Crop-livestock farms are declining across Europe despite the fact that they are theoretically sustainable. Agronomists Martin et al. evidenced collaborations among farms and farmers, such as the direct exchange of raw materials. They propose to set up participatory workshops to improve farm-farm collaborations.
Global warming is induced by several factors, notably by the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) by some agricultural practices. Agronomists Vermue et al. measured the nitrous oxide emissions of various weed management options. They found the highest emissions, of 5226 g per hectare, in the no tillage system, versus 177 g for intensive tillage. Most N2O emissions occurred in spring.
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Agricultural innovations such as disease resistant maize varieties and integrated pest management often hold a potential for wider application. This motivates many agricultural development interventions to aim for scaling agricultural innovations. However, several factors may constrain such intentions. Scaling may also lead to undesirable side-effects such as environmental degradation. Wigboldus et al. review current and alternative approaches to scaling. They present a framework to enrich views on what is involved in helping such innovations go to scale in an effective and responsible way
Sustainable agriculture should tend to reduce or stop the use of pesticides. However, this absence of chemical control may affect harvest quality by leading to an increase of fungal toxins, named mycotoxins, due to the development of pathogenic fungi in maize, for instance. Agronomists Reboud et al. studied mycotoxin levels in 29 maize fields over 4 years in France. They found mycotoxins levels twice higher in untreated fields, of cumulated 3.7 mg/Kg on average, versus pesticide-treated fields, of 1.9 mg/Kg. However, mycotoxins levels in untreated fields were still about 50% lower than the acceptable legal level for edible maize but with reduced safety margin.
Farmland is increasingly being polluted by pesticides and also by vehicles, notably near urban areas. Since pollution is concentrated at low atmospheric levels, cultivating crops on rooftops may produce high-quality food. Agronomists Liu et al. cultivated leafy greens in Guangzhou, China and found that rooftop grown vegetables were competitive in cost and quality compared to high-end market vegetables.
Coffee planters use diverse strategies to enhance coffee production, such as pruning, fertilising, removing weeds, applying lime to adjust the soil pH, irrigating coffee trees to trigger timely flowering, and removing shade trees that shade coffee plants. Agronomists Boreux et al. studied the factors of coffee production in the agroforestry system of Kodagu, India.
Damage on fruit production depends on the nature and movement of insects. However little is known on the year-round movements of insect predators in fruit crops and surrounding non-crop vegetation such as cover crops and edge plants. Agronomists Sorribas et al. showed that insect biodiversity was highest in organic managed farms. Nonetheless, insect abundance was highest in integrated pest managed systems. Numerous insect species moved from the crop toward edge shelterbelts to overwinter, because shelterbelts were largely preferred over cover crops. As a consequence, control strategies should focus on enhancing flying predators in shelterbelts.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are root symbionts that play a key role in plant growth. Agronomists Van Geel et al. show that a broad range of crops highly benefit from the inoculation with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. They also found that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus for all plants. On the contrary, the fungus species should be adapted to the plant partner. Also they observed that the plant should be coupled with only one fungus species, not with a mixture of several fungal partners.
Biosecurity in agricuture and food is a major issue but there is few knowledge on the behaviour and actions of farmers on biosecurity. Mankad reviewed attitudes concerning biosecurity risk, the influence of social incentives and social norms on individual behaviour, and consideration of emotional and cognitive biases in assessing risk. He found that human adoption of and adherence to biosecurity practices is influenced by psychosocial factors.