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.
Olive tree is attacked by several pests that cause important production losses. These pests are regulated by several natural enemies that also need non-host resources. Scientists Villa et al. studied survival and egg production traits of an important parasitoid of the olive moth after feeding on several natural food resources (e.g., plants and honeydew of hemipteran). They showed that the type of food available for this parasitoid was a key parameter for successful biological control in olive groves.
Modern high-input agriculture associated with a low crop genetic diversity is widely recognized as unsustainable. Farmers need rules to design variety mixtures and crop breeders need new methods to select varieties for mixtures. Scientists Barot et al. reviewed the beneficial effects of mixtures of varieties on ecosystems and recommend strategies derived from ecology to optimize variety mixtures.
Increasing carbon stocks in agricultural areas seeks to reinforce food security and affect climate change. In the context of the 4 per 1000 international initiative, scientists Dignac et al. review recent advances on the mechanisms of soil organic carbon stabilisation/destabilisation and show how agricultural practices influence these mechanisms. They show how these mechanisms can be integrated in global climatic models to ameliorate predictions of soil organic carbon stock evolution.
Plant available water is held in soil pores, which size is affected by soil organic matter content. Organic waste recycling in agriculture can increase soil organic matter contents and improve related soil properties. Agronomists Eden et al. analyzed data from long-term field experiments and found that in almost all cases, plant available water is increased in soils amended with organic wastes.
Commercial orchards have to produce high yields of good quality fruits, while preserving natural resources. In such productive context, many biological, chemical and physical processes still provide important services to the soil, the plant and the atmosphere. Demestihas et al. review how agricultural practices in orchards affect these services and show that fruit production, climate regulation, soil nitrogen availability, water regulation, pest and disease control and pollination can be assessed from simulation models.