Agronomy for Sustainable Development



Feeding grassland right

Adding the right amount of nitrogen fertilisers to crop soils is not an obvious task. Too much fertiliser will induce nitrate pollution and extra costs for farmers. Too little will decrease crop yields. Therefore agronomists have developped the nitrogen dilution curve, a simple math tool that helps farmers to calculate the best fertiliser amount to be applied. Reyes et al. show that the nitrogen dilution curve can be also used to manage grasslands.

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Great digestate makes great fertilisers

Organic wastes from agriculture and food industry are increasingly digested then recycled as cheap soil fertilisers. However, waste digestion and spreading is a potential source of greenhouse gases. The agronomist K. Möller reviews the consequences of waste anaerobic digestion on soil fertility and nitrogen compound emissions.

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Computer tools for sustainable farming

Improving food production is now a difficult task because sustainable cropping depends upon many factors such as climate, pest management, land use and economics. Agronomists Craheix et al. provide guidelines to design software models that optimise the sustainability of farming systems.

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How plants migrate in grasslands

Grass species in pristine and agricultural landscapes are essential for biodiversity, soil quality and food production. For instance, grass flowers provide food for honeybees, grass roots decrease soil erosion and clean polluted waters, and grass diversity is known to influence the good taste of milk. It is therefore important to understand how grass species emerge, disappear and adapt to changing environmental conditions and agricultural practices. Da Silveira Pontes et al. review the latest advances on plant strategies in grasslands, using a recent scientific discipline named functional ecology.

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Fast certification of organic crops from space

Certifying organic crops is not an easy task due to the huge agricultural areas that have to be checked. Agronomists Denis et al. have designed a new, effective method that distinguishes organic and non-organic cotton fields with up to 86% performance in south-western Burkina Faso, West Africa. The method uses remote sensing from space.

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Ecological solutions for fertiliser pollution

Mineral fertilisers containing nitrates and ammonium are almost always applied in excess in crop fields. As a consequence soil waters and rivers are often contaminated by fertilisers, which induce pollution issues such as undrinkable water and unexpected algal blooms. Benckiser et al. review ecological techniques such as nitrogen fixation that recycle nitrogen within the soil, thus decreasing water pollution by nitrates.

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Climate-friendly coffee

Industrial coffee plantations are warming our climate because too much fertilisers are applied. Capa et al. tested coffee cropping using various amounts of fertilisers. They found that cutting by half the fertiliser amounts is still economically and environmentally sustainable.

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Weeds increase bees and crop yields, yes they can!

Industrial agriculture is killing bees and other pollinators, thus paradoxically threatening future crop production because 35% of world crops need pollination. In the USA honeybees have declined by 59 % in 61 years, and weed diversity by 50 % in 70 years. Bretagnolle and Gaba report the unexpected benefits of weeds for bees and crop production.

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