News Update on Agriculture Research: May – 2019

Research Proximity and Productivity: Long-Term Evidence from Agriculture

We use the late nineteenth-century establishment of agricultural experiment stations at preexisting land-grant colleges across the United States to estimate the importance of proximity to research for productivity growth. Our analysis reveals that proximity to newly opened permanent stations affected land productivity for about 20 years and then subsequently declined until becoming largely absent today. We conclude that spatial frictions substantially reduced the rate of return to public research spending in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but such frictions significantly diminished as extension programs, automobiles, and telephones made it easier for discoveries to reach farther farms. [1]

Conservation agriculture and climate resilience

Agricultural productivity growth is vital for economic and food securityoutcomes which are threatened by climate change. In response, governments and development agencies are encouraging the adoption of ‘climate-smart’ agricultural technologies, such as conservation agriculture (CA). However, there is little rigorous evidence that demonstrates the effect of CA on production or climate resilience, and what evidence exists is hampered by selection bias. Using panel data from Zimbabwe, we test how CA performs during extreme rainfall events – both shortfalls and surpluses. We control for the endogenous adoption decision and find that use of CA in years of average rainfall results in no yield gains, and in some cases yield loses. However, CA is effective in mitigating the negative impacts of deviations in rainfall. We conclude that the lower yields during normal rainfall seasons may be a proximate factor in low uptake of CA. Policy should focus promotion of CA on these climate resilience benefits. [2]

Promoting “4 Per Thousand” and “Adapting African Agriculture” by south-south cooperation: Conservation agriculture and sustainable intensification

The “4 per Thousand” and “Adapting African Agriculture” are bold and innovative initiatives adopted at COP21 in Paris and COP22 in Marrakesh, respectively. These initiatives are soil-centric and based on adoption of soil-restorative and improved agricultural practices. The objective of this article is to discuss the merits and challenges of South–South Cooperation (SSC) in promoting the adoption of best management practices (BMPs) such as conservation agriculture (CA) and sustainable intensification (SI). Basic principles of CA are: retention of crop residue mulch, incorporation of cover crops and complex rotations, integrated nutrient management and elimination of soil disturbance. The strategy of SI is to produce more from less by enhancing the eco-efficiency, reducing waste, and restoring soil health. Whereas CA has been successfully adopted in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other regions of South America, its potential of harnessing agronomic and ecologic benefits has not been realized in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere in The Global South. The strategy of SSC is pertinent because of the ten basic principles or tenets: lack of hierarchy, equal participation in all decision-making processes along with transparency, trust, mutual respect, and accountability. However, several concerns have been raised regarding issues such as land grab, and access to resources etc. Based on the scientific concepts of SI, producing more from less, even a triangular cooperation (TAC) or South-South-North (SSNC) cooperation can be developed to achieve adaptation and mitigation of climate change, advance food security, improve degraded soils and restore soil health through soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration, and advance Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the U.N. A widespread adoption of CA and SI through SSC, TAC or SSNC can advance SDGs including #1 (end poverty), #2 (eliminate hunger), #6 (clean water), #13 (climate action), and #15 (life on land). Of the global cropland area under CA estimated at ∼180 million hectare (Mha) in 2015–16, land area under CA is only 2.7 Mha in Africa and 13.2 Mha in Asia. SSC, TAC and SSNC can build upon the existing and on-going initiatives by national and international organizations. [3]

Polymeric nanoparticles as an alternative for application of gibberellic acid in sustainable agriculture: a field study

Nanocarrier systems for the encapsulation of agrochemicals can contribute to sustainable agriculture, but few nanosystems have been developed for plant growth regulators (PGRs). The present study evaluated the effects of seed priming using alginate/chitosan (nanoALG/CS) and chitosan/tripolyphosphate (nanoCS/TPP) containing GA3 on the growth and productivity of Solanum lycopersicumcultivated under field conditions. The results demonstrated that nanocarrier systems could improve fruit production, with the productivity increasing almost 4-fold using nanoALG/CS-GA3. This pioneering study demonstrates the potential of nanocarrier systems with PGRs for applications in agriculture. [4]

Soil Quality Attributes and Their Role in Sustainable Agriculture: A Review

Soil quality is the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function, within natural or managed ecosystem boundaries, to sustain plant and animal productivity, maintain or enhance water and air quality, and support human health and habitation. This definition of soil quality encompasses physical, chemical and biological characteristics, and it is related to fertility and soil health.  Soil quality, which can be viewed in two ways [1] as inherent properties of a soil and [2] as the dynamic nature of soils as influenced by climate, and human use and management, often is related to soil degradation, which can be defined as the time rate of change in soil quality. Soil quality should not be limited to soil productivity but should encompass environmental quality, human and animal health, and food safety and quality. In characterizing soil quality, biological properties have received less emphasis than chemical and physical properties, because their effects are difficult to measure, predict, or quantify particularly in developing countries like Ethiopia is totally ignored science of the soil department but is very important than the physical and chemical indicators. Improved soil quality often is indicated by increased infiltration, aeration, macropores, aggregate size, aggregate stability, and soil organic matter, and by decreased bulk density, soil resistance, erosion, and nutrient runoff. Ethiopia faces a wider set of soil fertility issues beyond chemical fertilizer use, which has historically been the major focus for extension workers, researchers, policymakers, and donors. The key soil level bottlenecks identified in various parts of Ethiopia are: Nutrient depletion (-122 (N), -13 (P) and  -82 (K) kgha-1yr-1, the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa), OM depletion(crop residue removal, intensive tillage, dung burning and  deforestation) , Biological deterioration (Loss of SOM and  decline in the biotic activity of soil fauna but the ignored part due to measurement facility), Chemical degradation (Salinity, sodicity, and  Acidity) and Physical land degradation (deterioration of soil structure, crusting, compaction, erosion, and desertification). Thus, in the way forward, ways of soil monitoring are in need on a reasonably regular basis, the quality of soils at all levels from global, through to continental, national, regional and landscape/ catchment areas is getting due attention through the SDG framework; SDG 15 specifically calls for halting and reversing land degradation by 2030. It is only in this way which shall be able to evaluate the sustainability of the use to which people are putting the land. In line with this in Ethiopia, responsible governmental bodies and stakeholders are working on priority areas for action to improve soil fertility. [5]


[1] Kantor, S. and Whalley, A., 2019. Research proximity and productivity: long-term evidence from agriculture. Journal of Political Economy127(2), pp.819-854.(Web Link)

[2] Michler, J.D., Baylis, K., Arends-Kuenning, M. and Mazvimavi, K., 2019. Conservation agriculture and climate resilience. Journal of environmental economics and management93, pp.148-169.(Web Link)

[3] Lal, R., 2019. Promoting “4 Per Thousand” and “Adapting African Agriculture” by south-south cooperation: Conservation agriculture and sustainable intensification. Soil and Tillage Research188, pp.27-34.(Web Link)

[4] Polymeric nanoparticles as an alternative for application of gibberellic acid in sustainable agriculture: a field study

Anderson do Espírito Santo Pereira,Halley Caixeta Oliveira &Leonardo Fernandes Fraceto 

Scientific Reports 9, Article number: 7135 (2019)(Web Link)

[5] Seifu, W. and Elias, E. (2019) “Soil Quality Attributes and Their Role in Sustainable Agriculture: A Review”, International Journal of Plant & Soil Science, 26(3), pp. 1-26. doi: 10.9734/IJPSS/2018/41589. (Web Link)

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