Agronomy for Sustainable Development



Legumes help cereal growth for bioethanol

Second generation biofuels from non-edible biomass, such as bioethanol from cereal straw, are more sustainable than first generation biofuels such as bioethanol from maize seeds. Sustainability could be further enhanced by cultivating both cereals and legumes, such as pea, because legumes are enriched in nitrogen that fertilises later the cereals. Nitrogen-rich cereal straw should facilitate yeast fermentation to produce bioethanol because yeast needs nitrogen to grow. Agronomists Pellicano et al. tested wheat, barley, triticale and oat grown in intercrop with pea. They found indeed that pea improves the N content of the straw mixture.

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Earthworms are engineering soils for better food

Food production would not be sustainable without earthworms. Indeed, earthworms are major soil engineers. For instance earthworms transform organic residues into plant nutrients, and facilitate groundwater flow by tunnelling earth. Agronomists Bertrand et al. review the ecological services of earthworms, focussing on the effect of tillage, fertilisation and pesticide usage.

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Rice-based crop rotations against global warming

Global warming is mainly due to the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere. Agriculture highly influences atmospheric CO2 because plants and soils can sequester CO2 or release CO2. Researchers are thus trying to identify cropping practices, such as conservation tillage, that sequester CO2 in plants and soils in order to decrease atmospheric CO2 levels. Agronomists Motschenbacher et al. studied for the first time daily soil surface CO2 in rice-based crop rotations with corn, soybean, and winter wheat.

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How to improve water availability in vineyards

In arid regions drought is becoming a serious threat for vineyards and wine production.
The article by Medrano et al. reviews methods to improve water availability in vineyards by modifying pratices and selecting cultivars.

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Plants united we stand

Growing two or more plant species provides ecological benefits for a safe agriculture because some plant species such as legumes provide free fertilisers in the form of nitrogen (N), whereas other species fight pests without pesticide, for example. Agroecologists Gaba et al. review such ecological practices and propose guidelines to design safer cropping systems.

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Baby plants for agroecology

Increasing population, climate change and pollution call for a safer production of food. An agroecological solution to those issues is to select, breed and design suitable crop plants. Agronomist Ochatt describes advanced technologies to design suitable plants during embryogenesis.

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Four strategies to grow organic apples

Organic farming should provide safe food without using harmful pesticides. As a consequence farmers need alternative techniques to control pests. A survey of 24 organic apple farms in France by agronomists Marliac et al. reveals four control techniques: 1) the ecologically intensive technique that favours natural enemies of pests, 2) the substitution technique using pesticides, 3) the technological technique using for instance exclusion nets, and 4) the integrated techniques using a variety of previous techniques.

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Strategies for agriculture with less water: back to the roots

Climate change is decreasing water content in many parts of the world. There is therefore a need to adapt by designed practices that save water and use less water. This can be done for instance by reduced tillage, mulching, selecting drought-tolerant cultivars and synchronizing plant demand with rainfall. Bodner et al. describe the most efficient strategies for better water management under dry climate. They found that selecting plant roots is a promising solution, yet still overlooked.

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