High consumers’ demand for ancient wheats combined with low fertilization requirements make their farming adapted to marginal Mediterranean environments. Scientists Cadeddu et al. demonstrated that dual-purpose utilization of ancient wheats increases the sustainability of mixed cropping systems because herbage can be partly grazed by animals without penalizing grain yield. Sowing ancient wheats early enables good herbage yield and early flowering, which leads to satisfactory grain yield even under severe water stress.
Timely crop planting is critical to food security in the Eastern Gangetic Plains. Scientists Urfels et al. analyzed the factors shaping planting times. They found that farmers perceive the benefits of timely planting, but the ecosystem and climatic factors constrain their ability to plant at desired times with social factors playing a prominent secondary role. To enhance timely planting, they plead to strengthen the agricultural input chains, develop dynamic planting date advisories, and coordinate rice planting and wildlife conservation.
In water-scarce subtropical regions, mango (Mangifera indica L.) is often grown under irrigation, which poses a threat in the context of changing climate. Researchers Durán et al. reviewed strategies based on deficit irrigation techniques to save water during drought or insufficient rain periods. They reckon that it is vital to redesign irrigation schemes and implement deficit irrigation strategies to save water but maintain yield while producing fruits with improved quality.
Which technology works best ? And for whom ? Scientists Jones-Garcia and Krishna reviewed 137 studies about farmer adoption of sustainable intensification technologies in the maize systems of the Global South. They identified the main constraints of adoption of technologies, such as limited information access and technologies not suitable for the small landholdings. They analyzed the decision-making process and proposed better research strategies toward inclusive agrarian development.
Soil fertility is key to the sustainable intensification of agriculture and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists Occelli et al. studied how traditional knowledge can shape farmers’ soil management in the Highlands of Ethiopia. They show that past and recent knowledge acquired within the household correlates with better soil fertility management, whereas knowledge acquired from social circles correlates with lower soil fertility management abilities.
The mass breeding of insects for animal protein production could compete efficiently with conventional livestock to feed the ever-growing human population. Insect excrement (frass) is one of the main outputs of this process. In a recent review, scientist Poveda highlighted the benefits of reusing frass as bio-fertilizer in agriculture. Insect frass provides soils with nutrients, beneficial microorganisms and different biomolecules of great interest. Therefore it promotes plant growth and increases crop productivity for a sustainable agriculture.
Vermicompost originates from organic wastes decomposition by earthworms. This substrate and its liquid solution, vermicompost tea, enrich soils with essential nutrients and beneficial plant growth hormones and favor the development of microbes that suppress pests or diseases. Scientists Yatoo et al. recently reviewed how to produce these organic amendments and to use them for low-cost but efficient crop disease management. They reckoned vermicomposts are innovative eco-friendly alternatives to agrochemicals in crops and fruit production.
Biodiversity-based agriculture that meets the sustainable development goals comes as an alternative model to industrial agriculture. A key issue for developing biodiversity-based agriculture is to build collaborative governance and management structures to increase farmers’ access to agrobiodiversity. Scientists Labeyrie et al. questioned the role of social networks’ structure and composition in farmers’ access to agrobiodiversity. They proposed a framework for developing new participatory approaches for agrobiodiversity management and collaborative governance.
Zhang et al. highlighted recently that phosphorus fertilizer application reduces grain Zinc (Zn) concentration by 16.6% for wheat and 20.2% for maize. However, Zn content in grain of wheat and rice increases with increasing P fertilization. They ascribe this effect to a mere ‘dilution effect’ (i.e., same abundance in greater biomass) because grain biomass increases in response to P applications while root Zn uptake efficiency declines. They reckoned that attempts for increasing grain Zn concentration by biofortification should consider these effects carefully.
Crop diversification is an effective lever for the agroecological transition by enhancing crop productivity and quality, soil health and fertility, system resilience, and farmers’ income. Diversification-wise, the ancient oilseed crop camelina is particularly interesting because of its broad environmental adaptability, low-input requirements, resistance to many pests and diseases, and multiple uses. Scientists Zanetti et al. reviewed 30 years of European research on camelina and consider this crop a good alternative to oilseed or sunflower in European farming systems.