Five research priorities to better manage damping-off diseases

Picture copyright Martin Chilvers, Michigan State University, USA

Various stresses such as pests, diseases, bad soil temperature or humidity conditions. can impair seeds germination and seedlings emergence. To cope with the problem, an usual practice is to control soil-borne pathogens by conventional fungicides, but this raises concerns for human health, biodiversity and the environment. A better understanding of these stresses and their interactions is essential to develop durable and sustainable pest management strategies. Agronomists Lamichhane et al. review key knowledge gaps in the field and propose five research priorities to better manage damping-off diseases.

A new mechanism for funding farmer environmental subsidies

Picture copyright Rescia et al.

Agricultural intensification and farm abandonment in Europe have induced dramatic social, economic and ecological issues. Sustainable agricultural management may solve these issues by providing a viable economic margin and preserving biodiversity. Rescia et al. propose a mechanism of monetary compensation for farmers maintaining or restoring non-agricultural lands in their farms. Using this funding mechanism, conservation of biodiversity would no longer constitute a factor limiting profitability for farmers, but would rather complement their earnings.

P-based manure management to maintain soil phosphorus

Picture copyright Sadeghpour et al.

Buildup of phosphorus in agricultural soils due to nitrogen-based manure management can increase the risk of phosphorus loss from agricultural fields over time. Scientists Sadeghpour et al. demonstrated the long-term sustainability benefits of phosphorus removal based manure management of a dairy corn silage and alfalfa forage rotation. The work emphasizes the importance of rotation fertility management rather than single-year P management.

Vacuum sealing and local treatments to control stored seed pest in the tropics

Picture copyright Lawrence et al.

Seed conservation under tropical climates is a great challenge when usual storage technology is lacking. Seed pests and the loss of seed viability are among the main risks faced by farmers and seed banks. Scientists Lawrence et. al. recently found that vacuum sealing significantly reduces stored insect pest pressure while maintaining seed viability. Several local treatments decrease also pest pressure, thus constituting sustainable alternatives to storage under low temperature and low moisture.

A method to help farmers escape the poverty trap

Picture copyright CAO et al.

Escaping the poverty trap and finding win-win paths that protect both the environment and economic development are challenging issues. Scientists Cao et al. propose a feasible plan to improve both the environment and life in Yanan City. The method involves the construction of terraced fields, establishment of fruit tree orchards, implementation of grazing restrictions, and ecological migration. This strategy exemplifies appropriate sustainable governance and development for other ecologically fragile regions.

Cacao agroforestry yields similar income as monoculture

Picture copyright Armengot et al.

Tropical forests are dramatically decreasing. Management practices have also intensified, thus threatening biodiversity. A potential solution is agroforestry, that is the cultivation of shade trees within crops. Scientists Armengot et al. compared agroforestry and classical monoculture. They found that cacao yields were, on average, 41% higher in monocultures, but the revenues derived from agroforestry by-crops economically overcompensated for this difference.

Nanoparticles and salts decrease drought stress in soybean

Picture copyright Dimkpa et al.

Micronutrients provide multiple benefits in crops. In plants, part of these micronutrients is involved in plant-soil-water relations. A new article by Dimkpa and co-workers demonstrates the effects of using a micronutrient formulation of zinc, copper and boron in mitigating drought stress on soybeans. Micronutrients increased plants growth, yield and nutrient uptake. Such a strategy contributes to decrease fertilizer losses and to zinc fortification of food crops.

Deforestation creates soil carbon and nitrogen losses in Ethiopia

Picture copyright Berihu et al.

Ethiopia faces high risk of soil carbon depletion largely due to deforestation and continuous cultivation. Deforestation has resulted in losses of between 20 and 50 percent of the soil carbon stocks in the first meter of the soil depth. Scientists Berihu et al. studied the effect of land use-land cover changes on soil organic carbon and nitrogen. They found that the soil organic carbon sequestration and total nitrogen content for dense forest were significantly higher than that of grassland, open forest, and farm land. Conversion of forest to other land use may lead to massive losses in soil nutrients.