EISSN : 2077-0472
Published by: MDPI (10.3390)
Total articles ≅ 2,498
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Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111047
Alpine pastures are agricultural systems with a high provision of ecosystem services, which include carbon (C) stocking. Particularly, the soil organic C (SOC) stocks of Alpine pastures may play a pivotal role in counteracting global climate change. Even if the importance of pasture SOC has been stated by several research studies, especially by comparing different land uses, little is known about the role of plant species composition. We studied a wide sample of 324 pastures in the north-western Italian Alps by performing coupled vegetation and soil surveys. Climatic (i.e., mean annual precipitation), topographic (i.e., elevation, slope, southness), vegetation (i.e., the first three dimensions of a non-metric multid imensional scaling—NMDS), and soil (i.e., pH) parameters were considered as independent variables in a generalised linear model accounting for SOC stocks in the 0–30 cm depth. Pasture SOC was significantly affected by precipitation (positively) and by pH (negatively) but not by topography. However, the higher influence was exerted by vegetation through the first NMDS dimension, which depicted a change in plant species along a thermic-altitudinal gradient. Our research highlighted the remarkable importance of vegetation in regulating SOC stocks in Alpine pastures, confirming the pivotal role of these semi-natural agricultural systems in the global scenario of climate change.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111050
The COVID-19 pandemic affected consumers’ behavior worldwide. This paper aims to analyze consumers’ sustainable food behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research was based on an online survey during May–October 2020 among 859 Romanian consumers. Principal component analysis and cluster analysis were employed to group the consumers based on their behavior. Furthermore, the binary-logistic regression was used to identify the socio-demographic profile of the identified groups. Based on the cluster analysis, the consumers were grouped into three main groups: indifferent, pro-environment protection, and health concerned. The results indicate a positive attitude towards sustainable food behavior. Consumers’ attitude towards sustainable food choice is mainly influenced by age and education level. The study offers valuable information for future public policy and marketing campaign regarding sustainable food behavior.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111048
Regional climate change assessments show a likely temperature increase that is higher than the global average for all seasons in Africa, which would have extreme negative implications for ecosystem health and productivity. Most extreme climate change effects in West Africa are predicted to occur in desert and grassland areas. It is important for smallholder farmers in this region to understand the implications of these projections to their livelihood and to identify appropriate adaptation strategies. A grazing game was used to explore gender-specific adaptive responses to climate variability in the semiarid region of Ghana. The game was designed to understand the decision-making processes that result in the overgrazing of animals, leading to desertification based on the players’ interactions with the environment. A total of 44 grazing games comprising 22 games for male-headed households (HH) and 22 games for female-HH were played from August to December 2014 from 14 communities within the Bolgatanga Municipality and the Bongo district. The study revealed that males migrate to the southern part of the country to work on other people’s farms during the dry season as an adaptation strategy, while females engage in off-farm activities such as shea-butter production and basketry. Results of the game showed that males produced the highest number of cattle but created the largest desert patches. Females, on the other hand, were more conscious about the environment (long-term condition of the rangeland) than the short-term income benefits from the sale of cattle; hence, they created fewer desert patches. Strategies such as reducing the number of cattle to allow for the re-growth of vegetation in periods of feed scarcity, ploughing for one another using bulls, and family support using income from the sale of livestock were employed by both gender groups. The involvement of female farmers in decision-making is crucial to improve natural resource management.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111049
This paper presents a mechanical control method for precise weeding based on deep learning. Deep convolutional neural network was used to identify and locate weeds. A special modular weeder was designed, which can be installed on the rear of a mobile platform. An inverted pyramid-shaped weeding tool equipped in the modular weeder can shovel out weeds without being contaminated by soil. The weed detection and control method was implemented on an embedded system with a high-speed graphics processing unit and integrated with the weeder. The experimental results showed that even if the speed of the mobile platform reaches 20 cm/s, the weeds can still be accurately detected and the position of the weeds can be located by the system. Moreover, the weeding mechanism can successfully shovel out the roots of the weeds. The proposed weeder has been tested in the field, and its performance and weed coverage have been verified to be precise for weeding.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111045
Improving rabbit meat quality using natural substances has become an area of research activity in rabbit nutrition due to stabilization of husbandry health and economy. The present study evaluates the effect of bacteriocin-producing, beneficial strain Enterococcus faecium AL41/CCM8558 and its enterocin M (EntM) on the quality and mineral content of rabbit meat. Seventy-two Hycole rabbits (aged 35 days) were divided into EG1 (CCM8558 strain; 1.0 × 109 CFU/mL; 500 µL/animal/d), EG2 (EntM; 50 µL/animal/d), and control group (CG). The additives were administrated in drinking water for 21 days. Significant increase in meat phosphorus (EG1: p< 0.05; EG2: p< 0.0001) and iron (EG1, EG2: p< 0.001) contents was noted; sodium and zinc levels were only slightly higher in experimental groups compared with control data. The calcium (EG1, EG2: p< 0.001), potassium, and copper (EG1: p< 0.01) concentrations were reduced. The treatment did not have a negative influence on physicochemical traits of rabbit meat. Based on these results, we conclude that diet supplementation with beneficial strain E. faecium CCM8558 and its EntM could enhance the quality and mineral content of rabbit meat, with the focus on its iron and phosphorus contents.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111046
Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) tuberous roots are used for human consumption, animal feed, and many industrial products. However, the crop is susceptible to various pests and diseases, including foot rot disease caused by the phytopathogenic fungus Plenodomus destruens. Biological control of plant pathogens by Bacillus species is widely disseminated in agrosystems, but specific biological control agents against the foot rot disease-causing fungus are not yet available. Our previous studies showed that two Bacillus strains isolated from sweet potato roots—B. safensis T052-76 and B. velezensis T149-19—were able to inhibit P. destruens in vitro, but data from in vivo experiments using simultaneously the fungus and the bacteria were missing. In this study, both strains were shown to protect the plant from the disease and to mitigate the symptoms of foot rot disease in pot experiments. Total fungal community quantification using real-time PCR showed a significant decrease in the number of copies of the ITS gene when the bacteria were inoculated, compared to the control (with the fungus only). To determine the genes encoding antimicrobial substances likely to inhibit the fungus, their genomes were sequenced and annotated. Genes coding for mycosubtilin, bacillaene, macrolactin, bacillibactin, bacilysin, plantazolicin, plipastatin, dificidine, fengycin and surfactin were found in B. velezensis T149-19, while those coding for bacylisin, lichenysin, bacillibactin, fengycin and surfactin were found in B. safensis T052-76. Altogether, the data presented here contribute to advancing the knowledge for the use of these Bacillus strains as biocontrol products in sweet potato.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111044
The Photothermosensitive Genic-Male-Sterile (PTGMS) line, Y58S, an indica rice variety, combines high-quality and high-light-efficiency use, disease and stress resistance, and excellent plant type and mating force. Y58S is widely used to assemble two-line hybrid rice varieties, especially super hybrids. The Wx gene is the main effector gene for controlling amylose synthesis, which determines the amylose content (AC) of rice grains. By editing this gene, a glutinous line with a low AC can be obtained. In this study, the CRISPR/Cas9 system was used to mediate the editing of the Wx gene, which caused ultra-low AC mutations that produced a PTGMS glutinous rice strain with excellent waxiness. The results showed that 18 positively transformed plants were obtained from the T0 generation, with a mutation rate of 64.29%, of which six were homozygous mutant plants, indicating that the gene-editing target had a higher targeting efficiency and a higher homozygosity mutation rate. Compared to the wild type, the AC of the mutants was significantly lower. Through molecular marker detection and screening of T1 and T2 generations, five homozygous T-DNA-free mutant strains were identified that were consistent with Y58S in fertility and other agronomic traits except for AC. Among these, the AC of the W-1-B-5 homozygous mutant, the glutinous PTGMS line wx-Y58S, was as low as 0.6%. Our research revealed that the Wx gene of excellent PTGMS rice can be edited to generate a new waxy PTGMS line using the CRISPR/Cas9 system. This study provided a simple and effective strategy for breeding high-yield, high-quality, and glutinous two-line hybrid rice, and provided excellent sterile lines for their large-scale application. Once put into use, waxy hybrid rice will greatly improve the yield of glutinous rice and increase social benefits.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111039
Cultivating the soil is a necessary measure to ensure the growth of potatoes, and it has a significant impact on potato yield. In this study, a soil cultivator with a textured shovel wing was designed to address the problem that soil cultivators have poor working performance. Based on a combination of discrete element simulation and a digital soil trench verification test, the effects of the structure parameters of the surface textures on the traction resistance and soil fragmentation rate of the soil cultivator with a textured shovel wing were studied. These parameters were optimized to provide a basis for the design of the soil cultivator. The main research results of this paper are as follows. (1) The factors influencing the traction resistance of the soil cultivator were as follows: blade penetration angle > convex hull distance > convex hull diameter. The convex hull diameter was the main factor affecting the soil fragmentation rate. The traction resistance of the soil cultivator with a textured wing was reduced by 9.49%, and the soil fragmentation rate was increased by 10.67%, showing that the quality of soil cultivation was significantly improved. (2) The best parameters for the texture structure of the shovel wing were a blade penetration angle of 26°, a convex hull diameter of 34.4 mm, and a convex hull distance of 28.5 mm. (3) The relative errors between the simulation and the soil trench test for the traction resistance and the soil fragmentation rate were 2.60% and 13.97%, respectively. This study can provide technical support for the design of soil cultivators and is of great significance in improving the quality of soil cultivators.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111043
This study aimed to evaluate the ability of the response surface methodology (RSM) approach to predict the tractive performance of an agricultural tractor during semi-deep tillage operations. The studied parameters of tractor performance, including slippage (S), drawbar power (DP) and traction efficiency (TE), were affected by two different types of tillage tool (paraplow and subsoiler), three different levels of operating depth (30, 40 and 50 cm), and four different levels of forward speed (1.8, 2.3, 2.9 and 3.5 km h−1). Tractors drove a vertical load at two levels (225 kg and no weight) in four replications, forming a total of 192 datapoints. Field test results showed that all variables except vertical load, and different combinations of this and other variables, were effective for the S, DP and TE. Increments in speed and depth resulted in an increase and decrease in S and TE, respectively. Additionally, the RSM approach displayed changes in slippage, drawbar power and traction efficiency, resulting from alterations in tine type, depth, speed and vertical load at 3D views, with high accuracy due to the graph’s surfaces, with many small pixels. The RSM model predicted the slippage as 6.75%, drawbar power as 2.23 kW and traction efficiency as 82.91% at the optimal state for the paraplow tine, with an operating depth of 30 cm, forward speed of 2.07 km h−1 and a vertical load of 0.01 kg.
Agriculture, Volume 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111041
A mixture of controlled-release nitrogen (N) fertilizers (CRNFs) and conventional urea (CU) as a single application of basal fertilizer could simplify fertilization in rice cultivation from the traditional and more labor-intensive fertilization strategy of multiple applications of nitrogen. However, the reported benefits of this combined approach in increasing rice yield have varied substantially for various reasons, including that various types of rice are characterized by different N requirements to obtain high yield. In this study, two late japonica rice cultivars, Jia58 (J58) and Jia67(J67), were used to determine the best combination of one of two short-acting CRNFs (release periods were 40 and 60 days) and one of three long-acting CRNFs (release periods were 80, 100 and 120 days) to apply with the CU as a one-time application of basal fertilizer. Six combinations of CRNFs were established based on their release periods: A1, 40 + 80 days; A2, 40 + 100 days; A3, 40 + 120 days; B1, 60 + 80 days; B2, 60 + 100 days; and B3, 60 + 120 days. CU applied split at basal, tillering and panicle differentiation stages, respectively as control (CK). The effects of the different treatment combinations of CRNFs on late-rice grain yield, N accumulation and N-use efficiency in a two-year field experiment were determined. Results showed that, the A2 treatment achieved the same yield as that of CK, and yield of the B2 treatment exceeded the yield of CK. Yield of J58 applied with B2 was 7.35% higher in 2018 and 7.40% higher in 2019 than that of the corresponding yield of CK; yield of J67 applied with B2 was 6.05% higher in 2018 and 6.87% higher in 2019 than that of CK. Compared with other CRNF treatments, the release of N from A2 and B2 was most synchronized with nitrogen uptake by the two cultivars, which indicates that fertilizer combination completely met the nitrogen demands during each growth stage of rice. Rice of the A2 and B2 treatments had higher N accumulation, higher aboveground biomass accumulation and LAI (leaf area index) at the heading and maturity stages and higher photosynthetic activity than those of other CRNF treatments. In conclusion, for late japonica rice in China, the application of the A2 and B2 treatments as optimal type of CRNF can achieve labor saving and yield increasing simultaneously in rice production.