Shortage of arable land creates unprecedented challenges to produce enough food to satisfy the increased food demands. Scientists Xie et al. show that the desert-like, non-arable land can be developed by building ‘clusters’ of solar-energy greenhouses in which land productivity is higher and crop water use efficiency greater than in traditional open-field, irrigated cultivation systems. Although many challenges remain to be addressed, this innovative system has potential for areas with available barren land.
The twin challenges of climate change and food security call for climate-smart agriculture, that is to say agriculture that helps to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Scientists Scherer and Verburg review the potentials and trade-offs of climate-smart agricultural measures taken by producers and consumers, and identify their linkages. They advocate not solely focusing research and implementation on one-sided measures but designing good, site-specific combinations of both demand- and supply-side measures to use the potential of climate-smart agriculture more effectively.
Heat stress lowers wheat growth and productivity. Agronomists Akter and Islam review some appropriate strategies able to improve wheat yield under extreme heat stress. These include the choice of cultivars, the management of soil moisture and nutrients, the adjustment of planting time and the use of exogenous protectants. It remains, however, that the overall success of the complex wheat heat stress management will depend on the prospective collaboration of crop modelers, molecular biologists, and plant physiologists.
Reducing methane emission and maintaining rice sustainable production are two major challenges in rice production. Scientists Xu et al. showed that planting the free-floating water fern Azolla along with double rice reduced methane emission in rice paddies due to significant effect on dissolved oxygen and soil redox potential, which are key factors for methane emission.
Agriculture contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and there is a need for identifying viable long term reduction steps that farmers can adopt. Scientists Dumbrell et al. identified the greenhouse gas mitigation potential and the costs of abatement at three Australian grain farms located in the main grain growing regions of Australia. They found marked difference in abatement potential and impact on operating profits across case study farms and management practices. Reaching significant climate change abatement will come at a cost to farmers.
There is a feeling that hybrids are better adapted than open-pollinated cultivars to manage with climate change. However, scientists Lana et al. investigated maize cultivars responses to temperature and precipitation changes and report an equivalent or even better resilience of open-pollinated cultivars compared with hybrids to yield losses under adverse conditions.
Commercial oat cultivars produce higher yields in temperate regions than in dry and hot areas. Agronomists Sánchez-Martín et al. studied oat landraces and found that these wild relatives should outperform commercial varieties under harsh conditions.
How to increase grain yield and decrease the impact of agriculture on climate? Liu et al. found in the literature seven key farming practices that increase crop yields by 15-59%, decrease carbon footprints by 25-34% and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 25-50%.
Perennial forage grasses are major species for agriculture and food security. Production of grasses is threatened by increasing drought periods in the context of climate change. Norton et al. review the knowledge of factors influencing plant drought survival. They propose solutions such as increasing the depth and density of grass root systems to strengthen dehydration avoidance, and identifying non-toxic endophyte strains compatible with summer-dormant cultivars of tall fescue to enhance drought survival.
Food production is actually facing issues of climate change, unstable markets and complex public policies. Agronomists and farmers therefore need new ideas to design alternative farming systems. Urruty et al. explain the four concepts of climate-smart agriculture : stability, robustness, vulnerability and resilience. They present methods to evaluate farming management using these concepts.