Alternatives to peat for organic seedlings production

Picture copyright Pascual et al.

Peat is the standard substrate used in nursery transplant production although its utilization is cause for environmental and ecological concerns. Scientists Pascual et al. review the new substrate alternatives for organic production. They reckon that compost or other materials supplemented with coir and minerals can bring added values that peat cannot provide, including seedling nutrition, the presence of beneficial microorganisms and pathogen suppression, and allow a more sustainable production.

Identifying NEMO

Picture copyright Nicolas, INRA

Identifying optimum nitrogen fertilizer application rate is critical for sustainable farm management. Scientists Mesbah et al. developed a method, called Identifying NEMO, to diagnose an environmentally friendly optimum rate using crop models. They tested the method in the predominant Canadian corn production region where there exists a gradient of agroclimatic conditions. Eventually, they suggest novel strategic N recommendations.

Constraints to sustainable intensification of shrimp farming in Vietnam

Picture copyright Joffre et al.

The shrimp sector has been one of the fastest growing agri-food systems in the last decades at the expense of society and the environment. It is now seeking sustainable intensification. Scientists Joffre et al. show that the major constraints in the transition to sustainable intensification are institutional. They appeal to tackle these blocking mechanisms using a multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder intervention approach.

Questioning experts to parameterize a cropping system model

Picture copyright Ballot

Models are promising tools to develop a more sustainable agriculture. Scientists Ballot et al. developed a model named PerSyst , that simulates the yields of successive crops. The model parameters are based on local expert knowledge collected from interviews. Its good predictive capacity for organic farming was demonstrated in the French “Île-de-France” region.

Managing trade-offs in Malawian cropping systems

Picture copyright Samson – CIMMYT

The income of millions of African farmers relies on maize-based cropping systems cultivated in soils often depleted of nutrients. Scientists Komarek et al. show that farms growing maize in rotation with legumes increase the stability of their profit. In contrast, such rotations have a much lower average caloric yield and use more labor than maize monoculture. Risk and labor factors must therefore be carefully evaluated before applying alternative cropping systems.

Temporary intercropping wheat with legumes: the win-win association

Picture copyright Guiducci et al.

Wheat – legume temporary intercropping consists in sowing cereal and legume crops in alternate and spaced rows. In late winter, the legume is incorporated into the soil to improve the nitrogen nutrition of wheat. Scientists Guiducci et al. studied temporary intercrops of three leguminous species with soft wheat and showed that such technique can increase yield quality.

Decreasing methane emission during digestion in ruminants

Picture copyright Ghamkhar et al.

Among all forage species, the legume Biserrula leads to low methane emission when fermented by rumen microbes. Scientists Ghamkhar et al. showed that several metabolites in Biserrula contribute to this low methane emission. These metabolites are useful markers to identify other pasture species with similar low environmental footprint.

Grafting contributes to sustainable tomato production

Picture copyright Weber, Inra

Grafted tomatoes are widely used by European or Asian producers and are considered with a growing interest in the Americas. Scientists Grieneisen et al. extensively reviewed trial data on fruit quality and yield of grafted tomatoes. They reported that on average grafting increases yield by 37% and does not contribute to inferior fruit quality. By contrast, grafting shows promise to reduce soil pest treatments.

Plant silicon accumulation reduces stresses and improves growth

Picture copyright Li et al.

Abiotic and biotic stresses are major factors limiting plant growth worldwide. Scientists Li et al. recently reviewed how silicon nutrition alleviates such plant stresses and improves plant biomass carbon accumulation in terrestrial ecosystems. They concluded that silicon-mediated recovery from stresses can increase plant biomass carbon by 35% and crop yield by 24%.