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Special Issue "Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2022 | Viewed by 6534

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Alexandra Jacquelyn Burgess
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Agriculutre and Environmental Sciences, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Loughborough LE12 5RD, UK
Interests: 3D reconstruction of plants; computer vision; light and photosynthesis modelling; intercropping; agroforestry; NPQ; photosynthetic acclimation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

With an expanding population and unknown consequence of climate change, improving the sustainability of our cropping systems is integral to optimising yields and limiting any further negative impacts of agriculture on the environment.

This special issue aims to publish high-quality research papers on methods to increase the sustainability of our agricultural systems, whether by alternative cropping practices (i.e. intercropping, agroforestry, vertical farming), urban systems, new improved crop varieties, innovative technologies to reduce inputs or through the development of new methods to assess the productivity and sustainability of our cropping systems. As a large proportion of the population are in developing countries with differing constraints to agricultural production (i.e. poor quality soils, low input agriculture, subsidence farming) papers are desired that cover a wide range of different environments and locations with differing amounts of resources or technology required.

Dr. Alexandra Jacquelyn Burgess
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • sustainable cropping systems
  • sustainable cropping practices
  • improved crop varieties
  • environmental analysis
  • new methods to assess productivity

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Returns to Disease Resistance Research When Pest Management Is an Option
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 2859; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052859 - 01 Mar 2022
Viewed by 558
Abstract
Resistant cultivars offer a pathway to sustainable intensification by maintaining yields and reducing inputs in the face of disease pressure. Past studies of economic returns to crop breeding research for disease resistance measured farm-level benefits, by comparing yields for improved resistant varieties (RVs) [...] Read more.
Resistant cultivars offer a pathway to sustainable intensification by maintaining yields and reducing inputs in the face of disease pressure. Past studies of economic returns to crop breeding research for disease resistance measured farm-level benefits, by comparing yields for improved resistant varieties (RVs) to susceptible traditional varieties. This approach will poorly approximate actual research benefits if non-RV pest management options exist, because it does not account for farmer pest control behavior. We propose a unit cost model that controls for farm-level yields and pesticide inputs. The model estimates the difference in unit variable costs (UVC), with and without disease pressure for RV adopters and non-adopters, while holding pest control inputs, farm characteristics, and other factors fixed. We apply the model to data from 136 bean farmer households in northern Ecuador, where RV research is ongoing and fungicide use is widespread. We find no difference in UVC, with and without disease pressure for non-adopters. For adopters, UVC is 24% lower with disease pressure than without. This translates to an ex-post net present value (NPV) of USD 698,828 and an internal rate of return (IRR) of 17%, compared to an NPV of USD 887,391 and IRR of 29%, when accounting for yield differences only. The results oblige impact assessments to account for changes in yields and input costs when pest management is an option. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
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Article
Participatory Selection of Amaranthus Genotypes in the KwaMbonambi Area, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 11962; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132111962 - 29 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 357
Abstract
Participatory variety selection (PVS) is a process that tests promising genotypes in farmers’ fields through a close farmer–researcher collaboration approach, which enhances the acceptance of new varieties by farmers. However, limited studies have been conducted to select Amaranthus genotypes that have potential for [...] Read more.
Participatory variety selection (PVS) is a process that tests promising genotypes in farmers’ fields through a close farmer–researcher collaboration approach, which enhances the acceptance of new varieties by farmers. However, limited studies have been conducted to select Amaranthus genotypes that have potential for future breeding programmes in South Africa. Therefore, this study was aimed at selecting Amaranthus genotype(s) that is/are preferred by farmers in northern KwaZulu-Natal, using the PVS approach. Seedlings of fifteen Amaranthus genotypes were each planted in separate 10 × 10 m plots. Fourteen local farmers managed these genotypes and also determined the preferred traits to be used to evaluate them. These traits were: mild taste; profuse stem branching; big and numerous leaves; soft texture; and longer shelf life. Plants at four months after transplant were then evaluated and ranked according to farmers’ preferred traits using score sheets designed on a four-point Likert scale or five-point hedonic scale. However, genotype ACAT seed fair had the best scoring for appealing taste and aroma, and profuse branching. The TOT 8789 genotype had the largest and softest leaves. Again, A. thunbergii had the most numerous leaves of them all. These genotypes are thus recommended for multi-environment testing, seed multiplication, genetic improvement, and promotion for cultivation in South Africa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
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Article
Analysis of Consumption of Nitrogen Fertilisers and Environmental Efficiency in Crop Production of EU Countries
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8720; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168720 - 04 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 627
Abstract
Mineral fertilisers such as nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P) are commonly used as important inputs in agricultural production. Their inadequate use can result in lower yields and loss of quality. However, excessive use of nitrogen can lead to environmental pollution and adverse effects [...] Read more.
Mineral fertilisers such as nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P) are commonly used as important inputs in agricultural production. Their inadequate use can result in lower yields and loss of quality. However, excessive use of nitrogen can lead to environmental pollution and adverse effects on human health. This paper assesses nitrogen fertiliser use and the environmental efficiency of crop production of EU member states using the stochastic frontier analysis (SFA) approach. The results of the analysis show that the crop sector in the five member states of the European Union (i.e., Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Austria and Spain) is relatively environmentally efficient. In the remaining member states, efficiency is lower by varying degrees. This means that their agricultural sectors use too much fertiliser to produce the same output as more efficient farms, compared to other countries. The results of the study shed light on the environmental efficiency of crop production in the tEU and can contribute to the application of better management techniques and more effective agricultural policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
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Article
Financial Feasibility and Competitiveness Levels of Soybean Varieties in Rice-Based Cropping System of Indonesia
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8334; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158334 - 26 Jul 2021
Viewed by 634
Abstract
This research was conducted to determine the financial feasibility of growing soybean varieties and their competitiveness in the rice-based cropping system of Indonesia. The research was conducted at two locations in 2020. The results showed that the use of improved varieties of soybean [...] Read more.
This research was conducted to determine the financial feasibility of growing soybean varieties and their competitiveness in the rice-based cropping system of Indonesia. The research was conducted at two locations in 2020. The results showed that the use of improved varieties of soybean yielded 2.24 t/ha and 2.09 t/ha, which was higher than using local (non-improved) varieties. The use of improved varieties was financially feasible with Revenue Cost (R/C) ratios of 1.88–1.98 and Benefit Cost (B/C) ratios of 0.88–0.98. The competitiveness of soybeans in Mojokerto and Pasuruan was lower compared to maize and mungbean. Soybean could compete with competing crops if the productivity and price were higher than the current conditions. To be able to compete with maize, the soybean productivity should be 5.14–5.22 t/ha if the current soybean price per kg is IDR 7200 (about US $ 0.51). To compete with mungbean, the soybean productivity should reach 3.05 t/ha with the current price per kg of IDR 7200 (about US $ 0.51). When measured by the price level, to be able to compete with maize, the soybean selling price per kg should be IDR 14,428–IDR 14,893 (about USD 1.06) with a productivity level of 2.24 t/ha. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
Article
Earthworm (Eisenia fetida) Mucus Inspired Bionic Fertilizer to Stimulate Maize (Zea mays L.) Growth
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4299; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084299 - 13 Apr 2021
Viewed by 823
Abstract
Background: Increasing population and food consumption are placing unprecedented demands on crop production. Maize is one of the most important food crops in the world, the improvement of its yield primarily depends on the application of chemical fertilizer. Methods: Earthworm activity is an [...] Read more.
Background: Increasing population and food consumption are placing unprecedented demands on crop production. Maize is one of the most important food crops in the world, the improvement of its yield primarily depends on the application of chemical fertilizer. Methods: Earthworm activity is an essential factor in promoting soil fertility and stimulating plant growth. Inspired by amino acids composition of earthworm (Eisenia fetida) epidermal mucus, the liquid fertilizer was developed and prepared by utilizing a bionic approach. The influence of earthworm epidermal mucus (mucus), the mucus-mimicked mixture of amino acids (bionic fertilizer) and urea fertilizer (urea) on maize emergence and growth were studied and compared with the control group (distilled water). Experimental cultivation tests were conducted. The aforementioned three types of liquid fertilizer effects on maize seed vigor index, seedling emergence rate and plant quality were quantitatively evaluated. Results: Based on the conducted research, it was found that the beneficial effects of different fertilizers for maize emergence rate were ranked as follows: mucus > bionic fertilizer > urea. The low concentration treatments were beneficial to the maize emergence, while the high concentration treatments were helpful to the maize growth and root development. Besides, the lower concentration of mucus was the most effective fertilizer treatment for improving seedling quality. In addition, the test results of three types of liquid fertilizer effects on maize growth indicated that the higher concentration treatments provided more nitrogen nutrition than lower concentration treatments. Furthermore, the maize stem height and diameter were significantly promoted (p < 0.05) by the three types of liquid fertilizer. The beneficial influences of liquid fertilizer treatments for plant height, stem diameter, relative chlorophyll content and photosynthetic characteristic of leaves were ranked as follows: bionic fertilizer > urea > mucus. Conclusions: Bionic fertilizer demonstrated significant beneficial fertilizing effects (p < 0.05), which increased soil nutrients, improved maize physiological parameters, promote its growth and improved dry matter accumulation. The tested results verified the effectiveness of bionic fertilizer on stimulating maize growth. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
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Article
Normalized Difference Vegetation Index and Chlorophyll Content for Precision Nitrogen Management in Durum Wheat Cultivars under Semi-Arid Conditions
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3725; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073725 - 26 Mar 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1030
Abstract
To impart sustainability to modern intensive farming systems, environmental pollution caused by nitrogenous fertilizers in needs to be reduced by optimizing their doses. To estimate the grain yield and nutrtional quallity of wheat, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and chlorophyll content (SPAD) [...] Read more.
To impart sustainability to modern intensive farming systems, environmental pollution caused by nitrogenous fertilizers in needs to be reduced by optimizing their doses. To estimate the grain yield and nutrtional quallity of wheat, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and chlorophyll content (SPAD) are potential screening tools to identify the N deficiency and screen out the promising cultivars. The two-year field study was comprised with five levels of nitrogen (N) (control, 50, 100, 150 and 200 kg N ha−1) and two durum wheat genotypes (Sena and Svevo). The experimental design was split-plot, in which N levels were placed in the main plots, while wheat genotypes were arranged in sub-plots. To predict the yield and quality traits, the NDVI and SPAD values recorded at heading, anthesis and milky growth stages were taken as response variables. The results revealed that N fertilization significantly influenced the SPAD and NDVI attributed traits of durum wheat, except NDVI at milky stage (NDVI-M) during the first year. The maximum value of NDVI was recorded by 150 kg N ha−1, while control treatment gave the minimum value. The grain yield was increased with the increasing dose of the N up to 100 kg N ha−1 (4121 kg ha−1), and thereafter, it was declined with further increased of N levels. However, the variation between the genotypes was not significant, except NDVI and SPAD values at the milky stage. The genotype Svevo had the highest NDVI values at all growth stages, while the genotype Sena recorded the maximum SPAD values during both years. Similarly, the N levels significantly influenced the quality traits (protein, wet gluten, starch test weight and Zeleny sedimentation) of both genotypes. The highly significant relationship of SPAD and NDVI with the grain yield and yield attributes showed their reliability as indicators for determining the N deficiency and selection of superior wheat genotypes for ensuring food security under climate change scenario. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
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Article
Organic Amendments Boost Soil Fertility and Rice Productivity and Reduce Methane Emissions from Paddy Fields under Sub-Tropical Conditions
Sustainability 2021, 13(6), 3103; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13063103 - 12 Mar 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1189
Abstract
Deteriorating soil fertility and gradually decreasing rice productivity along with higher greenhouse gas emissions from paddy fields have emerged as serious threats to the sustainability of rice production and food security. Rice production in the subtropical environment in Bangladesh is mostly dependent on [...] Read more.
Deteriorating soil fertility and gradually decreasing rice productivity along with higher greenhouse gas emissions from paddy fields have emerged as serious threats to the sustainability of rice production and food security. Rice production in the subtropical environment in Bangladesh is mostly dependent on synthetic inorganic fertilizer to maintain productivity; however, the inorganic fertilizer has negative effects on global warming. Climate-smart and resilient agricultural production systems are major concerns nowadays to meet sustainable development goals. The study was conducted to evaluate the optimum rate and source of organic amendments on rice productivity and soil fertility along with CH4 emission. A total of nine nutrient combinations were used in the study. The CH4 emission, soil redox potential (Eh), soil pH, soil nitrogen and organic carbon, available phosphorus, rice grain and straw were greatly affected by the application of different rates and sources of the nutrient. However, the soil exchangeable K content, plant height, and harvest index were not affected. Among the treatments, the application of 75% recommended fertilizer (RF) + biosolid 2 t ha−1 (T3) was the most effective and showed the superior performance in terms of available P (12.90 ppm), the number of grains panicle−1 (121), and 1000-grain weight (24.6g), rice grain, and straw yield along with the moderate CH4 emission (18.25 mg m−2h−1). On the other hand, the lowest soil Eh (−158 mV) and soil pH (6.65) were measured from the treatment T3. The finding of this study revealed that the application of 75% of RF + biosolid 2 t ha−1 can be recommended as the preferable soil amendment for boosting rice yield, reduce CH4 emissions, and sustainably maintain soil fertility. Furthermore, this finding may help to introduce preferable soil amendment doses, which will contribute to boosting rice productivity and economic turnouts of the farmers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
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Review

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Review
A Framework for the Heterogeneity and Ecosystem Services of Farmland Landscapes: An Integrative Review
Sustainability 2021, 13(22), 12463; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132212463 - 11 Nov 2021
Viewed by 631
Abstract
It is essential for the sustainable development of farmland landscapes to balance ecosystem service trade-offs and improve resource use efficiency during crop production. Thus, an integrative and concept-centric qualitative approach was applied by combining the patch–corridor–matrix model of landscape ecology and the crop [...] Read more.
It is essential for the sustainable development of farmland landscapes to balance ecosystem service trade-offs and improve resource use efficiency during crop production. Thus, an integrative and concept-centric qualitative approach was applied by combining the patch–corridor–matrix model of landscape ecology and the crop layout theory of farming systems into a theoretical framework. The thesis concludes that a farmland landscape comprises three compositions: the crop (the main crop and the service crop), the non-crop, and the non-vegetation, leading to heterogeneous composition and configuration. The main crop, typically displayed as large patches with a high distribution ratio, provides most of the provisioning services, while the service crop performs many regulation services. The non-crop and non-vegetation compositions often appear as strips that can connect different patches as corridors and support the provisioning services of crops. Non-crop compositions mainly focus on support and regulation services, while non-vegetation compositions support farming operations. Further research is needed in several respects, including the ecological impact and ecosystem service trade-offs of the composition and configuration heterogeneity, and strategies for the adoption of cropping systems and agronomic measures at the landscape scale, which are essential to the evaluation, improvement, and redesign of farmland landscapes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Agricultural Production of Crop Plants)
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