SciCombinator

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Concept: Green manure

181

The contamination of the environment with microplastic, defined as particles smaller than 5 mm, has emerged as a global challenge because it may pose risks to biota and public health. Current research focuses predominantly on aquatic systems, whereas comparatively little is known regarding the sources, pathways, and possible accumulation of plastic particles in terrestrial ecosystems. We investigated the potential of organic fertilizers from biowaste fermentation and composting as an entry path for microplastic particles into the environment. Particles were classified by size and identified by attenuated total reflection-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. All fertilizer samples from plants converting biowaste contained plastic particles, but amounts differed significantly with substrate pretreatment, plant, and waste (for example, household versus commerce) type. In contrast, digestates from agricultural energy crop digesters tested for comparison contained only isolated particles, if any. Among the most abundant synthetic polymers observed were those used for common consumer products. Our results indicate that depending on pretreatment, organic fertilizers from biowaste fermentation and composting, as applied in agriculture and gardening worldwide, are a neglected source of microplastic in the environment.

Concepts: Agriculture, Fertilizer, Urea, Compost, Organic fertilizer, Manure, Green manure, Vermicompost

24

Population growth and climate change challenge our food and farming systems and provide arguments for an increased intensification of agriculture. A promising option is eco-functional intensification through organic farming, an approach based on using and enhancing internal natural resources and processes to secure and improve agricultural productivity, while minimizing negative environmental impacts. In this concept an active soil microbiota plays an important role for various soil based ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, erosion control and pest and disease regulation. Several studies have reported a positive effect of organic farming on soil health and quality including microbial community traits. However, so far no systematic quantification of whether organic farming systems comprise larger and more active soil microbial communities compared to conventional farming systems was performed on a global scale. Therefore, we conducted a meta-analysis on current literature to quantify possible differences in key indicators for soil microbial abundance and activity in organic and conventional cropping systems. All together we integrated data from 56 mainly peer-reviewed papers into our analysis, including 149 pairwise comparisons originating from different climatic zones and experimental duration ranging from 3 to more than 100 years. Overall, we found that organic systems had 32% to 84% greater microbial biomass carbon, microbial biomass nitrogen, total phospholipid fatty-acids, and dehydrogenase, urease and protease activities than conventional systems. Exclusively the metabolic quotient as an indicator for stresses on microbial communities remained unaffected by the farming systems. Categorical subgroup analysis revealed that crop rotation, the inclusion of legumes in the crop rotation and organic inputs are important farming practices affecting soil microbial community size and activity. Furthermore, we show that differences in microbial size and activity between organic and conventional farming systems vary as a function of land use (arable, orchards, and grassland), plant life cycle (annual and perennial) and climatic zone. In summary, this study shows that overall organic farming enhances total microbial abundance and activity in agricultural soils on a global scale.

Concepts: Agriculture, Climate, Soil, Ecosystem, Organic farming, Sustainable agriculture, Crop rotation, Green manure

12

Low-input agricultural systems aim at reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in order to improve sustainable production and ecosystem health. Despite the integral role of the soil microbiome in agricultural production, we still have a limited understanding of the complex response of microbial diversity to organic and conventional farming. Here we report on the structural response of the soil microbiome to more than two decades of different agricultural management in a long-term field experiment using a high-throughput pyrosequencing approach of bacterial and fungal ribosomal markers. Organic farming increased richness, decreased evenness, reduced dispersion and shifted the structure of the soil microbiota when compared with conventionally managed soils under exclusively mineral fertilization. This effect was largely attributed to the use and quality of organic fertilizers, as differences became smaller when conventionally managed soils under an integrated fertilization scheme were examined. The impact of the plant protection regime, characterized by moderate and targeted application of pesticides, was of subordinate importance. Systems not receiving manure harboured a dispersed and functionally versatile community characterized by presumably oligotrophic organisms adapted to nutrient-limited environments. Systems receiving organic fertilizer were characterized by specific microbial guilds known to be involved in degradation of complex organic compounds such as manure and compost. The throughput and resolution of the sequencing approach permitted to detect specific structural shifts at the level of individual microbial taxa that harbours a novel potential for managing the soil environment by means of promoting beneficial and suppressing detrimental organisms.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 31 October 2014; doi:10.1038/ismej.2014.210.

Concepts: Agriculture, Fertilizer, Soil, Nitrogen, Organic farming, Compost, Manure, Green manure

8

The debate on the relative benefits of conventional and organic farming systems has in recent time gained significant interest. So far, global agricultural development has focused on increased productivity rather than on a holistic natural resource management for food security. Thus, developing more sustainable farming practices on a large scale is of utmost importance. However, information concerning the performance of farming systems under organic and conventional management in tropical and subtropical regions is scarce. This study presents agronomic and economic data from the conversion phase (2007-2010) of a farming systems comparison trial on a Vertisol soil in Madhya Pradesh, central India. A cotton-soybean-wheat crop rotation under biodynamic, organic and conventional (with and without Bt cotton) management was investigated. We observed a significant yield gap between organic and conventional farming systems in the 1(st) crop cycle (cycle 1: 2007-2008) for cotton (-29%) and wheat (-27%), whereas in the 2(nd) crop cycle (cycle 2: 2009-2010) cotton and wheat yields were similar in all farming systems due to lower yields in the conventional systems. In contrast, organic soybean (a nitrogen fixing leguminous plant) yields were marginally lower than conventional yields (-1% in cycle 1, -11% in cycle 2). Averaged across all crops, conventional farming systems achieved significantly higher gross margins in cycle 1 (+29%), whereas in cycle 2 gross margins in organic farming systems were significantly higher (+25%) due to lower variable production costs but similar yields. Soybean gross margin was significantly higher in the organic system (+11%) across the four harvest years compared to the conventional systems. Our results suggest that organic soybean production is a viable option for smallholder farmers under the prevailing semi-arid conditions in India. Future research needs to elucidate the long-term productivity and profitability, particularly of cotton and wheat, and the ecological impact of the different farming systems.

Concepts: Agriculture, Organic farming, Sustainable agriculture, Crops, Crop rotation, Industrial agriculture, Green manure, Biodynamic agriculture

3

Cropland use activities are major drivers of global environmental changes and of farming system resilience. Rotating crops is a critical land-use driver, and a farmers' key strategy to control environmental stresses and crop performances. Evidence has accumulated that crop rotations have been dramatically simplified over the last 50 years. In contrast, organic farming stands as an alternative production way that promotes crop diversification. However, our understanding of crop rotations is surprisingly limited. In order to understand if organic farming would result in more diversified and multifunctional landscapes, we provide here a novel, systematic comparison of organic-to-conventional crop rotations at the global scale based on a meta-analysis of the scientific literature, paired with an independent analysis of organic-to-conventional land-use. We show that organic farming leads to differences in land-use compared to conventional: overall, crop rotations are 15% longer and result in higher diversity and evener crop species distribution. These changes are driven by a higher abundance of temporary fodders, catch and cover-crops, mostly to the detriment of cereals. We also highlighted differences in organic rotations between Europe and North-America, two leading regions for organic production. This increased complexity of organic crop rotations is likely to enhance ecosystem service provisioning to agroecosystems.

Concepts: Agriculture, Organic farming, Sustainable agriculture, Crop rotation, Agroecology, Industrial agriculture, Green manure, Wildculture

3

A major challenge for agriculture is to enhance productivity with minimum impact on the environment. Several studies indicate that cover crops could replace anthropogenic inputs and enhance crop productivity. However, so far, it is unclear if cover crop effects vary between different cropping systems, and direct comparisons among major arable production systems are rare. Here we compared the short-term effects of various cover crops on crop yield, nitrogen uptake, and weed infestation in four arable production systems (conventional cropping with intensive tillage and no-tillage; organic cropping with intensive tillage and reduced tillage). We hypothesized that cover cropping effects increase with decreasing management intensity. Our study demonstrated that cover crop effects on crop yield were highest in the organic system with reduced tillage (+24%), intermediate in the organic system with tillage (+13%) and in the conventional system with no tillage (+8%) and lowest in the conventional system with tillage (+2%). Our results indicate that cover crops are essential to maintaining a certain yield level when soil tillage intensity is reduced (e.g. under conservation agriculture), or when production is converted to organic agriculture. Thus, the inclusion of cover crops provides additional opportunities to increase the yield of lower intensity production systems and contribute to ecological intensification.

Concepts: Agriculture, Nitrogen, Crops, Agroecology, Green manure, Tillage, Agricultural soil science, Cover crop

2

In this Crystal Ball we describe the negative effects of the scheme of intensive agriculture of the green revolution technology. To recover the contaminated soils derived from intensive farming is necessary introduce new successful technologies to replace the use of chemical fertilizer and toxic pesticides by organic fertilizers and biological control agents. Our principal speculation is that in a short time authors in the field of PGPB and bioremediation will be expanding the knowledge on the development of different formulations containing super-bacteria or a mixture of super-bacteria able to provide beneficial effect for agriculture and bioremediation.

Concepts: Agriculture, Nitrogen, Manure, Industrial agriculture, Green manure

1

Cover crops can produce ecosystem services during the fallow period, as reducing nitrate leaching and producing green manure. Crop growth rate (CGR) and crop nitrogen acquisition rate (CNR) can be used as two indicators of the ability of cover crops to produce these services in agrosystems. We used leaf functional traits to characterise the growth strategies of 36 cover crops as an approach to assess their ability to grow and acquire N rapidly. We measured specific leaf area (SLA), leaf dry matter content (LDMC), leaf nitrogen content (LNC) and leaf area (LA) and we evaluated their relevance to characterise CGR and CNR. Cover crop species were positioned along the Leaf Economics Spectrum (LES), the SLA-LDMC plane, and the CSR triangle of plant strategies. LA was positively correlated with CGR and CNR, while LDMC was negatively correlated with CNR. All cover crops could be classified as resource-acquisitive species from their relative position on the LES and the SLA-LDMC plane. Most cover crops were located along the Competition/Ruderality axis in the CSR triangle. In particular, Brassicaceae species were classified as very competitive, which was consistent with their high CGR and CNR. Leaf functional traits, especially LA and LDMC, allowed to differentiate some cover crops strategies related to their ability to grow and acquire N. LDMC was lower and LNC was higher in cover crop than in wild species, pointing to an efficient acquisitive syndrome in the former, corresponding to the high resource availability found in agrosystems. Combining several leaf traits explained approximately half of the CGR and CNR variances, which might be considered insufficient to precisely characterise and rank cover crop species for agronomic purposes. We hypothesised that may be the consequence of domestication process, which has reduced the range of plant strategies and modified the leaf trait syndrome in cultivated species.

Concepts: Agriculture, Fertilizer, Nitrogen, Crops, Leaf Area Index, Specific leaf area, Green manure, Cover crop

0

Microbes play a critical role in soil global biogeochemical circulation and microbe-microbe interactions have also evoked enormous interests in recent years. Utilization of green manures can stimulate microbial activity and affect microbial composition and diversity. However, few studies focus on the microbial interactions or detect the key functional members in communities. With the advances of metagenomic technologies, network analysis has been used as a powerful tool to detect robust interactions between microbial members. Here, random matrix theory-based network analysis was used to investigate the microbial networks in response to four different green manure fertilization regimes (Vicia villosa, common vetch, milk vetch, and radish) over two growth cycles from October 2012 to September 2014. The results showed that the topological properties of microbial networks were dramatically altered by green manure fertilization. Microbial network under milk vetch amendment showed substantially more intense complexity and interactions than other fertilization systems, indicating that milk vetch provided a favorable condition for microbial interactions and niche sharing. The shift of microbial interactions could be attributed to the changes in some major soil traits and the interactions might be correlated to plant growth and production. With the stimuli of green manures, positive interactions predominated the network eventually and the network complexity was in consistency with maize productivity, which suggested that the complex soil microbial networks might benefit to plants rather than simple ones, because complex networks would hold strong the ability to cope with environment changes or suppress soil-borne pathogen infection on plants. In addition, network analyses discerned some putative keystone taxa and seven of them had directly positive interactions with maize yield, which suggested their important roles in maintaining environmental functions and in improving plant growth.

Concepts: Agriculture, Fabaceae, Computer network, Social network, Vicia, Manure, Green manure, Vicia sativa

0

In order to investigate the occurrence of Giardia duodenalis and its genotypes in vegetables that are consumed raw, we analyzed samples cultivated with organic or chemical fertilizer, sold in street markets and from community vegetable gardens in an urban area located in Southern Brazil.

Concepts: Nitrogen, Urea, São Paulo, Natural gas, Village, Green manure, Farmers' market