Commercial oat cultivars produce higher yields in temperate regions than in dry and hot areas. Agronomists Sánchez-Martín et al. studied oat landraces and found that these wild relatives should outperform commercial varieties under harsh conditions.
Tropical forests are dramatically decreasing. Management practices have also intensified, thus threatening biodiversity. A potential solution is agroforestry, that is the cultivation of shade trees within crops. Scientists Armengot et al. compared agroforestry and classical monoculture. They found that cacao yields were, on average, 41% higher in monocultures, but the revenues derived from agroforestry by-crops economically overcompensated for this difference.
Micronutrients provide multiple benefits in crops. In plants, part of these micronutrients is involved in plant-soil-water relations. A new article by Dimkpa and co-workers demonstrates the effects of using a micronutrient formulation of zinc, copper and boron in mitigating drought stress on soybeans. Micronutrients increased plants growth, yield and nutrient uptake. Such a strategy contributes to decrease fertilizer losses and to zinc fortification of food crops.
Ethiopia faces high risk of soil carbon depletion largely due to deforestation and continuous cultivation. Deforestation has resulted in losses of between 20 and 50 percent of the soil carbon stocks in the first meter of the soil depth. Scientists Berihu et al. studied the effect of land use-land cover changes on soil organic carbon and nitrogen. They found that the soil organic carbon sequestration and total nitrogen content for dense forest were significantly higher than that of grassland, open forest, and farm land. Conversion of forest to other land use may lead to massive losses in soil nutrients.
Soil erosion is a major issue for crop production, and is expected to increase with climate change. Measuring soil loss is difficult and few reliable methods are available. Agronomists Duan et al. designed a new method to calculate soil loss tolerance, taking into account soil productivity.
How to increase grain yield and decrease the impact of agriculture on climate? Liu et al. found in the literature seven key farming practices that increase crop yields by 15-59%, decrease carbon footprints by 25-34% and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 25-50%.
Poultry producers are always seeking a more efficient chicken that will grow faster using fewer resources. But what are the consequences on the birds themselves? Scientists Tallentire et al. find that the improved efficiency of modern breeds is the result of increased growth rate, particularly of breast meat. They discuss the effects of artificial selection on traits such as metabolic activity. As industrial feed production has a huge environmental impact, is this progress in chicken genetics good news for global food sustainability?
Adaptation of farming management practices to changing environmental conditions, such as climate, is a major issue that controls the success or failure of food production. Therefore Robert et al. review how flexible management strategies are in farming decision models. They propose a sequential decision-making process.
Castration of male piglets is a standard practice used by the pig industry to avoid boar taint, a sensory defect of meat from boars. An initiative to abandon this practice has been undertaken by key stakeholders in European Union, which will greatly impact the pig meat sector and which has stimulated intensive research to find easy implementable alternatives to reduce boar taint. Dietary compounds have shown promising results as potential alternative to reduce boar taint. Research from Bilić-Šobot et al. shows that hydrolysable tannins should prevent boar taint by affecting metabolic pathways of boar taint substances.
Johnsongrass, one of the most competitive weeds in maize, is actually controlled by broadcast application of at least two herbicide treatment. Agronomists López-Granados et al. designed a high-resolution method to locate weeds using drones to take visible and near infrared pictures, then algorithms to map johnsongrass patches (light green) in maize rows (dark blue). They deduce that site-specific control would save up to 95% herbicides, which will be consistent with European and the Spanish legislations.