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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Copper-based antimicrobial compounds are widely applied against crop diseases although their use threatens production sustainability. Scientists Lamichhane et al. review those compounds and highlight their benefits and risks. They emphasize the potentials for their improvement and present the opportunities for alternatives.
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%.
Methane is both a product of digestion in cattle and a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Unfortunately, on-farm methane quantification is not feasible on a large scale using animal-direct measurements. Scientists Engelke et al. developed a tool predicting methane emission of dairy cows from both the fatty acid concentrations in the milk and the milk yield. This prediction could be used as a screening method in the genetic selection of low methane-emitting cows.
Half of the world population fulfills 20% of the body daily energy requirement with rice. However, soil micronutrient deficiencies, such as boron, threaten rice productivity. Scientists Atique-ur-Rehman et al. recently reviewed the effects of boron deficiency. They reckon that application of boron-based fertilizers as seed priming, soil or foliar treatments can improve rice productivity in different production systems.
Big data is said to have the potential to revolutionize agriculture. But will all farmers be able to use and benefit from those large amounts of data from sensors or satellites ? Scientists Fleming et al. focused on the Australian grain industry and identified two contrasting viewpoints – 1 – big data is for big farms and 2 – big data is for everyone. They conclude that the development of big data in Australian agriculture and beyond necessitates addressing key issues around access and infrastructure, opportunities and risks and equality of benefits.