High consumers’ demand for ancient wheats combined with low fertilization requirements make their farming adapted to marginal Mediterranean environments. Scientists Cadeddu et al. demonstrated that dual-purpose utilization of ancient wheats increases the sustainability of mixed cropping systems because herbage can be partly grazed by animals without penalizing grain yield. Sowing ancient wheats early enables good herbage yield and early flowering, which leads to satisfactory grain yield even under severe water stress.
Timely crop planting is critical to food security in the Eastern Gangetic Plains. Scientists Urfels et al. analyzed the factors shaping planting times. They found that farmers perceive the benefits of timely planting, but the ecosystem and climatic factors constrain their ability to plant at desired times with social factors playing a prominent secondary role. To enhance timely planting, they plead to strengthen the agricultural input chains, develop dynamic planting date advisories, and coordinate rice planting and wildlife conservation.
Crop diversification is an effective lever for the agroecological transition by enhancing crop productivity and quality, soil health and fertility, system resilience, and farmers’ income. Diversification-wise, the ancient oilseed crop camelina is particularly interesting because of its broad environmental adaptability, low-input requirements, resistance to many pests and diseases, and multiple uses. Scientists Zanetti et al. reviewed 30 years of European research on camelina and consider this crop a good alternative to oilseed or sunflower in European farming systems.
The assessment of agri-food system sustainability requires a multi-criteria approach based on multidisciplinary efforts. Scientists Gésan-Guiziou et al. analyzed the diversity and potentiality of multi-criteria decision analysis techniques in agri-food research. They showed a strong influence of scientific disciplines on the methods used and suggested potential improvements. To become more effective, these methods must extend to ecosystem services and include participatory science actors in the construction and decision processes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.