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Agriculture, Volume 7, Issue 11 (November 2017)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Interactive Effects of N-, P- and K-Nutrition and Drought Stress on the Development of Maize Seedlings
Agriculture 2017, 7(11), 90; doi:10.3390/agriculture7110090
Received: 8 August 2017 / Revised: 11 October 2017 / Accepted: 20 October 2017 / Published: 28 October 2017
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Abstract
Global climate change is likely to increase the risk of frequent drought. Maize, as the principal global cereal, is particularly impacted by drought. Nutrient supply may improve plant drought tolerance for better plant establishment during seedling growth stages. Thus, this study investigated the
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Global climate change is likely to increase the risk of frequent drought. Maize, as the principal global cereal, is particularly impacted by drought. Nutrient supply may improve plant drought tolerance for better plant establishment during seedling growth stages. Thus, this study investigated the interactive effects of drought and the application of the nutrients N, P and K either individually or in combination. The maize seedlings were harvested between 12 and 20 days after sowing, and the leaf area, shoot fresh and dry weight and root dry weight were determined, and shoot water content and root/shoot dry weight ratio were calculated. Among the N, P and K fertilization treatments applied individually or in combination, the results showed that there was generally a positive effect of combined NPK and/or NP nutrient supply on shoot growth such as leaf area, shoot fresh and dry weight at day 20 after sowing under both well-watered and drought conditions compared with no nutrient supply. Compared with the effect of N and P nutrient supply, it seems that K was not limiting to plant growth due to the mineralogical characteristics of the illitic-chloritic silt loam used, which provided sufficient K, even though soil tests showed a low K nutrient status. Interestingly, the root/shoot ratio remained high and constant under drought regardless of NPK application, while it decreased with NPK applications in the well-watered treatment. This suggests that the higher root/shoot ratios with N, NP, PK and NPK under drought could be exploited as a strategy for stress tolerance in crop plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Nutrient Dynamics in Stressful Environments)
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Open AccessArticle A Study of the Lateral Stability of Self-Propelled Fruit Harvesters
Agriculture 2017, 7(11), 92; doi:10.3390/agriculture7110092
Received: 31 August 2017 / Revised: 25 October 2017 / Accepted: 30 October 2017 / Published: 1 November 2017
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Abstract
Self-propelled fruit harvesters (SPFHs) are agricultural machines designed to facilitate fruit picking and other tasks requiring operators to stay close to the foliage or to the upper part of the canopy. They generally consist of a chassis with a variable height working platform
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Self-propelled fruit harvesters (SPFHs) are agricultural machines designed to facilitate fruit picking and other tasks requiring operators to stay close to the foliage or to the upper part of the canopy. They generally consist of a chassis with a variable height working platform that can be equipped with lateral extending platforms. The positioning of additional masses (operators, fruit bins) and the maximum height of the platform (up to three meters above the ground) strongly affect machine stability. Since there are no specific studies on the lateral stability of SPFHs, this study aimed to develop a specific test procedure to fill this gap. A survey of the Italian market found 20 firms manufacturing 110 different models of vehicles. Observation and monitoring of SPFHs under real operational conditions revealed the variables mostly likely to affect lateral stability: the position and mass of the operators and the fruit bin on the platform. Two SPFHs were tested in the laboratory to determine their centre of gravity and lateral stability in four different settings reproducing operational conditions. The test setting was found to affect the stability angle. Lastly, the study identified two specific settings reproducing real operational conditions most likely to affect the lateral stability of SPFHs: these should be used as standard, reproducible settings to enable a comparison of results. Full article
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Open AccessArticle An Agrocentric Analysis of Regional Rain Patterns as They Relate to a Rained Cotton Cropping System on the Southern High Plains of Texas
Agriculture 2017, 7(11), 93; doi:10.3390/agriculture7110093
Received: 25 September 2017 / Revised: 30 October 2017 / Accepted: 1 November 2017 / Published: 4 November 2017
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Abstract
Rain is the major limiter of cotton yields on the Southern High Plains of Texas. Rain can be analyzed in terms of its effect on the crop. An “agro-centric rain” analysis assesses the amounts and timing of rain events within a defined management
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Rain is the major limiter of cotton yields on the Southern High Plains of Texas. Rain can be analyzed in terms of its effect on the crop. An “agro-centric rain” analysis assesses the amounts and timing of rain events within a defined management system. Cotton on the Southern High Plains of Texas at Lubbock, TX, USA was analyzed in terms of the crop water environment associated with 70 potential cotton crop seasons over the period from 2006 to 2015. For the 10-year period, the 238-day cotton growing season was divided into seven potential cotton crop seasons of 154-days each. Rain and crop water status (as reference and crop evapotranspiration) were calculated for each of the 70 potential cotton crop seasons. The highest rain amounts were associated with earlier plantings. Maximum values of reference evapotranspiration were associated with the mid-season plantings and minimum values with the earliest and latest plantings. Crop stress (rain-reference evapotranspiration) showed a pattern with maximum stress associated with the earliest plantings. Crop water status across potential cotton crop seasons can vary with planting date across years and it may be possible to exploit the variation to improve yield in terms of germplasm and management practices. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Phytotoxicity and Chemical Characterization of Compost Derived from Pig Slurry Solid Fraction for Organic Pellet Production
Agriculture 2017, 7(11), 94; doi:10.3390/agriculture7110094
Received: 26 September 2017 / Revised: 24 October 2017 / Accepted: 31 October 2017 / Published: 4 November 2017
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Abstract
The phytotoxicity of four different composts obtained from pig slurry solid fraction composted by itself (SSFC) and mixed with sawdust (SC), woodchips (WCC) and wheat straw (WSC) was tested with bioassay methods. For each compost type, the effect of water extracts of compost
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The phytotoxicity of four different composts obtained from pig slurry solid fraction composted by itself (SSFC) and mixed with sawdust (SC), woodchips (WCC) and wheat straw (WSC) was tested with bioassay methods. For each compost type, the effect of water extracts of compost on seed germination and primary root growth of cress (Lepidium Sativum L.) was investigated. Composts were also chemically analysed for total nitrogen, ammonium, electrical conductivity and heavy metal (Cu and Zn). The chemicals were correlated to phytotoxicity indices. The mean values of the germination index (GI) obtained were 160.7, 187.9, 200.9 and 264.4 for WSC, WCC, SC and SSFC, respectively. Growth index (GrI) ranged from the 229.4%, the highest value, for SSFC, followed by 201.9% for SC, and 193.1% for WCC, to the lowest value, 121.4%, for WSC. Electrical conductivity showed a significant and negative correlation with relative seed germination at the 50% and 75% concentrations. A strong positive correlation was found for water-extractable Cu with relative root growth and germination index at the 10% concentration. Water-extractable Zn showed a significant positive correlation with relative root growth and GI at the 10% concentration. These results highlighted that the four composts could be used for organic pellet production and subsequently distributed as a soil amendment with positive effects on seed germination and plant growth (GI > 80%). Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview The Physical Chemistry of Pesticides in Soil and Water
Agriculture 2017, 7(11), 91; doi:10.3390/agriculture7110091
Received: 21 August 2017 / Revised: 22 October 2017 / Accepted: 26 October 2017 / Published: 28 October 2017
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Abstract
Soils are the ultimate examples of physically and chemically irregular mixtures. They are also dynamic. Early investigators consequently did not understand the physical chemistry of pesticides in soil and water. By taking shortcuts instead of trying to understand the physical chemistry, they measured
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Soils are the ultimate examples of physically and chemically irregular mixtures. They are also dynamic. Early investigators consequently did not understand the physical chemistry of pesticides in soil and water. By taking shortcuts instead of trying to understand the physical chemistry, they measured the wrong variables, used the wrong units, calculated the wrong parameters, and totally ignored chemical stoichiometry. Theoretical concepts for the physical chemistry of pesticides in soil have been published during the last quarter century. They are experimentally supported. Yet, chemically incorrect descriptions persist in the literature to this day. That has serious environmental and economic consequences. In particular, government regulators make legally binding pesticide decisions based on computer predictions that are wrong by 1 to 3 orders of magnitude. This needs the attention of scientists, governments, and multinational corporations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pesticides in Agriculture System)
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Other

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Open AccessFeature PaperTechnical Note Mechatronic Solutions for the Safety of Workers Involved in the Use of Manure Spreader
Agriculture 2017, 7(11), 95; doi:10.3390/agriculture7110095
Received: 25 September 2017 / Revised: 19 October 2017 / Accepted: 30 October 2017 / Published: 6 November 2017
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Abstract
An internationally acknowledged requirement is to analyze and provide technical solutions for prevention and safety during the use and maintenance of manure spreader wagons. Injuries statistics data and specific studies show that particular constructive criticalities have been identified on these machines, which are
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An internationally acknowledged requirement is to analyze and provide technical solutions for prevention and safety during the use and maintenance of manure spreader wagons. Injuries statistics data and specific studies show that particular constructive criticalities have been identified on these machines, which are the cause of serious and often fatal accidents. These accidents particularly occur during the washing and maintenance phases—especially when such practices are carried out inside the hopper when the rotating parts of the machine are in action. The current technical standards and the various safety requirements under consideration have not always been effective for protecting workers. To this end, the use of SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) allowed us to highlight critical and positive aspects of the different solutions studied for reducing the risk due to contact with the rotating parts. The selected and tested solution consists of a decoupling system automatically activated when the wheels of the wagon are not moving. Such a solution prevents the contact with the moving rotating parts of the machine when the worker is inside the hopper. This mechatronic solution allowed us to obtain a prototype that has led to the resolution of the issues related to the use of the wagon itself: in fact, the system guarantees the stopping of manure spreading organs in about 12 s from the moment of the wheels stopping. Full article
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