Micro- and secondary nutrient deficiencies are widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists Kihara et al. reviewed the responses of crops such as maize, sorghum, wheat and rice to micro- and secondary nutrient applications in this region. They showed that both single and combined nutrient applications increased yields in a majority of cases. They discuss the need for amending the actual fertilizer blends accordingly.
Pollinator protection by farmers is currently based on rewards, which is unscalable for Low and Middle Income countries. Scientists Christmann et al. tested for the first time the new “farming with alternative pollinators” approach, which measures net income increase for farmers engaged in habitat enhancement (floral resources, nesting and hibernating sites, shelters against wind) for wild pollinators alternative to honeybees and commercial bumblebees. In Uzbekistan, they obtained a high income increase for field-crop cucumber and orchards of sour cherry.
Land use change from woody biomass to herbaceous species for bioenergy in marginal lands has an impact on soil organic carbon, which challenges the positive effect of fossil-C substitution. Scientists Nocentini and Monti showed that land use change from poplar to ten years of switchgrass and giant reed increased substantially and differently soil organic carbon stocks. These increases contributed significantly to life-cycle carbon savings of both perennial grass crops when biomass was used to produce advanced ethanol to supplant fossil fuels.
Farming system classifications into “conventional” vs. “organic”, “ecological”, “sustainable”, “agroecological”… deal in fact with a variety of farming practices and performances. Agronomists Therond et al. used environmental issues of industrial agriculture as a new attempt to sort out these farming systems. They identify six key agricultural models that promote greater sustainability and raise agronomic issues.
Biochar research activities are associated to socio-economic development and environmental status of countries as reviewed by scientists Mehmmod et al. The authors reveal that particularly low developed countries are focusing their biochar related research on agronomic topics, which indicates their efforts to reduce hunger and poverty. Yet, improving local research capacities and encouraging synergies across scientific disciplines and countries are crucial to foster development of sustainable agronomy in less developed countries.
Chickpea is a pulse crop producing around 13 million tons of dry seeds per year from an area of about 13 million ha. The insect pest pod borer may cause up to 90% yield loss in chickpea, due to its frequent occurrence during vegetative growth and pod formation. Agronomists Patil et al. reviewed the sustainable approaches for reducing the incidence of pod borer. They suggest an integrated management involving host plant resistance, good agronomic practices and judicious use of chemical and biological methods.
Conversion to organic farming is a great challenge in vineyard systems, causing major changes in system structure and management. Agronomists Merot and Wery proposed six complexity indicators to assess modifications to cropping system structure and management during conversion. They demonstrate that conversion to organic viticulture increase the complexity of vineyard structure and management. These indicators can be extended to all agricultural systems to diagnose the impact of organic farming conversion.
Increased palm oil production reduces biodiversity, damages the ecosystems and threatens human health. Scientists Sanyal et al. reviewed the advancements in the search for sunflower oil varieties containing high levels of stearic and oleic acids, capable of replacing palm oil in the food industry. Sustainable growth of these high yielding varieties can be achieved now without damaging the ecosystems, contrary to palm oil cultivation.
Many organic farmers tolerate negative phosphorus budgets and rely on biological activation of soil P reserves. Scientists Ohm et al. investigated long term soil P pools and enzymatic soil activities in organic cropping systems. They show that labile inorganic P fractions in soils decrease continuously and future mobilization forces for P from more stable fractions are insecure in practical use. Organic farming should be aware of the problem and develop P-fertilizing strategies.
Farmers in the semi-arid regions of West Africa face challenges related to poor crop establishment, variable rainfall, low soil fertility and a shortage of labour at times of peak demand. Scientists Aune et al. showed that selecting good quality seeds, seed priming, seed treatment with a fungicide/insecticide, micro-dosing of fertilizers and water-harvesting structures increased yields in those areas. Mechanized sowing and weeding can ensure that the practices are applied at the right time and increase precision of application.