‘Gobi agriculture’ – producing fruit and vegetable on desert-like land

Picture copyright Xie et al.

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.

Climate-smart agriculture requires efforts at both the supply- and demand-side

Picture copyright Scherer and Verburg

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.

The tricky management of heat stress in wheat

Picture copyright Maitre, INRA

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.

Planting Azolla to reduce methane emission from rice

Picture copyright Xu et al.

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.

Greenhouse gas abatement costs in Australian agriculture

Picture copyright Elizabeth Meier

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.

The performance of open-pollinated maize cultivars

Picture copyright Lana et al.

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.

Forage grasses adapted to future drought

Picture copyright NORTON et al.

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.

The four concepts of climate-smart agriculture

Picture copyright URRUTY et al.

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.