Cover crops with subterranean clover reduce the adoption of synthetic herbicides and fertilizers

Picture copyright Scavo et al.

Cover crops are gaining in popularity for their positive effects in agroecosystems, especially under organic farming and in low-input agriculture. Based on a 3-year field experiment, scientists Scavo et al. found that self-residing subterranean clover with the incorporation of dead mulches into the soil reduced weeds and increased the soil nitrogen. These results are useful for reducing the utilization of synthetic herbicides and mineral nitrogen fertilizers in Méditerranéenne orchards.

The key role of ley pastures in tomorrow’s cropping systems

Picture copyright Martin et al.

Diversification of cropping systems is a major way towards sustainable agriculture. Scientists Martin et al. recently reviewed the impacts of integrating ley pastures in cropping systems. Such pastures provide farmers with a wide range of services, including soil conservation, nutrient provision and recycling, soil water retention, and biological control of pests and weeds. Lay pastures contribute also other services to the society, such as water purification, climate regulation, habitat provision for conserving associated biodiversity, and forage production.

Estimating adoption and impacts of agricultural practices with satellite data

Picture copyright Iftikar, CIMMYT

New data sources improve the evaluation of agricultural management practices. Kubitza et al. reviewed the literature and found that satellite data have been used successfully to detect various agricultural practices in developing countries. However, only a few studies have used satellite data to estimate the yield impacts of agricultural practices and to estimate the impact beyond the biophysical sphere. Usage of satellite data in developing countries has yet produced technical studies but should now facilitate collaboration with economics.

Microbes help alleviating zinc and iron deficiencies in dietary food grains

Picture copyright Singh & Prasanna

Microorganisms play important roles in increasing micronutrient bioavailability to plants. Scientists Singh and Prasanna review the various strategies employed for the biofortification of Zn and Fe in dietary food grains. They emphasize the important role of soil-plant-microbe interactions in improving crop productivity, soil fertility, and translocation of micronutrients in crop plants. They reckon it is imperative to better integrate such microbial inputs into crop management practices.

A shared framework to use efficiently crop diversification benefits

Picture copyright Jenny Fischer, Thünen Institute of Organic Farming

Agricultural intensification has shaped uniform cropping systems and landscapes. Crop diversification may counteract such negative impacts and loss of biodiversity but presently, research lacks a shared understanding of diversification. Scientists Hufnagel et al. reckon that research approaches to crop diversification are too variable and inefficient. They propose a shared framework to compare, and profit from, crop diversification benefits.

Satisfaction of dairy farmers after converting to organic farming in France

Picture copyright Bouttes et al.

European farmers are increasingly converting to organic farming. Scientists Bouttes et al. recently monitored 19 dairy farm conversions towards pasture-based grazing systems and reduced land use and herd management intensities, in the French Aveyron area. They showed that all farmers were satisfied eventually, which strongly contrasts with previous studies warning about risks associated with organic farming conversion.

Crop management practices limit chickpea yield in Ethiopian Vertisols

Picture copyright Korbu et al.

Chickpea is the main rotational crop under cereal-legume cultivation in the Vertisol cropping systems of the Ethiopian highlands. Scientists Korbu et al. recently evidenced that the genetic potentials of high-yielding chickpea cultivars are limited by traditional crop management practices. They suggest implementing improved practices in combination with adequate nutrient use. Moreover, they recommend paying utmost research attention to the soil physical properties.

Winter rye promotes sustainable intensification of corn silage

Picture copyright West et al.

Winter rye may improve soil health with the benefit of an added dairy forage option when harvested as a double crop in an otherwise continuous corn silage system. Scientists West et al. observed that fall-seeded winter rye reduced excess soil nitrate by about 40% when the rye was harvested as a forage double crop, without decreases in total yield. When the rye was used as a cover crop (i.e., not harvested), there was evidence for buffered loss of nitrogen to the environment but no decrease in corn silage yield.

Identifying the locks to the restoration of river water quality

Picture copyright Della Rossa et al.

Although some chemical herbicides used by farmers in Martinique contaminate rivers, existing agroecological innovation is not always implemented to restore water quality. Scientists Della Rossa et al. show that each supply chain innovates independently of others with little exchange at a territorial scale. This situation adds to herbicide occurrence in watersheds. They believe territorial development should coordinate innovation for a sustainable transition of territories.

Ratooned fennel, a promising crop for arid climates

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Ratooning consists of harvesting the above-ground portion of a plant while leaving sprouts on the lower part in order to produce a fresh crop. Scientists Akbari-Kharaji et al. recently observed that the ratooning of fennel during 6 years produced acceptable grain and essential oil yields although decreasing chemicals and machinery use. The risk of soil degradation decreased, hence making the practice suitable in arid climate countries, such as Iran.