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.

Are industrial broiler chickens still birds?

Picture copyright Tallentire et al.

Poultry producers are always seeking a more efficient chicken that will grow faster using fewer resources. But what are the consequences on the birds themselves? Scientists Tallentire et al. find that the improved efficiency of modern breeds is the result of increased growth rate, particularly of breast meat. They discuss the effects of artificial selection on traits such as metabolic activity. As industrial feed production has a huge environmental impact, is this progress in chicken genetics good news for global food sustainability?

Stopping pig castration by feeding pigs with tannins

Picture copyright Choisis, INRA

Castration of male piglets is a standard practice used by the pig industry to avoid boar taint, a sensory defect of meat from boars. An initiative to abandon this practice has been undertaken by key stakeholders in European Union, which will greatly impact the pig meat sector and which has stimulated intensive research to find easy implementable alternatives to reduce boar taint. Dietary compounds have shown promising results as potential alternative to reduce boar taint. Research from Bilić-Šobot et al. shows that hydrolysable tannins should prevent boar taint by affecting metabolic pathways of boar taint substances.

95% less herbicides in maize using improved drone imagery to locate weeds

Picture copyright López-Granados et al.

Johnsongrass, one of the most competitive weeds in maize, is actually controlled by broadcast application of at least two herbicide treatment. Agronomists López-Granados et al. designed a high-resolution method to locate weeds using drones to take visible and near infrared pictures, then algorithms to map johnsongrass patches (light green) in maize rows (dark blue). They deduce that site-specific control would save up to 95% herbicides, which will be consistent with European and the Spanish legislations.