Feeding beneficial insects

Picture copyright Villa et al.

Olive tree is attacked by several pests that cause important production losses. These pests are regulated by several natural enemies that also need non-host resources. Scientists Villa et al. studied survival and egg production traits of an important parasitoid of the olive moth after feeding on several natural food resources (e.g., plants and honeydew of hemipteran). They showed that the type of food available for this parasitoid was a key parameter for successful biological control in olive groves.

Mixing crop varieties for a sustainable agriculture

Picture copyright Barot

Modern high-input agriculture associated with a low crop genetic diversity is widely recognized as unsustainable. Farmers need rules to design variety mixtures and crop breeders need new methods to select varieties for mixtures. Scientists Barot et al. reviewed the beneficial effects of mixtures of varieties on ecosystems and recommend strategies derived from ecology to optimize variety mixtures.

Predicting stocks of soil organic carbon

Picture copyright Cardinael

Increasing carbon stocks in agricultural areas seeks to reinforce food security and affect climate change. In the context of the 4 per 1000 international initiative, scientists Dignac et al. review recent advances on the mechanisms of soil organic carbon stabilisation/destabilisation and show how agricultural practices influence these mechanisms. They show how these mechanisms can be integrated in global climatic models to ameliorate predictions of soil organic carbon stock evolution.

Organic wastes improve plant water supply

Picture copyright Houot

Plant available water is held in soil pores, which size is affected by soil organic matter content. Organic waste recycling in agriculture can increase soil organic matter contents and improve related soil properties. Agronomists Eden et al. analyzed data from long-term field experiments and found that in almost all cases, plant available water is increased in soils amended with organic wastes.

Orchards are multi-service providers

Picture copyright Demestihas et al.

Commercial orchards have to produce high yields of good quality fruits, while preserving natural resources. In such productive context, many biological, chemical and physical processes still provide important services to the soil, the plant and the atmosphere. Demestihas et al. review how agricultural practices in orchards affect these services and show that fruit production, climate regulation, soil nitrogen availability, water regulation, pest and disease control and pollination can be assessed from simulation models.

Five research priorities to better manage damping-off diseases

Picture copyright Martin Chilvers, Michigan State University, USA

Various stresses such as pests, diseases, bad soil temperature or humidity conditions. can impair seeds germination and seedlings emergence. To cope with the problem, an usual practice is to control soil-borne pathogens by conventional fungicides, but this raises concerns for human health, biodiversity and the environment. A better understanding of these stresses and their interactions is essential to develop durable and sustainable pest management strategies. Agronomists Lamichhane et al. review key knowledge gaps in the field and propose five research priorities to better manage damping-off diseases.

A new mechanism for funding farmer environmental subsidies

Picture copyright Rescia et al.

Agricultural intensification and farm abandonment in Europe have induced dramatic social, economic and ecological issues. Sustainable agricultural management may solve these issues by providing a viable economic margin and preserving biodiversity. Rescia et al. propose a mechanism of monetary compensation for farmers maintaining or restoring non-agricultural lands in their farms. Using this funding mechanism, conservation of biodiversity would no longer constitute a factor limiting profitability for farmers, but would rather complement their earnings.

P-based manure management to maintain soil phosphorus

Picture copyright Sadeghpour et al.

Buildup of phosphorus in agricultural soils due to nitrogen-based manure management can increase the risk of phosphorus loss from agricultural fields over time. Scientists Sadeghpour et al. demonstrated the long-term sustainability benefits of phosphorus removal based manure management of a dairy corn silage and alfalfa forage rotation. The work emphasizes the importance of rotation fertility management rather than single-year P management.

Vacuum sealing and local treatments to control stored seed pest in the tropics

Picture copyright Lawrence et al.

Seed conservation under tropical climates is a great challenge when usual storage technology is lacking. Seed pests and the loss of seed viability are among the main risks faced by farmers and seed banks. Scientists Lawrence et. al. recently found that vacuum sealing significantly reduces stored insect pest pressure while maintaining seed viability. Several local treatments decrease also pest pressure, thus constituting sustainable alternatives to storage under low temperature and low moisture.

A method to help farmers escape the poverty trap

Picture copyright CAO et al.

Escaping the poverty trap and finding win-win paths that protect both the environment and economic development are challenging issues. Scientists Cao et al. propose a feasible plan to improve both the environment and life in Yanan City. The method involves the construction of terraced fields, establishment of fruit tree orchards, implementation of grazing restrictions, and ecological migration. This strategy exemplifies appropriate sustainable governance and development for other ecologically fragile regions.