Promoting organic olive farming in South Spain

Picture copyright Pleguezuelo et al.

Olive is a key crop in the Mediterranean basin. Scientists Pleguezuelo et al. analysed the situation of organic farming in Andalusia. They emphasize the need for educational and research programs to promote the demand for these products. They reckon that further support for funding research is essential to characterize the effects of olive cultivation on soils and biodiversity.

The importance of trees for tropical cattle welfare

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Livestock production in Latin America is strongly associated with deforestation but there is also evidence that animal welfare is improved by tree coverage. Scientists Mancera et al. recently showed reductions in cattle skin injuries and overall better cattle body condition in ranches with more than 10% of tree coverage, thus improving livestock production.

Air-propelled agricultural residues kill weeds

Picture copyright Perez-Ruiz et al.

Crop production often results in abundant agricultural residues, and organic crop production suffers from an overabundance of weeds. Scientists Perez-Ruiz et al. recently showed that several gritty-textured residues, particularly those derived from maize cobs and olive pits, could abrade weed seedlings when propelled by air. Their use can contribute to the non-chemical control of weeds requested by organic farming and offers a potential solution to address herbicide-resistant weeds.

Biological control against grapevine insect pests

Picture copyright Denis Thiery

Worldwide viticulture covers about 7.5 million ha and makes intensive use of pesticides The main insect pests threatening worldwide viticulture are currently two moth species. Scientists Thiery et al. critically reviewed the different options able to reduce or replace synthetic insecticide-based control. Very recent results promote the use of grassing and floral strips between the grape rows to increase pest control by spiders or parasitoid wasps. The production and release of such natural enemies have a great potential to render biological control strategies more efficient and reduce insecticide use in vineyards.

Improving composting with worms and additives

Picture copyright Barthod et al.

Composting and vermicomposting are sustainable strategies for recycling organic wastes and producing organic amendments. Scientists Barthod et al. suggest that the presence of worms in combination with additives significantly improves the composting process. Co-composting strategies need to be locally optimized, involving the generated amendments in a circular economy suitable to improve sustainability of agricultural systems.

Conservation agriculture in southern Africa rests on complementary practices

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The principles of conservation agriculture including minimum soil disturbance, crop residue retention and diversification, have been tested in southern Africa since the early 2000s, but proved insufficient when applied alone. Scientists Thierfelder et al. recently reviewed a bunch of complementary practices needed to make conservation agriculture systems more functional. These include appropriate nutrient management, improved stress-tolerant varieties, the judicious use of crop chemicals, the enhanced groundcover, the increased efficiency of planting and mechanization and an enabling political environment.

Issues of increasing yields in organic farming

Picture copyright Anders Lunneryd

Many people highlight the need to increase yields in organic agriculture to provide more organic food for a growing population. Scientists Röös et al. recently reviewed the opportunities and risks of revising the main factors controlling yield in organic agriculture. For example, increased nitrogen inputs carry many risks and few opportunities, whereas the management of ecosystem services provides many risk-free opportunities for improved pest control, thus increasing yields. Organic agriculture needs to reconsider fundamental principles to improve food system sustainability.

Seeking sustainable sugarcane ethanol production in Brazil

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Sugarcane ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emission if agricultural practices and production processes are sustainable. Scientists Bordonal et al. recently reviewed the significant advances made in Brazil rendering the sugarcane-based ethanol one of the most successful bioethanol program. Meeting the world demand for sustainable bioethanol production requires to optimize further the whole agricultural production chain.

Identifying economically viable uses of biochar from participatory trials in Ghana

Picture copyright Steiner et al.

Urban agriculture in West African cities is characterized by fast crop rotations and high inputs and outputs on relatively small land areas. Scientists Steiner et al. used a novel approach to evaluate the economic realities of farmers in a semi-participatory trial where farmers both produced and applied biochar in their soils. They showed that the use of biochar prompted farmers to improve their plot management. They assess that labor considerations and the availability of feedstock determine mainly farmers technology for biochar production.