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Agriculture, Volume 7, Issue 8 (August 2017)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial Forage Plant Ecophysiology: A Discipline Come of Age
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 63; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080063
Received: 17 July 2017 / Revised: 23 July 2017 / Accepted: 24 July 2017 / Published: 27 July 2017
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Abstract
The first use of the term “ecology” is credited to German scientist Ernst Haekel in 1866, who used the word to describe the total science of relationships between organisms and their environment [1].[...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forage Plant Ecophysiology) Printed Edition available

Research

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Open AccessArticle Analyzing the Environmental Impact of Chemically-Produced Protein Hydrolysate from Leather Waste vs. Enzymatically-Produced Protein Hydrolysate from Legume Grains
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 62; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080062
Received: 16 June 2017 / Revised: 24 July 2017 / Accepted: 24 July 2017 / Published: 27 July 2017
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Abstract
Protein hydrolysates are largely used as plant biostimulants for boosting crop growth, and improving crop tolerance to abiotic stresses and fruit quality. Protein hydrolysate-based biostimulants are mostly produced by chemical hydrolysis starting from animal wastes. However, an innovative process of enzymatic hydrolysis of
[...] Read more.
Protein hydrolysates are largely used as plant biostimulants for boosting crop growth, and improving crop tolerance to abiotic stresses and fruit quality. Protein hydrolysate-based biostimulants are mostly produced by chemical hydrolysis starting from animal wastes. However, an innovative process of enzymatic hydrolysis of legume-derived proteins has been recently introduced by few companies. The objective of this study was to evaluate the energy use and environmental impact of the production processes of enzymatically-produced protein hydrolysate starting from lupine seeds and protein hydrolysate obtained from chemical hydrolysis of leather wastes through the application of life cycle assessment (LCA). The LCA method was applied through the software GEMIS “Global Emission Model for Integrated Systems”, elaborated at L’Oko-Institute in Germany, and the parameters taken into account were: CO2 emissions in g per kg of protein hydrolysate; the consumption of fossil energy expressed in MJ per kg of protein hydrolysate; and water consumption reported in kg per kg of protein hydrolysate. In the case of legume-derived protein hydrolysate, the evaluation of the energy use and the environmental impact started from field production of lupine grains and ended with the industrial production of protein hydrolysate. In the case of animal-derived protein hydrolysate, the LCA method was applied only in the industrial production process, because the collagen is considered a waste product of the leather industry. The type of hydrolysis is the step that most affects the energy use and environmental impact on the entire industrial production process. The results obtained in terms of CO2 emissions, fossil energy consumption and water use through the application of LCA showed that the production process of the animal-derived protein hydrolysate was characterized by a higher energy use (+26%) and environmental impact (+57% of CO2 emissions) in comparison with the enzymatic production process of lupine-derived protein hydrolysate. In conclusion, the production of legume-derived protein hydrolysate by enzymatic hydrolysis is more environmentally friendly than the production of animal-derived protein hydrolysate through chemical hydrolysis. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Promoting Smallholder Adoption of Conservation Agriculture through Mechanization Services
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 64; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080064
Received: 27 June 2017 / Revised: 22 July 2017 / Accepted: 27 July 2017 / Published: 30 July 2017
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Abstract
The importance of conservation agriculture (CA) is discussed in the context of producing food for a growing population while, at the same time, conserving and improving the natural resource base: sustainable crop production intensification. CA requires mechanization, and the necessary equipment may be
[...] Read more.
The importance of conservation agriculture (CA) is discussed in the context of producing food for a growing population while, at the same time, conserving and improving the natural resource base: sustainable crop production intensification. CA requires mechanization, and the necessary equipment may be beyond the reach of the majority of smallholder farmers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. A logical solution to this situation is to provide CA mechanization services from private sector entrepreneurs. These will be well-equipped with appropriate CA equipment and will usually benefit from specific training on the technical aspects of CA machinery operation and on the business skills needed to run a profitable venture. The technical skills to be reinforced include: equipment selection, calibration of planters, seeders and sprayers, field operation, maintenance and repair. Business skills needed include: market research and feasibility studies, business planning, calculation of operational costs, partial budgets, break-even points and cash flows. The case is made for local manufacture to reduce the costs of machinery acquisition and to encourage local adaptation. Start-up costs are discussed together with the options of obtaining finance. Guidelines for marketing and managing the mechanization service provision business are developed. These include the importance of contracts, work planning, regular maintenance schedules and record keeping. Finally the most appropriate vehicle for delivering the training and sustaining support is considered. Formal training courses are a good starting point, but can be expensive to organize and execute. Individual counselling from extension sources is a viable option when the quality of the service is high enough. Study groups of involved entrepreneurs should be encouraged and supported to overcome the problems that will inevitably arise in new business ventures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture Machinery for a Sustainable and Efficient Mechanization)
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Open AccessArticle Traditional Cheese Production and an EU Labeling Scheme: The Alpine Cheese Producers’ Opinion
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 65; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080065
Received: 31 May 2017 / Revised: 5 July 2017 / Accepted: 28 July 2017 / Published: 1 August 2017
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Abstract
In 2012, the European Union introduced two optional quality terms (OQT) as new tools for the enhancement of food products. Two years later, the requirements for the use of the OQT “mountain product” were defined to enhance agricultural production in harsh environments, such
[...] Read more.
In 2012, the European Union introduced two optional quality terms (OQT) as new tools for the enhancement of food products. Two years later, the requirements for the use of the OQT “mountain product” were defined to enhance agricultural production in harsh environments, such as mountain areas. This new tool aimed at promoting local development, maintaining the economic activities in mountain areas and redistributing wealth. The present research aims at understanding if farmers perceived this tool as useful and evaluates their level of awareness. To this aim, a sample of 68 traditional cheese producers from the North West Alpine Arch was interviewed. The results show that some cheese producers have a positive attitude towards the concepts set out in the OQT “mountain product” and consider it a useful tool to promote and enhance their products. Some critical elements are also discussed. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Disentangling the Effects of Tillage Timing and Weather on Weed Community Assembly
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 66; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080066
Received: 18 May 2017 / Revised: 21 July 2017 / Accepted: 28 July 2017 / Published: 2 August 2017
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Abstract
The effect of tillage timing on weed community assembly was assessed at four locations in the Northeastern United States by tilling the soil every two weeks from April to September and quantifying the emerged weed community six weeks after each tillage event. Variance
[...] Read more.
The effect of tillage timing on weed community assembly was assessed at four locations in the Northeastern United States by tilling the soil every two weeks from April to September and quantifying the emerged weed community six weeks after each tillage event. Variance partitioning analysis was used to test the relative importance of tillage timing and weather on weed community assembly (106 weed species). At a regional scale, site (75.5% of the explained inertia)—and to a lesser extent, timing—of tillage (18.3%), along with weather (18.1%), shaped weed communities. At a local scale, the timing of tillage explained approximately 50% of the weed community variability. The effect of tillage timing, after partitioning out the effect of weather variables, remained significant at all locations. Weather conditions, mainly growing degree days, but also precipitation occurring before tillage, were important factors and could improve our ability to predict the impact of tillage timing on weed community assemblages. Our findings illustrate the role of disturbance timing on weed communities, and can be used to improve the timing of weed control practices and to maximize their efficacy. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Safety-Critical Manuals for Agricultural Tractor Drivers: A Method to Improve Their Usability
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 67; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080067
Received: 4 July 2017 / Revised: 30 July 2017 / Accepted: 31 July 2017 / Published: 4 August 2017
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Abstract
This work sets out the planning phases adopted for the first time to put together a manual on injury and accident prevention in the use of farm tractors. The goal is to convey information more effectively than at present, while taking the end
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This work sets out the planning phases adopted for the first time to put together a manual on injury and accident prevention in the use of farm tractors. The goal is to convey information more effectively than at present, while taking the end users’ opinions into consideration. The manual was devised, created, and tested based on a human-centred design (HCD) process, which identified the operators’ requirements using a participatory ergonomics (PE) strategy. The main topics of the manual were outlined by engaging the users in a qualitative research activity (i.e., focus groups and workshops with final users), and the contents were prioritized and labelled by way of a noun prioritization activity. The users were involved right up to the choice of graphics and print layout in order to orient the publication to the farming context. The research activity highlighted a divergence between the operators’ requirements and the topics currently dealt with in the sector publications. The project resulted in the publication of the “Safe Tractor” manual, which features some innovations. The experience highlighted the need to adopt HCD processes to create innovative editorial products, which can help speed up the dissemination of safety culture in the primary sector. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Length of Operational Life and Its Impact on Life-Cycle Costs of a Tractor in Switzerland
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 68; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080068
Received: 22 June 2017 / Revised: 28 July 2017 / Accepted: 2 August 2017 / Published: 8 August 2017
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Abstract
Assuming full exhaustion of their estimated service life—also referred to as estimated technical working life—the low annual utilisation of agricultural machines in Switzerland leads to a long operational life. To determine the costs of an additional year’s service, we calculate the life-cycle costs
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Assuming full exhaustion of their estimated service life—also referred to as estimated technical working life—the low annual utilisation of agricultural machines in Switzerland leads to a long operational life. To determine the costs of an additional year’s service, we calculate the life-cycle costs (LCCs), which encompass all costs for an 82 kW four-wheel-drive tractor over its entire operational life. Assuming full utilisation of the estimated service life of 10,000 h, five operating versions are compared, each with an operational life of between 10 and 30 years and matched annual utilisations between 1000 h and 333 h. A key finding is that an additional year in service increases LCCs by 4.5% of the tractor’s purchase price. In addition, we carry out a sensitivity analysis by applying discount rates of between 0% and 4%, finding that a comparatively high discount rate of 3% leads to almost identical LCCs for all operating versions. We conclude that the annual utilisation and the resulting duration of operational life have a strong impact on LCCs. A short operational life associated with high annual utilisation is a promising strategy for substantially cutting machinery costs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agriculture Machinery for a Sustainable and Efficient Mechanization)
Open AccessArticle Adoption of Web-Based Spatial Tools by Agricultural Producers: Conversations with Seven Northeastern Ontario Farmers Using the GeoVisage Decision Support System
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 69; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080069
Received: 9 June 2017 / Revised: 2 August 2017 / Accepted: 2 August 2017 / Published: 8 August 2017
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Abstract
This paper reports on the findings of a multi-site qualitative case study research project designed to document the utility and perceived usefulness of weather station and imagery data associated with the online resource GeoVisage among northeastern Ontario farmers. Interviews were conducted onsite at
[...] Read more.
This paper reports on the findings of a multi-site qualitative case study research project designed to document the utility and perceived usefulness of weather station and imagery data associated with the online resource GeoVisage among northeastern Ontario farmers. Interviews were conducted onsite at five participating farms (three dairy, one cash crop, and one public access fruit/vegetable) in 2014–2016, and these conversations were transcribed and returned to participants for member checking. Interview data was then entered into Atlas.ti software for the purpose of qualitative thematic analysis. Fifteen codes emerged from the data and findings center around three overarching themes: common uses of weather station data (e.g., air/soil temperature, rainfall); the use of GeoVisage Imagery data/tools (e.g., acreage calculations, remotely sensed imagery); and future recommendations for the online resource (e.g., communication, secure crop imagery, mobile access). Overall, weather station data and tools freely accessible through the GeoVisage site were viewed as representing a timely, positive, and important addition to contemporary agricultural decision-making in northeastern Ontario farming. Full article
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Open AccessArticle What Is the Role of Agro-Met Information Services in Farmer Decision-Making? Uptake and Decision-Making Context among Farmers within Three Case Study Villages in Maharashtra, India
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 70; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080070
Received: 26 May 2017 / Revised: 7 August 2017 / Accepted: 7 August 2017 / Published: 11 August 2017
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Abstract
Scientific studies of climate and meteorology focusing on India show significant increase in the variability and frequency of extreme precipitation events. The increased variability of weather patterns places a huge constraint on farmer’s ability to make strategic agricultural practice decisions. In response, public
[...] Read more.
Scientific studies of climate and meteorology focusing on India show significant increase in the variability and frequency of extreme precipitation events. The increased variability of weather patterns places a huge constraint on farmer’s ability to make strategic agricultural practice decisions. In response, public and private agro-met information services disseminate agro-met information to farmers. Yet, studies still show that there are constraints related to access and understanding of the information. An agro-met information service is based on scientific input from meteorology coupled with agricultural information and this information package is disseminated to farmers. Based on a study in three villages in Maharashtra, India, we show that the relevance of agro-met information differs depending on the decision-making situation. Several factors play an important role in farmer’s agricultural decision-making. The usefulness of the agro-met information from farmer perspectives depends on the access, salience, and credibility of the information. Some subscribers complained about the credibility and the salience of services, while others painted a more positive picture of the service, arguing that there was value in receiving such information. The subscribers mainly valued agro-met information for the ability to undertake precautionary actions. We found that agricultural decision-making was discussed in different arenas; these arenas represented possibilities for farmers to contextualize agro-met information and thereby translate information to timely and appropriate actions suited to the specific local context. Full article
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Other

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Open AccessTechnical Note Innovative Solution for Reducing the Run-Down Time of the Chipper Disc Using a Brake Clamp Device
Agriculture 2017, 7(8), 71; doi:10.3390/agriculture7080071
Received: 18 July 2017 / Revised: 2 August 2017 / Accepted: 17 August 2017 / Published: 20 August 2017
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Abstract
Wood-chippers are widely used machines in the forestry, urban and agricultural sectors. The use of these machines implies various risks for workers, primarily the risk of contact with moving and cutting parts. These machine parts have a high moment of inertia that can
[...] Read more.
Wood-chippers are widely used machines in the forestry, urban and agricultural sectors. The use of these machines implies various risks for workers, primarily the risk of contact with moving and cutting parts. These machine parts have a high moment of inertia that can lead to entrainment with the cutting components. This risk is particularly high in the case of manually fed chippers. Following cases of injury with wood-chippers and the improvement of the technical standard (ComitéEuropéen de Normalisation-European Norm) EN 13525: 2005 + A2: 2009, this technical note presents the prototype of an innovative system to reduce risks related to the involved moving parts, based on the “brake caliper” system and electromagnetic clutch for the declutching of the power take-off (PTO). The prototype has demonstrated its potential for reducing the run-down time of the chipper disc (95%) and for reducing the worker’s risk of entanglement and entrainment in the machine’s feed mouth. Full article
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