Energy flow analysis in farm systems

Energy plays a key role in farm systems and many approaches are available to compute energy flows in these systems. Hercher-Pasteur et al. recently analyzed ten approaches and evaluated their ability to address sustainability issues. They showed that a systemic/circular perspective helps to assess farm systems as an agro-ecosystem. They highlighted the importance of managing the internal circulation of flows, the reuse of biomass, and the soil organic matter in this assessment.

Exploiting the potential of vegetable grafting in sub-Saharan Africa

Picture copyright Elias Shem, The World Vegetable Center (Arusha, Tanzania)

Grafting, i.e. joining a scion (plant upper part) and a rootstock (plant lower part) is a worldwide developing horticultural technique useful to overcome various soilborne diseases and stresses. In sub-Saharan Africa, grafting is widely used nowadays, in commercial orchards (avocado, mango, or citrus) but for vegetables, it remains largely unknown. Scientists Nordey et al. explored the potential of vegetable grafting to increase and secure crop productions in the challenging environments of sub-Saharan Africa and attempted to identify factors hindering such practice.

Estimating adoption and impacts of agricultural practices with satellite data

Picture copyright Iftikar, CIMMYT

New data sources improve the evaluation of agricultural management practices. Kubitza et al. reviewed the literature and found that satellite data have been used successfully to detect various agricultural practices in developing countries. However, only a few studies have used satellite data to estimate the yield impacts of agricultural practices and to estimate the impact beyond the biophysical sphere. Usage of satellite data in developing countries has yet produced technical studies but should now facilitate collaboration with economics.

A shared framework to use efficiently crop diversification benefits

Picture copyright Jenny Fischer, Thünen Institute of Organic Farming

Agricultural intensification has shaped uniform cropping systems and landscapes. Crop diversification may counteract such negative impacts and loss of biodiversity but presently, research lacks a shared understanding of diversification. Scientists Hufnagel et al. reckon that research approaches to crop diversification are too variable and inefficient. They propose a shared framework to compare, and profit from, crop diversification benefits.

Crop management practices limit chickpea yield in Ethiopian Vertisols

Picture copyright Korbu et al.

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 promotes sustainable intensification of corn silage

Picture copyright West et al.

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.

Ratooned fennel, a promising crop for arid climates

Picture source: pixabay.com

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.

Consumer preference as a key driver for rice production improvement in Tanzania?

Picture copyright Sekiya et al.

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.

Can perennial grains help overcome agricultural challenges in Africa?

Picture copyright Wim Carton

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.

Economic advantages of legume-based rotations in dry areas

Picture copyright Yigezu et al.

The expansion of cereal monocropping has been a growing challenge in dry areas. This trend is mostly a consequence of policies and incentives for the intensification of cereals as well as lower yields, diseases and pest susceptibility, and perceived economic disadvantages of legumes. Considering a two-year period, scientists Yigezu et al. provided evidence that rotation, especially with improved varieties of legumes, leads to a total two-year gross margin higher than cereal monocropping.