The mass breeding of insects for animal protein production could compete efficiently with conventional livestock to feed the ever-growing human population. Insect excrement (frass) is one of the main outputs of this process. In a recent review, scientist Poveda highlighted the benefits of reusing frass as bio-fertilizer in agriculture. Insect frass provides soils with nutrients, beneficial microorganisms and different biomolecules of great interest. Therefore it promotes plant growth and increases crop productivity for a sustainable agriculture.
Vermicompost originates from organic wastes decomposition by earthworms. This substrate and its liquid solution, vermicompost tea, enrich soils with essential nutrients and beneficial plant growth hormones and favor the development of microbes that suppress pests or diseases. Scientists Yatoo et al. recently reviewed how to produce these organic amendments and to use them for low-cost but efficient crop disease management. They reckoned vermicomposts are innovative eco-friendly alternatives to agrochemicals in crops and fruit production.
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.
Zhang et al. highlighted recently that phosphorus fertilizer application reduces grain Zinc (Zn) concentration by 16.6% for wheat and 20.2% for maize. However, Zn content in grain of wheat and rice increases with increasing P fertilization. They ascribe this effect to a mere ‘dilution effect’ (i.e., same abundance in greater biomass) because grain biomass increases in response to P applications while root Zn uptake efficiency declines. They reckoned that attempts for increasing grain Zn concentration by biofortification should consider these effects carefully.
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.
Fertilizing cassava improves productivity and fulfills the rising demand for food, feed or raw materials in processing industries. For cassava field crops, Scientists Adiele et al. determined crop growth dynamics, NPK demand, and nutrient allocation to organs. They developed nutrition indices for N, P and K using a “dilution curve” approach. Their novel insights help to identify sustainable management practices to optimize fertilizer application, develop nutrient-limited crop models and improve cassava production.
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.
The Miridae are a vast insect family, comprising both well-known plant pests and natural enemies. They interact often with plant fungal infections on many crops. Scientists Ratnadass and Deguine reviewed the bug – fungal pathogen – crop frameworks. They showed that their interactions are mainly shaped by the necrotrophic status of mirid bugs and by the biotrophic or necrotrophic status of fungal pathogens. They propose agroecological options to manage both types of aggressors.
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.