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.

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.

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.

Satisfaction of dairy farmers after converting to organic farming in France

Picture copyright Bouttes et al.

European farmers are increasingly converting to organic farming. Scientists Bouttes et al. recently monitored 19 dairy farm conversions towards pasture-based grazing systems and reduced land use and herd management intensities, in the French Aveyron area. They showed that all farmers were satisfied eventually, which strongly contrasts with previous studies warning about risks associated with organic farming conversion.

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.

Identifying the locks to the restoration of river water quality

Picture copyright Della Rossa et al.

Although some chemical herbicides used by farmers in Martinique contaminate rivers, existing agroecological innovation is not always implemented to restore water quality. Scientists Della Rossa et al. show that each supply chain innovates independently of others with little exchange at a territorial scale. This situation adds to herbicide occurrence in watersheds. They believe territorial development should coordinate innovation for a sustainable transition of territories.

Ratooned fennel, a promising crop for arid climates

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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.

Conservation Agriculture produces mixed outcomes on degraded and weed-infested soils

Picture copyright Rodenburg et al.

In tropical Africa, conservation agriculture practices can address common production constraints on smallholder farms. In Madagascar, scientists Rodenburg et al. combined no-till and cover crops practices during a rice-maize rotation on Striga weed-infested soils. They observed soil nitrogen increments and steep reductions in soil erosion. The yield was moderate for rice but low and variable for maize.

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.