162 research outputs found

    Boosting domestic feed production with less environmental cost through optimized crop distribution

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    Global cropland expansion and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are largely driven by the growing demand of animal-sourced food. Thus, options are urgently needed to enhancing feed supply at a low environmental cost. Here we explored a set of scenarios about improving domestic feed supply, using a linear optimization model. Results indicate that the total feed (energy and protein) production may be increased by 18–32% through optimizing the spatial distribution of feed crops across provinces, without additional cropland input. GHG emissions and nitrogen and phosphorus inputs per MJ of produced feed decreased by 18–25%, 18–23%, and 16–21%, respectively. The redistribution strategies provide 10–16% additional animal food, which covers the demand of 195–393 million people. Lastly, we provide suggestions for improving the effectiveness of governmental policies related to spatial planning of crops, so as to alleviate the food-feed competition for cropland and to improve environmental sustainability

    Anthropogenic N input increases global warming potential by awakening the “sleeping” ancient C in deep critical zones

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    Even a small net increase in soil organic carbon (SOC) mineralization will cause a substantial increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration. It is widely recognized that the SOC mineralization within deep critical zones (2 to 12 m depth) is slower and much less influenced by anthropogenic disturbance when compared to that of surface soil. Here, we showed that 20 years of nitrogen (N) fertilization enriched a deep critical zone with nitrate, almost doubling the SOC mineralization rate. This result was supported by corresponding increases in the expressions of functional genes typical of recalcitrant SOC degradation and enzyme activities. The CO2 released and the SOC had a similar 14C age (6000 to 10,000 years before the present). Our results indicate that N fertilization of crops may enhance CO2 emissions from deep critical zones to the atmosphere through a previously disregarded mechanism. This provides another reason for markedly improving N management in fertilized agricultural soils

    `Do earthworms increase grass biomass production and phosphorus uptake under field conditions?

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    The key nutrient phosphorus (P) binds strongly to reactive soil particles, which makes it poorly available for plant uptake. In the search for sustainable ways to overcome a resulting P shortage, it has been shown that earthworms can increase the pool of plant available P and enhance plant P uptake under controlled (greenhouse) conditions. To validate these findings under field conditions and to study the effect of earthworm community composition, we conducted a mesocosm-field experiment on grassland. Mesocosms containing a sandy soil with a low P-status and communities of five earthworm species common to the Netherlands (Lumbricus rubellus, Aporrectodea caliginosa, Allolobophora chlorotica, Lumbricus terrestris and Aporrectodea longa; monocultures, three- or five-species mixtures and controls without earthworms) were installed in a field. Aboveground biomass production and P uptake of Lolium perenne were monitored for over two years. Earthworm community composition varied between the start and the end of the experiment, but multiple linear regression on the final earthworm communities yielded strong indications that earthworms increased both biomass production (R2adj = 0.52, p < 0.001, n = 76) and P uptake (R2adj = 0.48, p < 0.001, n = 76). The species A. longa and L. terrestris were most influential for this earthworm effect. We did not observe any general relations between the number of earthworm species in a community and a P effect. Our results suggest that earthworms can indeed increase grass biomass production and P uptake on a low P soil in the field, and can thereby contribute to making the P nutrition of our agricultural systems more sustainable

    Responses of Cereal Yields and Soil Carbon Sequestration to Four Long-Term Tillage Practices in the North China Plain

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    Current tillage practices in the important winter wheat&ndash;summer maize double cropping system of the North China Plain are under debate because of negative effects on soil quality and crop yield. Therefore, a long-term experiment was conducted from 2001 to 2018 to determine the effects of soil conservation practices on crop yield and soil quality. The treatments were imposed following maize harvest and prior wheat seeding, and were defined as follows: (1) moldboard ploughing (0&ndash;20 cm) following maize straw removal (CK); (2) moldboard ploughing (0&ndash;20 cm) following maize straw return (CT); (3) rotary tillage following maize straw return (RT); and (4) no tillage with maize straw covering the soil surface (NT). Wheat straw was chopped and spread on the soil in all treatments and maize seeded without prior tillage. Wheat yields were higher in CT than RT and NT treatments (p &lt; 0.05); NT had 18% lower wheat yields than CT. No significant differences were found between treatments in summer maize yields. The soil organic carbon (SOC) content in the surface layer (0&ndash;5 cm) was higher in NT and RT compared to CT and CK. However, SOC content in the 10&ndash;20 cm and 20&ndash;30 cm layers was lower in NT and RT compared to CT and CK. Similarly, available phosphorus in the surface soil was higher in NT and RT than in CT and CK. but the opposite was true for the lower soil layers. SOC stocks (0&ndash;30 cm) increased in all treatments, and were initially faster in NT and RT than in CT and CK. However, SOC stocks were higher in CT than in other treatments at the end of the experiment. This finding indicates that no tillage and reduced tillage decreased both wheat yields and soil C sequestration over time; it also indicates that CT was the most robust in terms of crop yields and soil C sequestration

    Soil-Improving Cropping Systems for Sustainable and Profitable Farming in Europe

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    Soils form the basis for agricultural production and other ecosystem services, and soil management should aim at improving their quality and resilience. Within the SoilCare project, the concept of soil-improving cropping systems (SICS) was developed as a holistic approach to facilitate the adoption of soil management that is sustainable and profitable. SICS selected with stakeholders were monitored and evaluated for environmental, sociocultural, and economic effects to determine profitability and sustainability. Monitoring results were upscaled to European level using modelling and Europe-wide data, and a mapping tool was developed to assist in selection of appropriate SICS across Europe. Furthermore, biophysical, sociocultural, economic, and policy reasons for (non)adoption were studied. Results at the plot/farm scale showed a small positive impact of SICS on environment and soil, no effect on sustainability, and small negative impacts on economic and sociocultural dimensions. Modelling showed that different SICS had different impacts across Europe-indicating the importance of understanding local dynamics in Europe-wide assessments. Work on adoption of SICS confirmed the role economic considerations play in the uptake of SICS, but also highlighted social factors such as trust. The project's results underlined the need for policies that support and enable a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices in a coherent way

    Soil-Improving Cropping Systems for Sustainable and Profitable Farming in Europe

    Get PDF
    Soils form the basis for agricultural production and other ecosystem services, and soil management should aim at improving their quality and resilience. Within the SoilCare project, the concept of soil-improving cropping systems (SICS) was developed as a holistic approach to facilitate the adoption of soil management that is sustainable and profitable. SICS selected with stakeholders were monitored and evaluated for environmental, sociocultural, and economic effects to determine profitability and sustainability. Monitoring results were upscaled to European level using modelling and Europe-wide data, and a mapping tool was developed to assist in selection of appropriate SICS across Europe. Furthermore, biophysical, sociocultural, economic, and policy reasons for (non)adoption were studied. Results at the plot/farm scale showed a small positive impact of SICS on environment and soil, no effect on sustainability, and small negative impacts on economic and sociocultural dimensions. Modelling showed that different SICS had different impacts across Europe—indicating the importance of understanding local dynamics in Europe-wide assessments. Work on adoption of SICS confirmed the role economic considerations play in the uptake of SICS, but also highlighted social factors such as trust. The project’s results underlined the need for policies that support and enable a transition to more sustainable agricultural practices in a coherent way
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