Agroecological principles and elements for sustainable food systems

Picture copyright Jerzy Górecki

Persistent malnutrition and rural poverty, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity are global challenges for food systems, aggravated by the growing consequences of climate change. Agroecological principles, when applied in context, generate transition pathways that transform agricultural and food systems to address these issues. Scientists Wezel et al. identified among these principles, four key entry points for systems transformation: diversity, circular and solidarity economy, co-creation and sharing of knowledge, and responsible governance.

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.

Plant breeding strategies for sustainable agriculture

Picture copyright Chatin, INRA

Plant breeders must strive to improve food security, food and seed sovereignty, social justice, biodiversity, ecosystem services and adaptation to climate change. Scientists Lammerts van Bueren et al. show that none of the current breeding orientations will achieve all these targets and make a plea for a new integrated orientation, called “systems-based breeding” capable of producing cultivars with significant ecological and societal resilience.

A call for deep change of food systems

Picture copyright Elaine Casap, Unsplash

International experts agree that agriculture and food systems must transform to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. Scientists Caron et al. advocate for a renewed political paradigm in dealing with food systems issues, linking agriculture, values chains, consumption and diet, health, social, political and environmental concerns and climate change. While food security cannot be addressed only in terms of agricultural supply, they appeal for a “context-specific, multidimensional and integrated” deep four part transformation.

Mapping crop supply and demand to improve food security

Picture copyright Rainer Rillke

Spatial quantification and mapping of the supply and demand of crops is helpful to plan local agriculture and make decisions. Scientists Sahle et al. quantified and mapped in Ethiopia the supply and demand of kocho, an indigenous food cooked from the Enset crop. In order to ensure food security of local communities, planners and decision-makers may now use such information to improve crop production in areas where the current supply-demand is not balanced so as to improve Enset access to local market.

Insects as sustainable food and feed

Picture copyright Van Huis

Edible insects species are promoted worldwide as sustainable human food and animal feed. Scientists Van Huis and Oonincx compare the environmental consequences of harvesting insects from nature with insect farming. They review the environmental sustainability of insect farming compared to livestock production, emphasizing several major benefits, such as less land and water needs and low greenhouse gas emissions.

Zinc spraying on wheat is cheaper with pesticides

Picture copyright WANG et al.

Biofortification of staple crops with zinc is a strategy for overcoming human zinc deficiency. Agronomists Wang et al. calculated the cost of agronomic biofortification of wheat with zinc in China. Results show that the price is high when zinc is sprayed alone. Whereas the cost is cheaper, from US$ 41 to US$ 108, when zinc is combined with routine pesticide management to reduce labor cost.

GPS navigation for plant and food : bon appétit !

Picture copyright LUVISI

Major issues of food security such as the lack of food in developing countries, food wasting, and food contamination could be solved if food could be traced efficiently from production to dishes. A review of Luvisi shows how development of radio frequency identification solutions  and sensors are improving automated systems in agriculture and the role of traceability in corporate food regime sustainability.

Advanced tools to design agricultural landscapes to meet food demand

Producing more food with less land is a serious issue. Indeed the world agricultural area, which amounts to about 46% of earth surface, is actually decreasing whereas global food demand is projected to increase up to 70% in 2050. Therefore there is a need for a better optimisation of agricultural land. Agronomists Memmah et al. review 38 case studies that optimise agricultural landscape in 16 countries using using metaheuristics algorithms.


Nanotech for better food, agriculture and water treatment

The recent development of nanoscience has led to the design of new materials of unprecedented properties. Agronomists Huang et al. review the applications of nanotechnologies for agriculture and food production. Examples include improvement of seed quality and plant growth, longer preservation of fruits and vegetables, livestock production, water disinfection, decrease of pesticide cost, and better fertilisation.