Cultivar mixtures increase crop yields and temporal yield stability globally. A meta-analysis

https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00964-6

Mixing crop cultivars may reduce plant diseases and increase resource-use efficiency and yield, yet evidence from individual studies remains inconclusive. We synthesized these studies in a global meta-analysis. Our results confirm that cultivar mixtures across 12 crop species and large climatic gradients reduce losses due to disease and enhance resource use compared with monocultures, thereby increasing average yield and yield stability. The targeted use of cultivar mixtures with appropriate management practices can increase agricultural sustainability by reducing inputs while maintaining high yields.

Huang, T., Döring, T.F., Zhao, X. et al. Cultivar mixtures increase crop yields and temporal yield stability globally. A meta-analysis. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 28 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00964-6

Case study analysis of innovative producers toward sustainable integrated crop-livestock systems: trajectory, achievements and thought process

This study explores the perceptions of Integrated Crop-Livestock Systems (ICLS) producers. Despite challenges, these producers have perceived benefits in their farming systems and livelihoods from managing ICLS. The research underscores the need for systemic initiatives and knowledge exchange to facilitate the complex management of ICLS. This study can inspire and encourage producers to embark on the ICLS journey.

Moojen, F.G., Ryschawy, J., Wulfhorst, J.D. et al. Case study analysis of innovative producers toward sustainable integrated crop-livestock systems: trajectory, achievements, and thought process. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 26 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00953-9

The nitrogen fertilizer conundrum: why is yield a poor determinant of crops’ nitrogen fertilizer requirements?

Sustainable agriculture requires optimizing nitrogen fertilizer applications to crops. It is commonly assumed that higher yielding crops need more nitrogen, and smaller less, despite some evidence that optimum nitrogen applications are poorly related to yields. In contrasting experiments, we show that year-to-year climatic variations cause the poor correlations. New approaches to nitrogen recommendations are needed to account for this uncertainty.

Thorburn, P.J., Biggs, J.S., Puntel, L.A. et al. The nitrogen fertilizer conundrum: why is yield a poor determinant of crops’ nitrogen fertilizer requirements?. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 18 (2024).
https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00955-7

Adapting agroforestry to upland farming systems: narratives from smallholder farmers in Northwest Vietnam

We assessed farmers’ perspectives and experiences on the impacts of agroforestry adapted to upland farming systems in Northwest Vietnam, combining Q methodology and systems thinking. Farmers had different viewpoints on benefits and challenges of agroforestry. Yet, they underlined shared views on dynamics that leverage synergistic impacts and overcome the adoption challenges for better integration of agroforestry into local farming systems

Do, H., Whitney, C., La, N. et al. Adapting agroforestry to upland farming systems: narratives from smallholder farmers in Northwest Vietnam. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 44, 17 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-024-00954-8

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

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

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

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.

Tools to improve farm sustainability assessments

Farm landscape
Copyright INRAE and Springer-Verlag

Assessing farm sustainability provides an overview of the various impacts that agriculture has on society. Scientists Chopin et al. recently reviewed 119 tools published to assess farm sustainability. They described 5 groups from stakeholder participation and models used, identified 7 sustainability frameworks utilizing 27 indicators about drivers, pressures or states of the system, but found a lack of impact indicators. They call on developing a novel sustainability framework taking account of agronomic productivity, governance and resilience of farming systems.