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.
Mixed cropping with several main crops increases biodiversity. However, pure stands are still favored, and mixed cropping is a challenge for farmers. Scientists Bonke and Musshoff analyzed the psychological factors motivating the adoption of mixed cropping in Germany. They highlight the importance of farmers’ attitudes towards mixed cropping, perceived behavioral control, and several social group norms. They suggest that adoption depends on both the willingness to adopt and economic reasoning.
Agricultural mechanization is on the rise across Africa. Researchers Daum et al. reckon it is changing the face of African farming and rural areas. On the upside, mechanization can reduce poverty and enhance food security. On the downside, however, mechanization may enhance deforestation, soil erosion, land-use conflicts, and gender inequalities. Mechanization strategies have to consider environmental, economic, and social pillars of sustainability to ensure a sustainable transformation of African agriculture.
In the context of the agroecological restoration, exploiting soil biodiversity is the top priority for reducing crop dependence on chemical inputs. Focusing on mycorrhizae, scientists Chave et al. elaborated a methodological framework for designing efficient agrosystems. This method reveals various constraints and levers. It fosters local innovation and develops both systemic reasoning and collective actions. Such a global approach allows farmers to understand that all of them are potential “mycorrhizae producers”.
Sustainable intensification of agricultural production is needed to ensure increased productivity but for farmers, this may alter the yield-to-labor ratio. Scientists Dahlin and Rusinamhodzi recently reviewed the relationship between maize grain yield change and labor input for a range of practices proposed for sustainable intensification of smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa. They show that the examined options may increase both crop yield and labor demand for smallholder farmers.
More diversified farms can render food systems sustainable, resilient and socially just. Scientists Valencia et al. showed that the National School Feeding program in Brazil generated a large and diversified demand for vegetables and legumes. As a consequence, it transformed low diverse & high input farming systems into diversified horticultural productions and increased the hectarage of land under diversified farming systems.
The livelihood and food of rural communities is changing, possibly due to greater access to urban areas and their market economy. Scientists Silva et al. studied food consumption in slave-remnant villages in the Brazilian Cerrado. They found a transition from locally produced foods to processed items that increases with greater urban access and more government subsidies. This questions the impact of modern lifestyles on remote rural settings and maintenance of traditional livelihood.
Scientists Baudron et al. used on farm-level data to reveal a much higher demand for mechanization in African smallholder agriculture than was reckoned by previous macroeconomic studies. They also debunked several myths surrounding labor in African farming, such as most of the labor would rely on women, or agricultural tasks would be carried out almost entirely by family labor.
Introducing or increasing legume production on farms is a key issue in many European countries. Scientists Mawois et al. show that transition to high and sustainable levels of legume introduction in French farms requires three levers: (1) the stability of outlets, (2) the knowledge and local references on the preceding crop effect, and (3) the farmer’s involvement in peer networks.
Farmers worldwide express increasing concerns about work issues, creating new challenges for advisors. Scientists Dockes et al. reviewed the main changes in farm work in Australia, Belgium, France and Uruguay and the features of advice about work. Concerning farmers, work is a very personal subject linked to their identity, self-image, and values. For the advisors, three aspects dealing with labor, organization, and identity must be considered to succeed in advisory practices.