Is pennycress ready for wide-spread adoption in the Upper Midwest?

Picture copyright Julija Cubins

Pennycress is underused in agriculture, despite multiple agronomic benefits as a winter annual and a potential to produce an oilseed feedstock for industrial uses. Scientists Cubins et al. recently reviewed the promise shown by this plant for successful integration on agricultural land in the Upper Midwest. They reckoned, however, that information regarding basic management practices, such as seeding rate, row spacing, and nutrient requirements is lacking. Henceforth, further breeding efforts are needed to develop commercially viable varieties.

Diversifying grain-based cropping systems for a sustainable agriculture

Picture copyright Adeux et al.

Herbicides jeopardize the sustainability of agriculture. Unfortunately, no alternative weed management tool can level with their efficacy. Based on 17-years of observations, Scientists Adeux et al. showed that diversified crop rotation allowed low herbicide use, long-term weed management, and high productivity in grain-based cropping.

Diversifying crop rotation improves agroecosystem robustness

Picture copyright Li et al.

Coordinating the activity of key agronomy practices can enhance agroecosystem robustness. Scientists Li et al. recently found that including N2-fixing legume crops in the rotation improved resistance to stresses, causing agricultural systems to become more resilient and constant in productivity across rotation cycles. This enhanced robustness led to average increases in crop yield and farm net financial return of 5-8% and 12-23%, respectively.

Agrophotovoltaic systems for integrated food and renewable energy production

Picture copyright BayWa r.e.

The expansion of renewable energies aims at meeting the global energy demand while replacing fossil fuels. However, it requires large areas of land, leading to competition for limited land resources. Agrophotovoltaic systems can spare land resources by combining food and solar energy productions. Scientists Weselek et al. recently reviewed that such synergetic combination might increase overall land productivity by up to 70%. They concluded that agrophotovoltaic systems can be a valuable technical approach for more sustainable agriculture.

Developing cultivation of perennial forage legumes in marginal lands

Picture copyright S. De Meyer

Perennial forage legume species provide high protein feed to animals and restore soil fertility. However current perennial forage legumes often require re-seeding each time the “perennial phase” is re-established. Scientists Edwards et al. recently introduced the concept of a “perennial ley-farming” system in which the perennial legume self regenerates from a hard seed bank, thus creating a more sustainable agro-ecosystem.

Diversity of food systems in transitions

Picture copyright Gaitán-Cremaschi et al.

A transition from dominant unsustainable corporate food systems supported by fossil fuels and agrochemicals, to alternative socially just food systems incorporating ecological principals is needed. Scientists Gaitán-Cremaschi et al. reviewed the literature of transitions in food systems and present a framework of how food systems are configured in terms of production systems, value chains and innovation support structures. This overview can inform policies to support certain desired sustainability transition pathways.

Strategies for adapting viticulture to climate change

Picture copyright Bernardo et al.

Foreseen climate change is expected to impair grapevine natural processes, hence decreasing yield and grape quality. Scientists Bernardo et al. reviewed the effects of environmental stresses on viticulture in a Mediterranean-like climate and the available adaptation strategies for winegrowers and researchers. Rational and focused management can improve grapevine resilience to stresses. Defining clear production objectives appear crucial to develop sustainable viticulture.

Grain legume yields are more stable than expected

Picture copyright M. Reckling, ZALF

Grain legumes such as pea, faba bean and lupin produce high-quality protein for food and feed. However, they are only grown on 1.5% of European arable land due to the belief that their yield is highly variable. Scientists Reckling et al. show that grain legume yields are actually as stable as other spring crops when evaluated in long-term experiments and with an appropriate indicator. These novel findings could overcome the current negative perception of grain legume cultivation and stimulate initiatives to improve the crops agronomy.

Designing a future food vision for the Nordics

Picture copyright Jannie Hagman, SLU, Sweden

Future food systems will be shaped by policymakers and stakeholders through decisions taken at different levels. Scientists Karlsson et al. used a participatory approach, where researchers in agronomy, animal science, nutrition, and systems analysis and stakeholders worked together in an iterative manner, to develop a future food vision for the Nordic countries Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. They reckon that in the future, organic farming and limited livestock production will provide food for a large population while reducing environmental impacts.

Intercrops improve drought resistance in young rubber trees

Picture copyright Clermont-Dauphin et al.

The expansion of rubber cultivation into drought-prone areas of Northeast Thailand, calls for innovative management to increase drought resistance in young trees. Scientists Clermont-Dauphin et al. examined how intercrops affect the young tree root traits and resource availability for tree growth and survival. They found that intercrops improved drought resistance in young rubber trees.