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Agriculture, Volume 7, Issue 7 (July 2017)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Effect of Sowing Method and Weed Control on the Performance of Maize (Zea mays L.) Intercropped with Climbing Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 51; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070051
Received: 6 February 2017 / Revised: 25 May 2017 / Accepted: 14 June 2017 / Published: 23 June 2017
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Abstract
Maize is grown on a large area in Germany and there is a growing concern in society about negative environmental effects related to this. The objective of the study was to test the performance of mixtures of maize and climbing beans as an
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Maize is grown on a large area in Germany and there is a growing concern in society about negative environmental effects related to this. The objective of the study was to test the performance of mixtures of maize and climbing beans as an alternative to monocropped maize under different site and management conditions. The effects of sowing density of maize and beans as well as the sowing time of beans on total dry matter (DM) yield and bean DM contribution to the total yield were investigated. Further, various mechanical and chemical weed control methods were tested and the resulting total DM yield was compared with that of a reference treatment (manual weeding). Hardly any consistent yield difference between maize/bean mixtures and monocropped maize occurred. The proportion of beans varied over a wide range among sites and was consistently higher when beans were sown at an early growth stage of maize. Mixtures did not suppress weeds efficiently and at two of the three sites their yield clearly declined with increasing weed coverage in the mixtures. A weed coverage of up to circa 10% may be tolerated, as the corresponding yield reduction is less than 1 t ha−1. Considering the additional effort (i.e., two sowings, high costs for bean seeds, complicated weed control) in managing such mixtures, it can be concluded that maize/bean mixtures can currently hardly be recommended as an alternative to monocropped maize for feedstock production. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Impact of Potentially Contaminated River Water on Agricultural Irrigated Soils in an Equatorial Climate
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 52; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070052
Received: 6 April 2017 / Revised: 10 June 2017 / Accepted: 21 June 2017 / Published: 24 June 2017
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Abstract
Globally, it is estimated that 20 million hectares of arable land are irrigated with water that contains residual contributions from domestic liquids. This potentially poses risks to public health and ecosystems, especially due to heavy metals, which are considered dangerous because of their
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Globally, it is estimated that 20 million hectares of arable land are irrigated with water that contains residual contributions from domestic liquids. This potentially poses risks to public health and ecosystems, especially due to heavy metals, which are considered dangerous because of their potential toxicity and persistence in the environment. The Villavicencio region (Colombia) is an equatorial area where rainfall (near 3000 mm/year) and temperature (average 25.6 °C) are high. Soil processes in tropical conditions are fast and react quickly to changing conditions. Soil properties from agricultural fields irrigated with river water polluted by a variety of sources were analysed and compared to non-irrigated control soils. In this study, no physico-chemical alterations were found that gave evidence of a change due to the constant use of river water that contained wastes. This fact may be associated with the climatic factors (temperature and precipitation), which contribute to fast degradation of organic matter and nutrient and contaminants (such as heavy metals) leaching, or to dilution of wastes by the river. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Quality for Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle Toward Improved Adoption of Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Lake Erie Basin: Perspectives from Resilience and Agricultural Innovation Literature
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 54; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070054
Received: 6 May 2017 / Revised: 29 June 2017 / Accepted: 30 June 2017 / Published: 6 July 2017
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Abstract
Phosphorus (P) runoff from agricultural sources is a recognized environmental problem, particularly in regions draining into Lake Erie. This problem may well be exacerbated particularly through increased magnitude and frequency of extreme climatic events (e.g., excessive precipitation and droughts). On the physical sciences
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Phosphorus (P) runoff from agricultural sources is a recognized environmental problem, particularly in regions draining into Lake Erie. This problem may well be exacerbated particularly through increased magnitude and frequency of extreme climatic events (e.g., excessive precipitation and droughts). On the physical sciences side, the recent extensive literature focuses on structural Best Management Practices (BMPs) which have the potential to mitigate both surface and sub-subsurface P losses. Modeling studies show that there is still a lack of adoption of these P-related voluntary BMPs by the farmers. At the same time, and while the social sciences side of the literature on structural BMPs adoption weakly affirms the latter, this paper argues that the literature on resilience and on agricultural innovation can better inform our understanding of the limited adoption of phosphorus related structural BMPs by farmers in the Lake Erie Basin. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Quality for Agriculture)
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Open AccessArticle Phenotypic Variability Assessment of Sugarcane Germplasm (Saccharum officinarum L.) and Extraction of an Applied Mini-Core Collection
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 55; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070055
Received: 30 April 2017 / Revised: 21 June 2017 / Accepted: 26 June 2017 / Published: 6 July 2017
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Abstract
The sugarcane germplasm collection located in Khuzestan, Iran, is one of the most important genetic resources with valuable accessions from different continents. However, this collection has not been properly used by breeders due to the extremely large population. The aim of this study
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The sugarcane germplasm collection located in Khuzestan, Iran, is one of the most important genetic resources with valuable accessions from different continents. However, this collection has not been properly used by breeders due to the extremely large population. The aim of this study was to phenotypically characterize the sugarcane germplasm and form a mini-core collection. Hence, 13 morphological traits were evaluated on 253 accessions. The primary germplasm was grouped into 10 clusters based on partial repeated bisection (RB) data, where the smallest cluster contained three accessions from two breeding centres (USA and Cuba). Using principal component analysis (PCA), the first two PCs (principal component) explained 59.5% of the total variation. A mini-core of 21 accessions was created by using the maximization strategy, with a low mean difference percentage (MD = 2.31%) and large coincidence rate of range (CR = 93.96%). The sugarcane mini-core represented the major diversity of the primary collection. The means and medians between the mini-core and the primary collection did not differ significantly. Accessions with high sugar and cane yield, originating from the USA, Cuba, Argentina, and South Africa, were in the mini-core collection. In this paper, we established, for the first time, an applied mini-core collection in sugarcane germplasm. The mini-core collection, as a breeding collection, is a highly suitable, manageable, and efficient subset for the enhanced use of sugarcane germplasm in breeding programs. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Identification of Optimal Mechanization Processes for Harvesting Hazelnuts Based on Geospatial Technologies in Sicily (Southern Italy)
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 56; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070056
Received: 19 June 2017 / Revised: 5 July 2017 / Accepted: 6 July 2017 / Published: 9 July 2017
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Abstract
Sicily is a region located in the southern Italy. Its typical Mediterranean landscape is appreciated due to its high biodiversity. Specifically, hazelnut plantations have adapted in a definite area in Sicily (the Nebroidi park) due to specific morphological and climatic characteristics. However, many
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Sicily is a region located in the southern Italy. Its typical Mediterranean landscape is appreciated due to its high biodiversity. Specifically, hazelnut plantations have adapted in a definite area in Sicily (the Nebroidi park) due to specific morphological and climatic characteristics. However, many of these plantations are not used today due to adverse conditions, both to collect hazelnuts and to reach hazel groves. Though a geospatial analysis, the present paper aims to identify which hazelnut contexts can be actively used for agricultural, economic (e.g., introduction of a circular economy) and energetic purposes (to establish a potential agro-energetic district). The examination revealed the most suitable areas giving several criteria (e.g., slope, road system), ensuring an effective cultivation and consequent harvesting of hazelnuts and (ii) providing security for the operators since many of hazelnut plants are placed in very sloped contexts that are difficult to reach by traditional machines. In this sense, this paper also suggests optimal mechanization processes for harvesting hazelnuts in this part of Sicily. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Grasslands and Croplands Have Different Microbial Biomass Carbon Levels per Unit of Soil Organic Carbon
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 57; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070057
Received: 1 April 2017 / Revised: 14 June 2017 / Accepted: 5 July 2017 / Published: 10 July 2017
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Abstract
Primarily using cropped systems, previous studies have reported a positive linear relationship between microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and soil organic carbon (SOC). We conducted a meta-analysis to explore this relationship separately for grasslands and croplands using available literature. Studies were limited to those
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Primarily using cropped systems, previous studies have reported a positive linear relationship between microbial biomass carbon (MBC) and soil organic carbon (SOC). We conducted a meta-analysis to explore this relationship separately for grasslands and croplands using available literature. Studies were limited to those using fumigation–extraction for MBC for field samples. Trials were noted separately where records were distinct in space or time. Grasslands were naturally occurring, restored, or seeded. Cropping systems were typical of the temperate zone. MBC had a positive linear response to increasing SOC that was significant in both grasslands (p < 0.001; r2 = 0.76) and croplands (p < 0.001; r2 = 0.48). However, MBC increased 2.5-fold more steeply per unit of increasing SOC for grassland soils, as compared to the corresponding response in cropland soils. Expressing MBC as a proportion of SOC across the regression overall, slopes corresponded to 2.7% for grasslands and 1.1% for croplands. The slope of the linear relationship for grasslands was significantly (p = 0.0013) steeper than for croplands. The difference between the two systems is possibly caused by a greater proportion of SOC in grasslands being active rather than passive, relative to that in croplands, with that active fraction promoting the formation of MBC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Dynamics of Root–Soil–Microbial Interactions)
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Open AccessArticle Do Movement Patterns of GPS-Tracked Cattle on Extensive Rangelands Suggest Independence among Individuals?
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 58; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070058
Received: 31 May 2017 / Revised: 30 June 2017 / Accepted: 4 July 2017 / Published: 15 July 2017
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Abstract
In behavioral studies, cattle within the same pasture are not considered as independent experimental units because of the potential confounding effects of the herd’s social interactions. However, evaluating cattle behavior on extensive rangelands is logistically challenging for researchers, and treating individual animals as
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In behavioral studies, cattle within the same pasture are not considered as independent experimental units because of the potential confounding effects of the herd’s social interactions. However, evaluating cattle behavior on extensive rangelands is logistically challenging for researchers, and treating individual animals as independent experimental units may be beneficial for answering specific research questions. The objective of this study was to evaluate the association patterns among global positioning system (GPS)-tracked cattle at six different study sites in the western United States. A Half-Weight Index (HWI) association value was calculated for each pair of GPS-tracked cows (i.e., dyad) to determine the proportion of time that cattle were within 75 m and 500 m of each other. Cattle at two study sites exhibited relatively low mean HWI-association values (i.e., less than 0.23 HWI); whereas, cattle at other study sites tended to have greater mean HWI associations (i.e., greater than 0.35 HWI). Distinguishing features between study sites with low and high association values were the management of cattle prior to the study, herd size, pasture size, and the number of watering points. However, at all ranches except one, at least 75% of all dyadic associations had HWI values of less than 0.5 at 500 m, indicating that most of the GPS-tracked cows were greater than 500 m from each other for over 50% of tracking period. While interactions among cattle in the same pasture are often inevitable, our data suggests that under some situations, movement patterns of a sub-set of individual GPS-tracked cows may have levels of independence that are sufficient for analysis as individual experimental units. Understanding the level of independence among GPS-tracked cattle may provide options for analysis of grazing behavior for individual cattle within the same pasture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Monitoring Animal Behavior Using Remote Sensing and GIS Technologies)
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Open AccessArticle Analysis and Diagnosis of the Agrarian System in the Niayes Region, Northwest Senegal (West Africa)
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 59; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070059
Received: 17 April 2017 / Revised: 28 June 2017 / Accepted: 17 July 2017 / Published: 20 July 2017
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Abstract
The agrarian system Analysis and Diagnosis is used for this study, the goal of which was to provide a corpus of basic knowledge and elements of reflection necessary for the understanding the Niayes farming systems dynamics in Senegal, West Africa. Such holistic work
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The agrarian system Analysis and Diagnosis is used for this study, the goal of which was to provide a corpus of basic knowledge and elements of reflection necessary for the understanding the Niayes farming systems dynamics in Senegal, West Africa. Such holistic work has never been done before for this small region that provides the majority of vegetables in the area, thanks to its microclimate and access to fresh water in an arid country. Reading of the landscape and historical interviews coupled with fine-tuned household surveys were used to build a typology of agricultural production units (each type being represented by a production system). The main phases within the region’s history were distinguished. Before colonization, agriculture was based on gathering and shifting agriculture (millet and peanut) in the southern region and transhumant stockbreeding in the North. During colonization, market gardening became a source of income as a response to cities’ increasing demand. Two major droughts (in the 1970s and 1980s) have accelerated this movement. Extension of market gardening areas and intensification of activities were made possible by Sahelian migrants’ influx and the creation of mbeye seddo, a contract that allows for sharing added value between the employer and seasonal workers, named sourghas. Over the past 20 years, the “race for motorization” has created important social gaps (added value sharing deserves review) and a risk of overexploitation of groundwater. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Precision Farming in Hilly Areas: The Use of Network RTK in GNSS Technology
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 60; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070060
Received: 21 June 2017 / Revised: 14 July 2017 / Accepted: 19 July 2017 / Published: 20 July 2017
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Abstract
The number of GNSS satellites has greatly increased over the last few decades, which has led to increased interest in developing self-propelled vehicles. Even agricultural vehicles have a great potential for use of these systems. In fact, it is possible to improve the
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The number of GNSS satellites has greatly increased over the last few decades, which has led to increased interest in developing self-propelled vehicles. Even agricultural vehicles have a great potential for use of these systems. In fact, it is possible to improve the efficiency of machining in terms of their uniformity, reduction of fertilizers, pesticides, etc. with the aim of (i) reducing the timeframes of cultivation operations with significant economic benefits and, above all, (ii) decreasing environmental impact. These systems face some perplexity in hilly environments but, with specific devices, it is possible to overcome any signal deficiencies. In hilly areas then, the satellite-based system can also be used to safeguard operators’ safety from the risk of rollover. This paper reports the results obtained from a rural development program (RDP) in the Lazio Region 2007/2013 (measure project 1.2.4) for the introduction and diffusion of GNSS satellites systems in hilly areas. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Role of Small-Scale Biofuel Production in Brazil: Lessons for Developing Countries
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 61; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070061
Received: 15 May 2017 / Revised: 27 June 2017 / Accepted: 13 July 2017 / Published: 22 July 2017
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Abstract
Small-scale biofuel initiatives to produce sugarcane ethanol are claimed to be a sustainable opportunity for ethanol supply, particularly for regions with price-restricted or no access to modern biofuels, such as communities located far from the large ethanol production centers in Brazil and family-farm
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Small-scale biofuel initiatives to produce sugarcane ethanol are claimed to be a sustainable opportunity for ethanol supply, particularly for regions with price-restricted or no access to modern biofuels, such as communities located far from the large ethanol production centers in Brazil and family-farm communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, respectively. However, smallholders often struggle to achieve economic sustainability with ethanol microdistilleries. The aim of this paper is to provide an assessment of the challenges faced by small-scale bioenergy initiatives and discuss the conditions that would potentially make these initiatives economically feasible. Ethanol microdistilleries were assessed through a critical discussion of existent models and through an economic analysis of different sugarcane ethanol production models. The technical-economic analysis showed that the lack of competitiveness against large-scale ethanol distillery, largely due to both low crop productivity and process efficiency, makes it unlikely that small-scale distilleries can compete in the national/international ethanol market without governmental policies and subsidies. Nevertheless, small-scale projects intended for local supply and integrated food–fuel systems seem to be an interesting alternative that can potentially make ethanol production in small farms viable as well as increase food security and project sustainability particularly for local communities in developing countries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Economic Sustainability of Bioenergy Systems)
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Open AccessTechnical Note Validation of the Ability of a 3D Pedometer to Accurately Determine the Number of Steps Taken by Dairy Cows When Housed in Tie-Stalls
Agriculture 2017, 7(7), 53; doi:10.3390/agriculture7070053
Received: 30 May 2017 / Revised: 22 June 2017 / Accepted: 27 June 2017 / Published: 30 June 2017
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Abstract
The automation of farm tasks in dairy production has been on the rise, with an increasing focus on technologies that measure aspects of animal welfare; however, such technologies are not often validated for use in tie-stall farms. The objectives of the current study
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The automation of farm tasks in dairy production has been on the rise, with an increasing focus on technologies that measure aspects of animal welfare; however, such technologies are not often validated for use in tie-stall farms. The objectives of the current study were to (1) determine the ability of the IceTag 3D pedometer to accurately measure step data for cows in tie-stalls, and (2) determine whether the leg on which the pedometer is mounted impacts step data. Twenty randomly selected Holstein dairy cows were equipped with pedometers on each rear leg and recorded for 6 h over three 2-h periods. Two observers were trained to measure step activity and the total number of steps per minute were measured. Hourly averages for right and left leg data were analyzed separately using a multivariate mixed model to determine the correlation between pedometer and video step data as well as the correlation between left and right leg step data. The analysis of the video versus pedometer data yielded a high overall correlation for both the left (r = 0.93) and right (r = 0.95) legs. Additionally, there was good correlation between the left and right leg step data (r = 0.80). These results indicate that the IceTag 3D pedometers were accurate for calculating step activity in tie-stall housed dairy cows and can be mounted on either leg of a cow. This study confirms that these pedometers could be a useful automated tool in both a research and commercial setting to better address welfare issues in dairy cows housed in tie-stalls. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Monitoring Animal Behavior Using Remote Sensing and GIS Technologies)

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