Rice is a major food worlwide. The cost of rice fertilisation using mined fertilisers such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) amounts to 30-35% of the cropping cost, and is still increasing. This issue could be solved by replacing mined fertiliser by biofertilisers that contain microbes helping the plant to grow, so-called ‘plant growth-promoting microorganisms’. The report by Rose et al. indeed show that inoculant biofertilizers can replace up to 52% of mined nitrogen fertiliser without loss of yield.
Producing safe food could be achieved in a sustainable way by changing agricultural practices. However, there is actually a lack of suitable methods and indicators that measure sustainability. This lack of knowledge is particularly deep at the farm level in poor countries that represent most food production worldwide. In addition, actual indicators are defined only by scientists, thus not taking into account essential farmer knowledge. Using participatory indicators designed with farmers Yegbemey et al. reveal weaknesses of maize cropping in Benin. This knowledge can be used to set up sustainable cropping practices.
Industrial coffee production has increased greenhouse gas emissions because many forests have been converted to lightly shaded or full-sun crops. Indeed the huge amounts of carbon stored in forest trees and soil are decomposed then released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2) upon deforestation. There is therefore a need for more ecological coffee production systems. Van Rikxoort et al. have compared the climate impact of four arabica coffee systems: unshaded monoculture, shaded monoculture, commercial polyculture and traditional polyculture. The authors provide advices for climate-friendly coffee production.
Strawberry is delicious and a high-value crop grown worldwide. Strawberry diseases are commonly controlled by soil fumigation with toxic chemicals. Alternative control techniques are thus needed. The article by Domínguez et al. presents a new technique, named biosolarisation, that combine soil biofumigation and soil solarization. Soils were biofumigated with fresh chicken manure with or without Trichoderma, Brassica juncea pellets, sugar beet vinasse, or dried olive pomace. Soils were then solarised 30 days by covering with clear plastic mulch, thus allowing the sun to warm up and kill pests. Results show that strawberry yields were similar to higher than yields using classical chemical treatments. Biosolarization with fresh chicken manure is therefore a promising sustainable option for clean strawberry production.
Today half of the world population would not be alive without the 68 million tons of nitrogen (N) fertiliser applied to agricultural soils yearly. However, synthetic N has become too much of a good thing because most applied N is not used by crop plants and escapes to pollute groundwater as nitrates and atmosphere as nitrogen oxides. An alternative and cheap solution is to return plant residues to the soil, thus producing ‘natural’ N by plant residue decomposition. Chen et al. reviewed the effects of crop residues on soil N behaviour to better understand the mechanisms of transformation, and to predict farming practices that optimise natural fertilisation.
Agroforestry is the growing of crops and trees together. Mutual benefits of crops and trees can increase crop yields and food security. Agroforestry is also a solution for climate change because agroforestry stores more carbon into the soil, and, in turn, decrease atmospheric CO2, a greenhouse gas. The review article by Lorenz and Lal analyses the actual knowledge on the potential of agroforestry to store carbon in soils
Flavescence dorée is a serious disease that causes major yield losses for European viticulture. Flavescence dorée is still spreading in Europe despite mandatory controls using insecticides. Vine infection by Flavescence dorée is done by the association of a phytoplasma – a bacterial parasite – and the leafhopper Scaphoideus titanus. The only actual solution to avoid the disease is to control the leafhopper. Chuche and Thiéry review the biology and ecology of the S. titanus leafhopper to highlight potential ecological remedies. Innovative techniques include symbionts, mating disruption and push-pull strategies including antifeedants
Jerusalem artichoke is good for health because this plant contains inulin, a dietary fiber that enhances the immune system in humans. However cultivating Jerusalem artichoke is actually difficult because freshly harvested seeds are dormant, meaning that seeds are ‘sleeping’. Seeds indeed need lengthy storage and complicated treatments to ‘wake up’ and grow. Puttha et al. found that treating seeds under cold and wet conditions with gibberellic acid, a natural compound, waked up seeds rapidly.
Chicken farms are very popular in Kampala City, Uganda, with 70% of all poultry products produced locally. However, the high cost of chicken feed may incite chicken growers to use low quality feed. The report by Kasule et al. indeed shows that own-mixed feeds are considerably lower in protein, metabolizable energy, and calcium than the minimum dietary recommendations. These findings highlight the need to give farmers training on how to source feed ingredients of good quality as well as feed formulation and mixing.
Rice is a major food in China. However many pests, diseases and weeds cause losses of rice yield. The use of pesticides is no longer an option to solve a such problem because pesticides contaminate food and water. Non-chemical treatments are thus needed. Huang et al review non-chemical chinese practices that are successfully applied to rice cultivation. Practices include: growth of different resistance rice varieties to control blast, plant hoppers; leaf folder and sheath blight management by adjusting rice seeding and transplanting date; releasing fish and frog to control insect pests and weeds; rice-duck mutualism system to control multiple injurious insect and weeds, and also fertilize the soil.