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.
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 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.
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.
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.
In tropical Africa, conservation agriculture practices can address common production constraints on smallholder farms. In Madagascar, scientists Rodenburg et al. combined no-till and cover crops practices during a rice-maize rotation on Striga weed-infested soils. They observed soil nitrogen increments and steep reductions in soil erosion. The yield was moderate for rice but low and variable for maize.
Rice consumption in Tanzania has greatly increased since the 1960s; it is predicted to continue to increase owing to urbanization and changes in consumer preferences from traditional staples such as maize and tubers to rice. Scientists Sekiya et al. analyzed the status of rice production in Tanzania from a multidisciplinary perspective and proposed a realistic research framework much oriented toward meeting consumer demands for improving rice production in Tanzania.
Perennial grains have many environmental, agronomic and economic benefits, such as helping farmers adapt to climate change or restore degraded soils. Scientists Isgren et al. recently reviewed the knowledge about on-farm adoption and the use of perennial grains around the world. In the Sub-Saharan African context, they advocated developing a farming systems research approach in order to broaden the emerging research agenda around perennial grains.
Intercropping or cultivating simultaneously more than one species on the same land is a means of improving resource use in agriculture. In a recent analysis, scientists Jensen et al. revealed that intercropping grain legumes with cereals could reduce the requirement for synthetic N-fertilizer by 26% on a global scale, thus allowing important net land saving. Intercropping supports, therefore, the development of more sustainable cropping systems.
Conservation Agriculture is a promoted form of agriculture, sustaining climate change resilience for smallholder farmers across Africa. However, adoption rates remain low, particularly in Malawi. Scientists Hermans et al. recently revealed a clear distinction between the agro-ecological and socio-economic approaches to conservation agriculture research. They suggested that on-farm trials may help to bridge the two approaches together, leading to better understand what forms of conservation agriculture work, where, for whom and, crucially, why.