Agricultural technology as a driver of sustainable intensification: insights from the diffusion and focus of patents

Patents can provide an important yet underexplored lens on agricultural innovation and development. Based on more than one million patents issued during the period 1970–2022, we explored the degree to which agricultural patents have related to sustainability targets over time. Only 4% of all patents related to sustainability targets, yet this has increased to 8% in recent years.

Li, Y., Herzog, F., Levers, C. et al. Agricultural technology as a driver of sustainable intensification: insights from the diffusion and focus of patents. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 14 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00949-5

Distribution of pesticides in agroecosystem food webs differ among trophic groups and between annual and perennial crops

Pesticides threaten biodiversity, but their impact on agroecosystem food webs remains unclear. Our study reveals pesticides, including banned ones, enter local food webs from surrounding landscapes through diverse routes. Trophic groups and agroecosystem type influence the number of detected pesticides. We found that insecticides and fungicides bioaccumulate, while herbicides (bio)degrade. Our findings emphasize how species traits and agroecosystem characteristics collectively impact pesticide distribution in food webs. This study provides crucial insights into the ecological consequences of pesticide use, informing sustainable pest management and biodiversity conservation.

Michalko, R., Purchart, L., Hofman, J. et al. Distribution of pesticides in agroecosystem food webs differ among trophic groups and between annual and perennial crops. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 13 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00950-y

 

Diversity, adoption and performances of inter-row management practices in immature rubber plantations. A review

The immature period of rubber plantations is rarely characterized and assessed, despite its significant economic and environmental impacts. Our literature review on inter-row management highlights a diversity of practices, with the drivers of adoption and the effects on the plots’ performances. Our findings reveal gaps in existing knowledge essential for a comprehensive understanding of current management in immature rubber plantations.

Simon, C., Thoumazeau, A., Chambon, B. et al. Diversity, adoption and performances of inter-row management practices in immature rubber plantations. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 12 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00944-w

Landscape perspectives for agroecological weed management. A review

The current research effort on agroecological weed management is largely rooted in agronomy and field-scale farming practices. This article reviews current knowledge of landscape effects on weed communities and seed predation. The ecological processes underlying landscape effects, their interaction with in-field approaches, and the implications of landscape-scale change for agroecological weed management are discussed.

Boinot, S., Alignier, A. & Storkey, J. Landscape perspectives for agroecological weed management. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 7 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-023-00941-5

Intercropping indices evaluation on grain legume-small grain cereals mixture

Intercropping is a farming practice where multiple crops are grown together in the same field. It has been extensively studied in recent years. Researchers have developed over 20 unique indices to compare intercropping with traditional farming practices. Our study collected data from previous intercropping experiments and evaluated those data on the existing indices. We found that the success of intercropping depends on factors such as crop density and ratio, and indices differ in the way that these factors are accounted for. To improve research in this area, it is important to establish a standard protocol for conducting and evaluating intercropping trials. This will ensure that future research is effective and can provide accurate comparisons to traditional farming practices.

  • Zustovi, R., Landschoot, S., Dewitte, K. et al. Intercropping indices evaluation on grain legume-small grain cereals mixture: a critical meta-analysis review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 5 (2024).
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-023-00934-4

Soil erosion has mixed effects on the environmental impacts of wheat production

This study is the first to encompass watershed-scale processes in the environmental assessment of wheat production and to address trade-offs between erosion losses and carbon burial in sediments. It demonstrates that soil erosion increases the greenhouse gas emissions of wheat by up to 60% to 80% and emphasizes the importance of erosion-control management practices.

 

Ruau, C., Naipal, V., Gagnaire, N. et al. Soil erosion has mixed effects on the environmental impacts of wheat production in a large, semi-arid Mediterranean agricultural basin. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 6 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-023-00942-4

 

Agroforestry to support bird diversity in European farmland

Intensification and homogenization of agricultural landscapes have led to a strong decline in European farmland birds. Scientists Edo et al. demonstrated that agroforestry systems combining trees with crops or livestock represent a valuable habitat for breeding birds in European agricultural landscapes. Using audio recordings, they measured a higher bird diversity in agroforestry systems compared to open agricultural land. The study highlights that agroforestry systems, providing heterogeneity in agricultural landscapes, could contribute to halting and reversing the decline in bird diversity in Europe.

Edo, M., Entling, M.H. & Rösch, V. Agroforestry supports high bird diversity in European farmland. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 1 (2024).

https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-023-00936-2

Feasibility of mitigation measures for agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the UK

This review is briefly contextualised as follows:
(1) Synthesising a novel, comprehensive, and searchable dataset on agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation measures whilst critiquing their feasibility of deployment (e.g., capital investment, operating costs etc.) as net-zero becomes a focal point for highly industrialised nations; to achieve this, the authors followed a strict standard operating procedure for systematic literature reviews.
(2) Providing an open-access, informative, and comprehensive dataset for agri-environment stakeholders and policymakers to identify the most promising mitigation measures and their potential contribution to a net-zero economy across all major agricultural activities with the geographic boundary being set in the UK.
Jebari, A., Pereyra-Goday, F., Kumar, A. et al. Feasibility of mitigation measures for agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. A systematic review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 2 (2024).
https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-023-00938-0

The future of digital agriculture through the lens of policy and law

Digital agriculture presents potential enhancements to sustainability across food systems. Researchers MacPherson et al. studied how digital technologies could be leveraged to achieve a diverse range of agricultural-related policy objectives in the future. They found that current polices have yet to acknowledge the full potential of these technologies. They conclude that future data ownership regimes will decide for which ends digital agriculture is being used.

MacPherson, J., Voglhuber-Slavinsky, A., Olbrisch, M. et al. Future agricultural systems and the role of digitalization for achieving sustainability goals. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 42, 70 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-022-00792-6

Important information

The Editorial Board wishes you all a happy and peaceful holiday season. and would like to inform you that starting December 22nd, most of the editors will be taking some time off. As a result, we will be slower to respond, with business resuming as usual in the second week of January.