrigation. The most significant constraints for adoption experienced by the farmers are lack of technical physical inputs, marketing facilities, and know-how. Scaling-up is perceived to be well fulfilled for use of fertilizers and improved seeds, but only partially fulfilled for small-scale irrigation, which is the most limited of the three AgTs. The most significant constraints for scaling-up experienced by farmers are a lack of confidence in the added value of the AgTs beyond project activities, marketing facilities, and technical physical inputs. The overall success potential is high for the use of fertilizers and improved seeds, and the average for small-scale irrigation. The farmers’ perceptions partially indicate why the bundle of AgTs is lacking in the study region and provide a basis for discussing targeted agricultural and policy interventions in Tanzania. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Optimum Water and Fertilizer Management for Better Growth and Resource Use Efficiency of Rapeseed in Rainy and Drought Seasons
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 703; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020703 - 18 Jan 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 677
Abstract
Optimum water–fertilizer management in rainfed agriculture is an important factor in improving crop productivity and the ecological environment under fluctuating climate conditions, especially in Southwest China, where seasonal drought and waterlogging occur frequently. In order to investigate the effects of different cultivation technologies [...] Read more.
Optimum water–fertilizer management in rainfed agriculture is an important factor in improving crop productivity and the ecological environment under fluctuating climate conditions, especially in Southwest China, where seasonal drought and waterlogging occur frequently. In order to investigate the effects of different cultivation technologies on growth and the water and fertilizer use efficiency of rapeseed (Brassica napus L.), a two-year field study was conducted in rainy (2016–2017) and drought (2017–2018) seasons which included three cultivation patterns: (1) conventional flat planting (FP); (2) straw mulching (SM); (3) ridge-furrow rainfall harvesting system (RF), and three fertilization patterns: (1) conventional fertilization (CF); (2) reduced slow-release fertilizer (SR); and (3) no fertilizer as a control treatment. The results indicated that the yield and its composition values were lower in the rainy year than in the seasonal dry year. The single water-saving technology had no significant effect on yield increase when seasonal drought occurred. The two technologies (SM + SR and RF + SR) improved the height, leaf SPAD value and dry matter of the rapeseed and adjusted the root–shoot ratio under two different climate conditions. In the rainy season, these technologies reduced the loss of nutrients, while in the seasonal drought year, it increased the soil moisture. The SM + SR and RF + SR increased the yield of rapeseed by 7.71% and 29.93% and enhanced oil content by 4.64% and 7.91%, respectively, compared with the local cultivation pattern. Meanwhile, these treatments decreased the total water consumption during whole growth stages and promoted water use efficiency by 14.84% and 28.71%, respectively. The combination of SM + SR and RF + SR also increased the accumulation of N, P, and K and significantly promoted the utilization efficiency of fertilizer. In the future, the adverse effects of environmental factors could be relieved, and the goal of cost savings and increasing efficiency could be achieved by adopting the optimal cultivation technologies in rapeseed production of Southwest China. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
A Place-Based Approach to Agricultural Nonmaterial Intangible Cultural Ecosystem Service Values
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 699; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020699 - 18 Jan 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 810
Abstract
Though agricultural landscape biodiversity and ecosystem service (ES) conservation is crucial to sustainability, agricultural land is often underrepresented in ES studies, while cultural ES associated with agricultural land is often limited to aesthetic and tourism recreation value only. This study mapped 7 nonmaterial-intangible [...] Read more.
Though agricultural landscape biodiversity and ecosystem service (ES) conservation is crucial to sustainability, agricultural land is often underrepresented in ES studies, while cultural ES associated with agricultural land is often limited to aesthetic and tourism recreation value only. This study mapped 7 nonmaterial-intangible cultural ES (NICE) valuations of 34 rural farmers in western Taiwan using the Social Values for Ecosystem Services (SolVES) methodology, to show the effect of farming practices on NICE valuations. However, rather than a direct causal relationship between the environmental characteristics that underpin ES, and respondents’ ES valuations, we found that environmental data is not explanatory enough for causality within a socio-ecological production landscape where one type of land cover type (a micro mosaic of agricultural land cover) predominates. To compensate, we used a place-based approach with Google Maps data to create context-specific data to inform our assessment of NICE valuations. Based on 338 mapped points of 7 NICE valuations distributed among 6 areas within the landscape, we compared 2 groups of farmers and found that farmers’ valuations about their landscape were better understood when accounting for both the landscape’s cultural places and environmental characteristics, rather than environmental characteristics alone. Further, farmers’ experience and knowledge influenced their NICE valuations such that farm areas were found to be sources of multiple NICE benefits demonstrating that farming practices may influence ES valuation in general. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceArticle
Strategic Grazing in Beef-Pastures for Improved Soil Health and Reduced Runoff-Nitrate-A Step towards Sustainability
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 558; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020558 - 11 Jan 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 927
Abstract
Generally, improvement in the soil health of pasturelands can result in amplified ecosystem services which can help improve the overall sustainability of the system. The extent to which specific best management practices have this effect has yet to be established. A farm-scale study [...] Read more.
Generally, improvement in the soil health of pasturelands can result in amplified ecosystem services which can help improve the overall sustainability of the system. The extent to which specific best management practices have this effect has yet to be established. A farm-scale study was conducted in eight beef-pastures in the Southern Piedmont of Georgia, from 2015 to 2018, to assess the effect of strategic-grazing (STR) and continuous-grazing hay distribution (CHD) on soil health indicators and runoff nitrate losses. In 2016, four pastures were converted to the STR system and four were grazed using the CHD system. Post-treatment, in 2018, the STR system had significantly greater POXC (by 87.1, 63.4, and 55.6 mg ha−1 at 0–5, 5–10, and 10–20 cm, respectively) as compared to CHD system. Soil respiration was also greater in the STR system (by 235 mg CO2 m-2 24 h−1) and less nitrate was lost in the runoff (by 0.21 kg ha−1) as compared to the CHD system. Cattle exclusion and overseeding vulnerable areas of pastures in STR pastures facilitated nitrogen mineralization and uptake. Our results showed that the STR grazing system could improve the sustainability of grazing systems by storing more labile carbon, efficiently mineralizing soil nitrogen, and lowering runoff nitrate losses. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Agricultural Technology Transfer Preferences of Smallholder Farmers in Tunisia’s Arid Regions
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 421; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010421 - 06 Jan 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1595
Abstract
The objective of this research study was to assess the sources of information on two improved agricultural and livestock technologies (barley variety and feed blocks) as well as the efficacy of numerous agricultural technology diffusion means introduced in the livestock–barley system in semi-arid [...] Read more.
The objective of this research study was to assess the sources of information on two improved agricultural and livestock technologies (barley variety and feed blocks) as well as the efficacy of numerous agricultural technology diffusion means introduced in the livestock–barley system in semi-arid Tunisia. The research used primary data collected from 671 smallholder farmers. A descriptive statistical analysis was conducted, and Kendall’s W-test and the chi-squared distribution test were deployed to categorize and evaluate the efficacy of the different methods of technology diffusion used by the Tunisian extension system. To address farmers’ perceived opinions and classify the changes from the use of the improved technologies, a qualitative approach based on the Stapel scale was used. Farmer training, demonstration, and farmer-to-farmer interactions were perceived as the most effective agricultural extension methods. The access to technology, know-how, adoption cost of that technology, and labor intensity for adoption influenced its adoption level. Farmers’ opinions about the changes resulting from the adoption of both technologies revealed that yield and resistance to drought were the most important impacts of the two technologies. The study recommends empowering the national extension system through both conventional and non-conventional technologies (ICT, video, mobile phones, etc.), given the cost-effectiveness and their impact on the farmers’ adoption decisions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Factors Influencing the Technology Adoption Behaviours of Litchi Farmers in China
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 271; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010271 - 29 Dec 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 918
Abstract
Litchi is a traditional tree crop grown in Southern China. Sustainable development of the litchi industry is reliant on technology adoption by farmers. The top grafting technique allows for the introduction of new, quality litchi varieties. The fact that these new varieties ripen [...] Read more.
Litchi is a traditional tree crop grown in Southern China. Sustainable development of the litchi industry is reliant on technology adoption by farmers. The top grafting technique allows for the introduction of new, quality litchi varieties. The fact that these new varieties ripen earlier or later than the traditional ones helps stabilize litchi prices. Selling new litchi varieties can increase farmers’ incomes through higher prices of quality varieties and stabilizing prices by staggering the harvest periods. However, the rate of adoption of top grafting among farmers is low, and up till now, more than half of the litchi trees in China are still traditional litchi varieties. This study explores the factors that influence top grafting adoption by litchi farmers. Using primary data gathered by the China Agriculture Research System of Litchi and Longan (CARSLL) from 567 litchi farming households, a binary logit choice model is employed to determine the factors that influence adoption of litchi top grafting among litchi farmers. The results show that farmers owning larger litchi orchards are more likely to adopt top grafting compared to ones owning smaller orchards. Litchi information accumulation, including experience and training, significantly influences farmers’ technology adoption levels. Moreover, a positive attitude toward technology also significantly influences technology adoption behaviours. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Amelioration of Composts for Greenhouse Vegetable Plants Using Pasteurised Agaricus Mushroom Substrate
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6779; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236779 - 29 Nov 2019
Viewed by 859
Abstract
When using food and green waste composts as peat-free plant growing media, there is a challenge that nutrient immobilisation and high pH and salts content limit plant growth. The present study explored the use of spent mushroom compost (SMC) of Agaricus subrufescens in [...] Read more.
When using food and green waste composts as peat-free plant growing media, there is a challenge that nutrient immobilisation and high pH and salts content limit plant growth. The present study explored the use of spent mushroom compost (SMC) of Agaricus subrufescens in a sustainable plant growing system where only vermicompost from digested food waste and composted green wastes were used, even for the seedling stage. However, negative effects of high compost inclusion were offset by adding SMC. Significantly higher plant yield was obtained in several of the SMC amended treatments in four out of five lettuce experiments and in one tomato experiment. In addition, an experiment with cucumbers showed that nutrients were not available to the plant when the mushroom mycelium was actively growing, but became available if the mushroom mycelium had been inactivated first by pasteurisation. A significant effect from SMC was not observed under full fertigation. This study demonstrated that the addition of pasteurised Agaricus mycelium colonised compost can successfully offset negative effects from high pH and EC as well as limited nutrient supply (and nitrogen immobilisation) in peat-free, compost-based growing media. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Enhancing Rice Production by Potassium Management: Recommended Reasonable Fertilization Strategies in Different Inherent Soil Productivity Levels for a Sustainable Rice Production System
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6522; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226522 - 19 Nov 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 829
Abstract
Enhancing agricultural productivity with the minimum possible cost to the environment is crucial for sustainable agriculture development. The effective management of K fertilizer would reduce the pollution risk of fertilizer residue. The data from the 29 experimental sites for rice in Liaoning province [...] Read more.
Enhancing agricultural productivity with the minimum possible cost to the environment is crucial for sustainable agriculture development. The effective management of K fertilizer would reduce the pollution risk of fertilizer residue. The data from the 29 experimental sites for rice in Liaoning province were used to determine the effect of different K fertilizer management in increasing yield, K uptake, and potassium fertilizer contribution rates (FCRK) for rice. The relationship among rice yield, biomass accumulation and plant K uptake, and recommended reasonable K fertilizer application rates in different inherent soil productivity levels were evaluated. The four treatments comprised no K fertilizer (K0), K fertilizer application of 60 kg ha−1 (K60), 120 kg ha−1 (K120), and 180 kg ha−1 (K180). The K120 treatment showed a significant yield increase (16.59%) compared to the K0 treatment in this study. The average K uptake of grain in the K60, K120 and K180 treatments was 23.1, 24.8 and 24.9 kg ha−1, which was significantly higher by 12.67%, 20.77%, and 21.48% compared to the K0 treatment. The average K uptake of grain, straw and plant was highest in K180 (134.8 kg ha−1), followed by the K120 and K60. Additionally, the correlation between grain yield, biomass accumulation (y) and plant K uptake (x) showed a significant positive polynomial function. The equation was y = −0.406x2 + 110.43x + 639.3 and y = −0.237x2 + 135.3x + 3796.2, respectively. The FCRK followed the sequence as K180 < K60 < K120. Furthermore, the recommended K application rates in the 29 experimental sites were ranged from 92.8 to 134.5 kg ha−1, and the corresponding theoretical yield of recommended K rate were ranged from 7371.5 to 11144.5, and with an average of 9297.5 kg ha−1. Remarkably, the average recommended K rate in the four inherent soil productivity levels was 116.1, 111.2, 112.2 and 111.7 kg ha−1 and the corresponding average theoretical yield was 9966.1 kg ha−1, 10158.8 kg ha−1, 8373.2 kg ha−1 and 8881.9 kg ha−1. The results of this study suggest that different inherent soil productivity levels have different K application rates and yield performance. This result somewhat strengthens the finding of this study that moderate K application is conducive to effectively improving the yield and to the enhancement of agricultural productivity, which is conducive to the sustainable environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Performance Evaluation of Unconcentrated Photovoltaic-Thermoelectric Generator Hybrid System under Tropical Climate
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6192; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226192 - 06 Nov 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 694
Abstract
Indoor farming is among the approaches which can be adapted to improve agricultural sustainability and ensure the food security of countries. However, adopting indoor farming requires a high amount of energy to sustain the system. Incorporating a renewable energy system for supplying power [...] Read more.
Indoor farming is among the approaches which can be adapted to improve agricultural sustainability and ensure the food security of countries. However, adopting indoor farming requires a high amount of energy to sustain the system. Incorporating a renewable energy system for supplying power to agricultural activities will allow the system to be more sustainable in the long run. An unconcentrated photovoltaic-thermoelectric generator (PV-TEG) hybrid system is designed based on the load requirement of an indoor farm. The hybrid system performance under Malaysia’s weather conditions was investigated and analyzed over three months. The designed system has shown its ability to provide sufficient power to the load, as well as supporting an additional load. Besides that, the TEGs power output was found to be dependent on the temperature as well as the types of connections used, where a higher temperature difference and series connection exhibited a better power output. Overall, the combination of the system showed that the addition of a TEG affects the efficiency and power output as compared to a standalone PV. Therefore, this implies that the hybrid system is able to exhibit a more positive outcome in certain weather conditions than a PV standalone system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Finding a Suitable Niche for Cultivating Cactus Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) as an Integrated Crop in Resilient Dryland Agroecosystems of India
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 5897; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11215897 - 23 Oct 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 732
Abstract
Climate change poses a significant threat to agroecosystems, especially in the dry areas, characterized by abrupt precipitation pattern and frequent drought events. Ideal crops, tolerant to these events, such as cactus, can perform well under such changing climatic conditions. This study spatially maps [...] Read more.
Climate change poses a significant threat to agroecosystems, especially in the dry areas, characterized by abrupt precipitation pattern and frequent drought events. Ideal crops, tolerant to these events, such as cactus, can perform well under such changing climatic conditions. This study spatially maps land suitability for cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) cultivation in India using the analytical hierarchical process (AHP). Nine essential growth factors that include the climate and edaphic components were considered for the period 2000 to 2007. About 32% of the total geographic area of the country is in the high to moderate suitable category. Remaining 46% falls under the marginally suitable and 22% under the low to very low suitable category. The suitability analysis, based on the precipitation anomaly (2008–2017), suggests a high probability of cactus growth in the western and east-central part of India. The relationship with aridity index shows a decreasing rate of suitability with the increase of aridity in the western and east-central provinces (β~−1 to −2). We conclude that integrating cactus into dryland farming systems and rangelands under changing climate can be one plausible solution to build resilient agro-ecosystems that provide food and fodder while enhancing the availability of ecosystem services. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle
Effects of Straw Returning and Residue Cleaner on the Soil Moisture Content, Soil Temperature, and Maize Emergence Rate in China’s Three Major Maize Producing Areas
Sustainability 2019, 11(20), 5796; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205796 - 18 Oct 2019
Viewed by 539
Abstract
Straw returning is of significant value for the sustainable development of agriculture, but it can easily cause the decrease of soil moisture content (SMC) and soil temperature (ST), leading to the serious reduction of maize emergence rate (MER). This paper focuses on the [...] Read more.
Straw returning is of significant value for the sustainable development of agriculture, but it can easily cause the decrease of soil moisture content (SMC) and soil temperature (ST), leading to the serious reduction of maize emergence rate (MER). This paper focuses on the influence law and influence principle of straw returning amounts and residue cleaner on SMC, ST, and MER. This paper selected representative areas of China’s three major maize-producing areas as test sites to take two-factor tests. Four levels were selected with straw returning amounts of 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. Three types of residue cleaners were selected: corrugated disc (CD), profiling residue cleaner (PRC), and rotary blade (RB). The test results show that the test factors have significant effects on the test indicators, and there is an interaction between the test factors. However, due to the large difference in annual average temperature, the influence of test factors on ST in different major maize producing areas is not the same. In order to obtain the optimal combination of factors in the three major maize producing areas, the nine regression models and the combination of factors corresponding to the extreme values were obtained through MATLAB. The following conclusions are drawn from the regression models: The maize emergence rate reached 91.7% when using PRC, and the amount of straw returning was 52% at the Jilin Maize Production Area. The maize emergence rate reached 94.7% when using CD, and the amount of straw returning was 67% at the Heilongjiang Maize Production Area. The maize emergence rate reached 91.4% when using CD, and the amount of straw returning was 68% at the Inner Mongolia Maize Production Area. This paper discussed the principle that test factors have a significant impact on test indicators. It is believed that, because the test factors can change the residual cover thickness (RCT) and soil compactness (SC), they have a significant impact on SMC and ST. In addition, it is believed because the test factors can change SMC, ST and the difficulty of cleaning operations, they have a significant impact on MER. At the same time, the basis for selecting straw returning amounts and rescue cleaner under different conditions is discussed. This paper can provide theoretical support and data reference for the sustainable development of agriculture in China’s three major maize producing areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
A Conceptual Framework for Incorporation of Composting in Closed-Loop Urban Controlled Environment Agriculture
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2471; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052471 - 25 Feb 2021
Abstract
Controlled environment agriculture (CEA), specifically advanced greenhouses, plant factories, and vertical farms, has a significant role to play in the urban agri-food landscape through provision of fresh and nutritious food for urban populations. With the push towards improving sustainability of these systems, a [...] Read more.
Controlled environment agriculture (CEA), specifically advanced greenhouses, plant factories, and vertical farms, has a significant role to play in the urban agri-food landscape through provision of fresh and nutritious food for urban populations. With the push towards improving sustainability of these systems, a circular or closed-loop approach for managing resources is desirable. These crop production systems generate biowaste in the form of crop and growing substrate residues, the disposal of which not only impacts the immediate environment, but also represents a loss of valuable resources. Closing the resource loop through composting of crop residues and urban biowaste is presented. Composting allows for the recovery of carbon dioxide and plant nutrients that can be reused as inputs for crop production, while also providing a mechanism for managing and valorizing biowastes. A conceptual framework for integrating carbon dioxide and nutrient recovery through composting in a CEA system is described along with potential environmental benefits over conventional inputs. Challenges involved in the recovery and reuse of each component, as well as possible solutions, are discussed. Supplementary technologies such as biofiltration, bioponics, ozonation, and electrochemical oxidation are presented as means to overcome some operational challenges. Gaps in research are identified and future research directions are proposed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessReview
Governing Transitions towards Sustainable Agriculture—Taking Stock of an Emerging Field of Research
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 528; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020528 - 08 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 916
Abstract
The need for fundamental changes in the way humans interact with nature is now widely acknowledged in order to achieve sustainable development. Agriculture figures prominently in this quest, being both a major driver and a major threat to global sustainability. Agricultural systems typically [...] Read more.
The need for fundamental changes in the way humans interact with nature is now widely acknowledged in order to achieve sustainable development. Agriculture figures prominently in this quest, being both a major driver and a major threat to global sustainability. Agricultural systems typically have co-evolved with other societal structures—retailers, land management, technology, consumer habits, and environmental and agricultural law—and can therefore well be described as socio-technical regimes in the sense of the sustainability transitions literature. This paper aims to give an overview of the emerging field of governing transitions to sustainability agriculture and the topics and trends covered, focusing on how agricultural transitions are being governed through a variety of actors and at a variety of levels. We conduct a systematic review of 153 articles published before the year 2019. We identify two main perspectives: papers that analyse the status quo in farming practices and reasons for lock-in, and papers that explore potential transition pathways and their governance. Predominantly, papers study (local) niche developments and discuss governance options for upscaling, rather than actual regime change. Seven distinct perspectives emerge from our reading of the selected articles: application of theoretical perspectives from the literature on socio-technical transitions; governance and regulation; knowledge and learning; concrete approaches to reduce the environmental impact of agricultural systems; urbanisation, urban agriculture, and local food networks; the role of agri-food businesses; as well as the role of gender. While a variety of local case studies shows potential for small-scale changes that might be transferable to other regions and higher levels of governance, it generally appears that more integrative, comparative work and perhaps more coherence in conceptual approaches would benefit the currently highly fragmented field. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessReview
The Sustainability of Plastic Nets in Agriculture
Sustainability 2020, 12(9), 3625; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12093625 - 30 Apr 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1020
Abstract
This review article contributes new knowledge relating to the sustainability of antihail, anti-insect, and windbreak plastic nets in agriculture. Based on the review, biobased plastic nets made from polyamino acids, polysaccharide derivatives (DS), polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), polycaprolactone (PCL), polyhydroxylalkanoate (PHA), and polylactic acid (PLA) [...] Read more.
This review article contributes new knowledge relating to the sustainability of antihail, anti-insect, and windbreak plastic nets in agriculture. Based on the review, biobased plastic nets made from polyamino acids, polysaccharide derivatives (DS), polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), polycaprolactone (PCL), polyhydroxylalkanoate (PHA), and polylactic acid (PLA) are shown to be highly biodegradable compared to conventional plastics such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyethylene (PE), and polyvinyl chloride. The biodegradability of these materials is due to the use of natural precursors. However, nonbiodegradable plastics are the materials of choice in agricultural applications for the following reasons. Global commercial production of biobased plastics is low (~1%) due to the absence of facile and scalable production methods. Even though biobased materials are ecologically benign, they are limited in agricultural settings, given the low tensile strength and disruption of the activities of natural insect predators such as spiders. The enhancement of the material properties of biobased plastics involves a trade-off with sustainability. Chemical additives such as heavy metals and volatile compounds enhance the mechanical properties of biobased plastics but limit their sustainability. The current constraints on the production of biobased plastic nets can be resolved through electrospinning techniques that facilitate the development of plastic nets with controllable composition, porosity, and surface areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Open AccessEditor’s ChoiceReview
Environmental Sustainability of Greenhouse Covering Materials
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 6129; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216129 - 03 Nov 2019
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 1489
Abstract
The fundamental objective of the review article was to explore the ecological sustainability of greenhouse covering material based on the following themes; considerations for greenhouse materials, properties of polymers and glass, additives, fillers, stabilizers and reinforcements, performance, Ultraviolet (UV) transmittance, phase change materials [...] Read more.
The fundamental objective of the review article was to explore the ecological sustainability of greenhouse covering material based on the following themes; considerations for greenhouse materials, properties of polymers and glass, additives, fillers, stabilizers and reinforcements, performance, Ultraviolet (UV) transmittance, phase change materials (PCMs), and environmental sustainability. A comparison of various polymers (polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylic, D-polymer, Linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), polyolefins), and silica glasses illustrated that each type of greenhouse cladding material has its unique merits and limitations. The performance of silica glasses, PVC, polyolefins was influenced by weather, greenhouse design, plant under cultivation, percentage UV transmittance, incorporation of additives and stabilizers, reinforcements, and integration of photovoltaic panels into the greenhouse roof among other factors. Polymers can be customized to achieve 0%UV transmittance, slow-insecticide release, and anti-microbial properties. In contrast, glass materials are preferred based on suitable photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) transmittance and near-infrared (NIR) reflection and less risk of photo-oxidation. From an ecological perspective, polymers can be recycled via mechanical and chemical recycling, closed-loop cycling, and polymerization of bio-based feedstock. However, post-consumer plastic films do not possess the same optical and energy properties as virgin polymers. The combined benefits of different polymers suggest that these materials could be adopted on a large scale over the long-term. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Other

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Open AccessCase Report
Partial Acidulation of Rock Phosphate for Increased Productivity in Organic and Smallholder Farming
Sustainability 2020, 12(2), 607; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12020607 - 14 Jan 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 811
Abstract
There is a need to investigate and identify locally available organic substrates with acidifying potential, which can be used as an additive in rock phosphate (RP)-organic material composting mixtures. This paper reviews attempts to increase P availability in the context of smallholder, low-input [...] Read more.
There is a need to investigate and identify locally available organic substrates with acidifying potential, which can be used as an additive in rock phosphate (RP)-organic material composting mixtures. This paper reviews attempts to increase P availability in the context of smallholder, low-input and organic farming, and presents a case study from Central India that used a participatory approach to address P deficiency issues in cotton-based organic systems. Study was conducted from 2010 to 2014 through 61 on-farm trials and investigated the agronomic effectiveness of buttermilk-acidulated RP compost. The application of buttermilk-acidulated RP manure resulted in higher yields of cotton in all field trials and higher yields of soybean in all but one field trials. While on majority of the farms (18 out of 28), wheat yields increased with the application of buttermilk-acidulated RP compost, a quarter of the field trials (7 out of 28) exhibited yields lower than farmers’ practices. The study showed that it was possible to develop a locally adoptable solution to an agronomic constraint using locally available resources including the indigenous knowhow. Buttermilk proved to be an effective acidulating agent that can be added to RP-amended compost. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Suitable Agronomic Techniques for Sustainable Agriculture)
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