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Agronomy for Sustainable Development

Agronomy for Sustainable Development

Featured Article: Improvement of nutritional quality of food crops with fertilizer: a global meta-analysis  

This study is a comprehensive global meta-analysis assessing the contribution of fertilization (with a wide set of nutrients) to the nutritional quality of food crops, an aspect little studied so far, compared to yield. It shows that fertilizer application improves crop yield and nutritional quality by varying degrees, depending on nutrient and crop species, with vegetables being the most responsive. It paves the way towards a quantitative understanding of nutrient management programs and responsible plant nutrition solutions that foster the sustainable production of nutritious and healthy crops for human consumption.

Featured: The ESSU concept for designing, modeling and auditing ecosystem service provision in intercropping and agroforestry systems. A review 

This paper is a response to Duru et al. (Agron Sustain Dev 35:1259-1281, 2015) who stressed that a tool was missing for studying and improving the performance of cropping systems in the transition to highly diversified agriculture. The authors propose a new concept named ESSU (Ecosystem Services functional Spatial Unit) which allows the representation of an entire diversified agroecosystem by the repetition of the spatial unit that provides the same sets of targeted ecosystem services as the agroecosystem it represents. It opens new theoretical and practical research avenues for designing, evaluating or modeling diversified agroecosystems.

Annals of Forest Science

Two papers published during 2023 are highlighted. They show the large diversity of disciplines and approaches used to address the adaptation of forests to the ongoing climate change. The two papers base on wood technology and material sciences in one case, and on forest ecology, silviculture and forest inventorying in the second case. Those are just two examples, as the array of disciplines mobilised to investigate the potential adaptation of multifunctional forests to climate change as published in Annals of Forest Science is much larger.



Development, behaviour, productivity, and health status of the native honey bee Apis mellifera ruttneri vs. the introduced A. m. ligustica in Malta

The tiny population of the endemic Maltese honey bee (Apis mellifera ruttneri) is threatened by anthropogenic influences, but most prominently by the importation of commercially important non-native stock of A. m. ligustica.  However, in a comparative study in Malta, the authors showed that colonies of A. m. ruttneri survived significantly longer compared to the tested group of sister queens of A. m. ligustica and performed better in several parameters, including their colony development, being well in tune with their environment.

The results may increase the appreciation of the native Maltese honey bee and may contribute to reducing importations of foreign genotypes, one of the main threats to the native gene pool.

Varroa resistance in Apis cerana: a review

Varroa is a major world-wide pest to Western honey bees (Apis mellifera), causing major losses of colonies every year. 
Conversely, the Eastern honey bee (Apis cerana) is less vulnerable to the mite having existed alongside it over a long evolutionary period. 
In this review, areas of research into Varroa resistance traits, grooming, brood removal and mite infertility, in A. cerana are outlined and discussed to identify gaps and provide suggestions for future research.

Genetics Selection Evolution

Genetics Selection Evolution

Featured: Mapping restricted introgression across the genomes of admixed indigenous African cattle breeds

The genomes of indigenous African cattle are composed of components with Middle Eastern (taurine) and South Asian (indicine) origins, providing a valuable model to study hybridization and to identify genetic barriers to gene flow. In this study, we analysed indigenous African cattle breeds as models of hybrid zones, considering taurine and indicine samples as ancestors. In a genomic cline analysis of whole-genome sequence data, we considered over 8 million variants from 144 animals, which allows for fine-mapping of potential genomic incompatibilities at high resolution across the genome.

Featured: A meta-analysis of genetic and phenotypic diversity of European local pig breeds reveals genomic regions associated with breed differentiation for production traits

Intense selection of modern pig breeds has resulted in genetic improvement of production traits while the performance of local pig breeds has remained lower. As local pig breeds have been bred in extensive systems, they have adapted to specific environmental conditions, resulting in a rich genotypic and phenotypic diversity. This study is based on European local pig breeds that have been genetically characterized using DNA-pool sequencing data and phenotypically characterized using breed level phenotypes related to stature, fatness, growth, and reproductive performance traits. These data were analyzed using a dedicated approach to detect signatures of selection linked to phenotypic traits in order to uncover potential candidate genes that may underlie adaptation to specific environments.

Review of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Studies

Review of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Studies

Defining cost-effective ways to improve ecosystem services provision in agroecosystems

Mitigating climate change through the adoption of environmental-friendly agricultural practices also affects biodiversity and the provision of other non-marketed ecosystem services.

This paper investigates a method to identify cost-effective strategies to improve the provision of these services, by modelling  the link between agricultural practices and the provision of

ecosystem services. The paper determines which strategy costs less to improve the provision of non-marketed services, which is useful to determine cost-effective ways to mitigate climate change through agricultural practices.

How do farmers choose the professionals with whom they work to ensure herd health management? An approach based on the diversity of prescription systems in dairy cattle farming

Some farmers develop new practices to address herd health management. This article analyses how they enlist the aid of various professionals in their quest for a more agroecological approach. Drawing on a conceptual framework based on the prescription relationship concept, the authors shed light on five very different types of "prescription systems".

Veterinary Research

We have opened a collection of papers about Organoids in domestic animals.

Three-dimensional culture offers major opportunities for mimicking living tissues and disease modeling. In this collection, we focus on veterinary applications of these models. This series includes reviews on progress and challenge in generating organoids in farmed animals, along with major development in health and disease. This series also include original data using these models.