Worldwide crop production sustainability is threatened by weed resistance to herbicides. Scientists Mascanzoni et al. demonstrated in Italy that a high risk of resistance evolution is associated with traditional rice cultivation systems opting for monoculture, water-seeding, and less diversified herbicide strategies. They showed that dry seeding and crop rotation rate are negatively correlated with resistance occurrence.
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.
Scientists Baraibar et al. showed that in the fall, early planting resulted in larger weed biomass in all cover crop types, but grasses and mixtures were more weed suppressive than legumes and brassicas. In the spring, cover crops with large biomass consistently limited weed growth. Their results may help farmers achieve multifunctional cover crops coping with production and conservation.
There is an urgent need to render food production more sustainable in both economic and environmental terms. Scientists Carrillo-Reche et al. reviewed the potential of so-called ‘on-farm’ seed priming, a low-cost low-risk technology for agricultural intensification in developing countries. They concluded that on average crop yields from ‘on farm’ primed seeds were 21 % higher than conventionally sown seeds, suggesting that the technique can be adopted by resource-poor farmers.
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.
Crop diversification is a major lever to increase the sustainability of arable farming systems by reducing agricultural inputs, increasing biodiversity and reducing the yield gap associated with frequent returns of the same species. Scientists Meynard et al. recently highlighted that crop diversification was hindered by a socio-technical lock-in favoring the dominant species (wheat, rapeseed, maize…). They proposed to public authorities and stakeholders various levers for crop diversification.
Recommendations for rice management are often inferred from agronomic diagnoses made on plots, neglecting farmers’ perceptions in the evaluation process. Farmers may consequently dismiss recommendations that do not account for their own perception of yield determination. Scientists Diawara et al. conducted participatory research in Mali to identify rice yield indicators that are relevant to farmers. They found that farmers had complex and interesting perception of rice yield determination, valuable to improve rice cultivation.
Scientists Allain et al., using a modeling platform, revealed that reducing water use does not necessarily improve downstream river flows nor decrease crop yields. Symmetrically, they showed that a new distribution of reservoirs can highly impact the water consumption and the agricultural economy without changing the water storage capacity. These are new reasons to argue that solving water imbalances is not only a matter of storing versus economizing water!
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.
Work organization is a central element to be taken into account when considering the future of livestock farms in a context of increasing uncertainties (market and climate). Scientists Cournut et al. presented the Work Assessment Method, a framework able to capture work organization, taking into account the specifics of the livestock activity.