Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Applying the aboveground-belowground interaction concept in agriculture: Spatio-temporal scales matter
Veen, G.F. ; Jasper Wubs, E.R. ; Bardgett, Richard D. ; Barrios, Edmundo ; Bradford, Mark A. ; Carvalho, Sabrina ; Deyn, Gerlinde B. De; Vries, Franciska T. de; Giller, Ken E. ; Kleijn, David ; Landis, Douglas A. ; Rossing, Walter A.H. ; Schrama, Maarten ; Six, Johan ; Struik, Paul C. ; Gils, Stijn van; Wiskerke, Johannes S.C. ; Putten, Wim H. van der; Vet, Louise E.M. - \ 2019
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7 (2019)AUG. - ISSN 2296-701X
Above-belowground biotic interactions - Agroecology - Spatio-temporal scales - Steering communities - Sustainable agriculture

Interactions between aboveground and belowground organisms are important drivers of plant growth and performance in natural ecosystems. Making practical use of such above-belowground biotic interactions offers important opportunities for enhancing the sustainability of agriculture, as it could favor crop growth, nutrient supply, and defense against biotic and abiotic stresses. However, the operation of above-and belowground organisms at different spatial and temporal scales provides important challenges for application in agriculture. Aboveground organisms, such as herbivores and pollinators, operate at spatial scales that exceed individual fields and are highly variable in abundance within growing seasons. In contrast, pathogenic, symbiotic, and decomposer soil biota operate at more localized spatial scales from individual plants to patches of square meters, however, they generate legacy effects on plant performance that may last from single to multiple years. The challenge is to promote pollinators and suppress pests at the landscape and field scale, while creating positive legacy effects of local plant-soil interactions for next generations of plants. Here, we explore the possibilities to improve utilization of above-belowground interactions in agro-ecosystems by considering spatio-temporal scales at which aboveground and belowground organisms operate. We identified that successful integration of above-belowground biotic interactions initially requires developing crop rotations and intercropping systems that create positive local soil legacy effects for neighboring as well subsequent crops. These configurations may then be used as building blocks to design landscapes that accommodate beneficial aboveground communities with respect to their required resources. For successful adoption of above-belowground interactions in agriculture there is a need for context-specific solutions, as well as sound socio-economic embedding.

The interplay of landscape composition and configuration: new pathways to manage functional biodiversity and agroecosystem services across Europe
Martin, Emily A. ; Dainese, Matteo ; Clough, Yann ; Báldi, András ; Bommarco, Riccardo ; Gagic, Vesna ; Garratt, Michael P.D. ; Holzschuh, Andrea ; Kleijn, David ; Kovács-Hostyánszki, Anikó ; Marini, Lorenzo ; Potts, Simon G. ; Smith, Henrik G. ; Hassan, Diab Al; Albrecht, Matthias ; Andersson, Georg K.S. ; Asís, Josep D. ; Aviron, Stéphanie ; Balzan, Mario V. ; Baños-Picón, Laura ; Bartomeus, Ignasi ; Batáry, Péter ; Burel, Francoise ; Caballero-López, Berta ; Concepción, Elena D. ; Coudrain, Valérie ; Dänhardt, Juliana ; Diaz, Mario ; Diekötter, Tim ; Dormann, Carsten F. ; Duflot, Rémi ; Entling, Martin H. ; Farwig, Nina ; Fischer, Christina ; Frank, Thomas ; Garibaldi, Lucas A. ; Hermann, John ; Herzog, Felix ; Inclán, Diego ; Jacot, Katja ; Jauker, Frank ; Jeanneret, Philippe ; Kaiser, Marina ; Krauss, Jochen ; Féon, Violette Le; Marshall, Jon ; Moonen, Anna Camilla ; Moreno, Gerardo ; Riedinger, Verena ; Rundlöf, Maj ; Rusch, Adrien ; Scheper, Jeroen ; Schneider, Gudrun ; Schüepp, Christof ; Stutz, Sonja ; Sutter, Louis ; Tamburini, Giovanni ; Thies, Carsten ; Tormos, José ; Tscharntke, Teja ; Tschumi, Matthias ; Uzman, Deniz ; Wagner, Christian ; Zubair-Anjum, Muhammad ; Steffan-Dewenter, Ingolf - \ 2019
Ecology Letters 22 (2019)7. - ISSN 1461-023X - p. 1083 - 1094.
Agroecology - arthropod community - biological control - edge density - pest control - pollination - response trait - semi-natural habitat - trait syndrome - yield

Managing agricultural landscapes to support biodiversity and ecosystem services is a key aim of a sustainable agriculture. However, how the spatial arrangement of crop fields and other habitats in landscapes impacts arthropods and their functions is poorly known. Synthesising data from 49 studies (1515 landscapes) across Europe, we examined effects of landscape composition (% habitats) and configuration (edge density) on arthropods in fields and their margins, pest control, pollination and yields. Configuration effects interacted with the proportions of crop and non-crop habitats, and species’ dietary, dispersal and overwintering traits led to contrasting responses to landscape variables. Overall, however, in landscapes with high edge density, 70% of pollinator and 44% of natural enemy species reached highest abundances and pollination and pest control improved 1.7- and 1.4-fold respectively. Arable-dominated landscapes with high edge densities achieved high yields. This suggests that enhancing edge density in European agroecosystems can promote functional biodiversity and yield-enhancing ecosystem services.

The potential of different semi-natural habitats to sustain pollinators and natural enemies in European agricultural landscapes
Bartual, Agustín M. ; Sutter, Louis ; Bocci, Gionata ; Moonen, Anna Camilla ; Cresswell, James ; Entling, Martin ; Giffard, Brice ; Jacot, Katja ; Jeanneret, Philippe ; Holland, John ; Pfister, Sonja ; Pintér, Orsolya ; Veromann, Eve ; Winkler, Karin ; Albrecht, Matthias - \ 2019
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 279 (2019). - ISSN 0167-8809 - p. 43 - 52.
Agroecology - Bees - Biodiversity conservation - Conservation biological control - Integrated pest management - Natural enemies - Pollinators - Semi-natural habitat management

Semi-natural habitats (SNH) are vital to sustain pollinators and natural enemies, and the ecosystem services they provide in agroecosystems. However, little is known about the relative importance of different SNH types and their vegetation traits for pollinators and natural enemies. Yet, such knowledge is essential for effective habitat management to promote both functional arthropod groups and associated multiple ecosystem services. We quantified vegetation traits and abundances of pollinators (bees) and natural enemies (predatory flies and parasitic wasps) in 217 SNH differing in type (woody or herbaceous) and shape (linear or areal habitats), for edge and interior locations within each SNH patch with respect to adjacent crops, across 62 agricultural landscapes in four European countries. Pollinators and natural enemies responded distinctively to major SNH types and within-habitat location of SNH: abundance of natural enemies (predatory flies and parasitic wasps) was higher along woody habitat edges than herbaceous SNH or the interior of woody habitats. In contrast, bee abundances, especially of honey bees, were generally higher in areal herbaceous compared to woody SNH. Abundances of both wild bees and managed honey bees were lowest for the interior sampling location in areal woody habitats. These findings reflected divergent key vegetation traits driving pollinator and natural enemy abundances across SNH: bee pollinators increased with herbaceous plant cover and were well predicted by SNH type and the floral abundance of identified key plant trait groups. In contrast, floral abundances of these plant groups were poor predictors of the studied natural enemies, which were better predicted by SNH type and sampling location within SNH. Our findings stress the need to move beyond the simplistic pooling of SNH types and highlight the importance of considering their vegetation traits to more reliably predict pollinators and natural enemies in agroecosystems. They suggest that the floral abundance of key groups of flowering plants is crucial for habitat management to promote bee pollinators, while vegetation-structural traits appear more important for predatory flies and parasitoids. The distinct importance of different SNH types and associated vegetation traits for pollinators and natural enemies calls for agroecosystem management ensuring diverse SNH with complementary vegetation traits to concomitantly foster pollination and pest control services.

Resignification practices of youth in zona da mata, Brazil in the transition toward agroecology
Goris, Margriet ; Berg, Leonardo van den; Silva Lopes, Ivonete da; Behagel, Jelle ; Verschoor, Gerard ; Turnhout, Esther - \ 2019
Sustainability 11 (2019)1. - ISSN 2071-1050
Agroecology - Framing strategies - Gender - Repeasantization - Resignification - Social movement - Transition - Youth

Youth play an important role in the transition toward agroecology through practices of resignification. This article discusses how young people resignify agroecology by taking part in education initiatives that originate from social movements, and that aim to strengthen young peoples' abilities to reflect on their practices and realities. We used action research to create films with young agroecologists in the region of Zona da Mata Mineira, Brazil. Our analysis draws on films, interviews and participatory observations made during thirteen workshops to visualize the agroecological practices and visions of youth. We explore how social frames-e.g., the specific ways in which people understand reality-shape practices and how these frames are actively changed by youth. The findings show how frames are changed during (1) frame amplification by building on existing local values; (2) frame bridging by linking with other social movements; (3) frame extension by inclusion of new frames; and (4) frame transformation by altering the meaning of agroecology. We find that young people who engage with agroecology contribute to processes of repeasantization that rework local culture to be more inclusive of different populations, generations and genders, and that they foster an appreciation of the interconnectedness of humans and nature.

Characterizing diversity of food systems in view of sustainability transitions. A review
Gaitán-Cremaschi, Daniel ; Klerkx, Laurens ; Duncan, Jessica ; Trienekens, Jacques H. ; Huenchuleo, Carlos ; Dogliotti, Santiago ; Contesse, María E. ; Rossing, Walter A.H. - \ 2019
Agronomy for Sustainable Development 39 (2019)1. - ISSN 1774-0746 - 22 p.
Agricultural innovation systems - Agricultural production systems - Agroecology - Food regime - Food system - Grassroots movements - Sustainability transitions - System diagnosis - Transformations - Value chains

Dominant food systems are configured from the productivist paradigm, which focuses on producing large amounts of inexpensive and standardized foods. Although these food systems continue being supported worldwide, they are no longer considered fit-for-purpose as they have been proven unsustainable in environmental and social terms. A large body of scientific literature argues that a transition from the dominant food systems to alternative ones built around the wider principles of sustainable production and rural development is needed. Promoting such a sustainability transition would benefit from a diagnosis of food system types to identify those systems that may harbor promising characteristics for a transition to sustainable food systems. While research on food system transitions abounds, an operational approach to characterize the diversity of food systems taking a system perspective is still lacking. In this paper we review the literature on how transitions to sustainable food systems may play out and present a framework based on the Multi-Level Perspective on Socio-Technical Transitions, which builds upon conceptual developments from social and natural science disciplines. The objectives of the framework are to (i) characterize the diversity of existing food systems at a certain geographical scale based on a set of structural characteristics and (ii) classify the food systems in terms of their support by mainstream practices, i.e., dominant food systems connected to regimes; deviate radically from them, niche food systems such as those based on grassroots innovation; or share elements of dominant and niche food systems, i.e., hybrid food systems. An example is given of application of our framework to vegetable food systems with a focus on production, distribution, and consumption of low-or-no pesticide vegetables in Chile. Drawing on this illustrative example we reflect on usefulness, shortcomings, and further development and use of the diagnostic framework.

Unpacking the push-pull system : Assessing the contribution of companion crops along a gradient of landscape complexity
Kebede, Yodit ; Baudron, Frédéric ; Bianchi, Felix ; Tittonell, Pablo - \ 2018
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 268 (2018). - ISSN 0167-8809 - p. 115 - 123.
Africa - Agroecology - Biocontrol - Busseola fusca (Fuller) - Ethiopia - Generalist predators - Habitat management - Landscape - Lepidoptera: Noctuidae

The push-pull system, a stimulo-deterrent cropping strategy consisting of intercropping cereals with herbaceous legumes and surrounded by fodder grasses, is presented as a promising crop diversification strategy for smallholder farmers in Africa as it may contribute to maize stemborer Busseola fusca (Fuller) suppression, while improving soil fertility and providing feed for livestock. The push-pull system has often been assessed at plot level and as a package (e.g., Maize + Desmodium + Napier grass). However, it is unclear how the system performs in different landscape settings or when companion crops are changed to better meet household needs. Here we evaluate the potential of the push-pull system to suppress maize stemborer infestations in three landscapes in the Rift Valley region of Ethiopia along a gradient of landscape complexity. Within each landscape, experimental plots were established on four representative smallholder farms. At each farm we used a split-plot factorial design with main plots surrounded or not by Napier grass, and subplots consisting of sole maize, maize-bean or maize-Desmodium. We assessed stemborer infestation level and maize grain and stover yields during two years, as well as natural enemies abundance and egg predation at two maize development stages in the second year. In the simple landscape, which was dominated by maize, all treatments had high stemborer infestation levels, irrespective of within-field crop diversity; the presence of Napier grass was associated with higher predator abundance, while egg predation rates were the highest in the maize-bean intercrop. In the intermediate complexity landscape, subplots with sole maize had higher stemborer infestation levels compared to maize-bean or maize-Desmodium. In the complex landscape, infestation levels were low in all treatments. However, none of these effects led to significant differences in maize grain and stover yields among treatments in any of the landscapes. The benefits of the push-pull system accrued from the companion crops (bean, Desmodium and Napier), rather than from stemborer suppression per se. Our findings highlight the importance of the surrounding landscape in mediating the performance of the push-pull system, provide new insights on the contribution of the different components of push-pull system and can guide the design of ecologically intensive agroecosystems.

Farmers show complex and contrasting perceptions on ecosystem services and their management
Teixeira, Heitor Mancini ; Vermue, Ardjan J. ; Cardoso, Irene Maria ; Peña Claros, Marielos ; Bianchi, Felix J.J.A. - \ 2018
Ecosystem Services 33 (2018). - ISSN 2212-0416 - p. 44 - 58.
Agroecology - Agroecosystems - Biodiversity - Brazil - Fuzzy cognitive maps

Agricultural systems are complex socio-ecological systems that are managed by farmers to achieve desired outcomes, including food production and other ecosystem services (ES). While farm management is a key factor for ES provision, farmers may widely differ in their awareness, ambition and skills to manage their systems. Currently there is a lack of understanding of farmers’ perception on ES, and how this is related to their management. We studied the management and perception of large scale farmers, conventional family farmers and agroecological family farmers in the Zona de Mata region in Brazil. Farmers were interviewed and constructed fuzzy cognitive maps (FCM) of their perception on ES. The FCM analysis revealed that in general, the perception of farmers on ES is highly complex and interconnected. Yet, agroecological family farmers showed a more complex perception on ES, which is associated with more diversified and autonomous agroecosystems. Both agroecological and conventional family farmers had a strong peasant identity, recognising more cultural ecosystem services than large scale farmers and relied more on production for consumption. Initiatives that aim to strengthen on-farm ecosystem services provision should be sensitive to farmer's perceptions and may need to consider using specific strategies for different farmer types.

Is Oil Palm Expansion a Challenge to Agroecology? Smallholders Practising Industrial Farming in Mexico
Castellanos-Navarrete, Antonio ; Jansen, Kees - \ 2018
Journal of Agrarian Change 18 (2018)1. - ISSN 1471-0358 - p. 132 - 155.
Agrarian change - Agroecology - Mexico - Political ecology - Smallholders

Agroecology has become a powerful alternative paradigm for rural development. In contrast to conventional approaches, this paradigm shifts the emphasis from technology and markets to local knowledge, social justice and food sovereignty, to overcome rural poverty and environmental degradation. However, the spread of this approach faces several obstacles. This paper deals with one of these obstacles: the 'preference' of smallholders for industrial farming. We specifically analyse the widespread uptake up of oil palm by smallholders in Chiapas. Contrary to agro-ecological assumptions, oil palm proved favourable to smallholders in Chiapas because of historical and contemporary state-peasant relations and the advantageous economic circumstances within the oil palm sector. Based on this research, we identify four challenges for agroecology: (i) the existence of contradictory interests within the peasantry as a result of social differentiation; (ii) the role of the state in making conventional development models relatively favourable to smallholders; (iii) the prevalence of modernization ideologies in many rural areas; and (iv) the need for this paradigm to acknowledge smallholders' agency also when engaged in industrial farming. These challenges need to be tackled for agroecology to offer viable alternatives in a context of agro-industrialization.

Drivers of adoption of agroecological practices for winegrowers and influence from policies in the province of Trento, Italy
Garini, C.S. ; Vanwindekens, F. ; Scholberg, J.M.S. ; Wezel, A. ; Groot, J.C.J. - \ 2017
Land Use Policy 68 (2017). - ISSN 0264-8377 - p. 200 - 211.
Adoption of farming practices - Agroecology - Cognitive mapping - Common Agricultural Policy - Self-determination theory - Viticulture practices
Many agricultural practices are negatively impacting the environment and threatening the ecological foundations of the global food system. Therefore, agroecological practices are being proposed as viable and desirable alternatives. Biophysical, economic, social, and political factors, matched with farmers’ psychological attributes, may all be governing the choice of agricultural practices. Public policies can play a significant role as they can stimulate the adoption of innovative farming practices. The main objective of this research was the evaluation of farmers’ motivations for the adoption of agroecological practices in the viticulture sector in the province of Trento, Italy. A specific focus was laid on the influences from the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) measures. For the evaluation of farmers’ perceptions of their systems of practices, the Cognitive Mapping Approach for Analysing Actors’ Systems Of Practices (CMASOP) was applied. Based on information collected during in-depth interviews, Individual and Social Cognitive Maps were generated, representing the most frequently adopted agroecological practices and the major drivers of adoption of such practices, as mentioned by farmers. Drivers of adoption were categorized according to the self-determination theory of human motivations. Farmers reported that adoption of agroecological practices was mainly driven by existence of site-specific pedoclimatic conditions, followed with decreasing importance by requirements from wineries, availability of material, appreciation for aesthetics, health concerns, influence from irrigation consortia, and legal requirements, among which a local legislation for integrated pest management based on a CAP measure. Overall, results show that farmers reported to adopt agroecological practices mainly because of autonomous choices rather than coercion. Therefore, wineries and local policy-makers might incentivize the adoption of agroecological practices by promoting autonomy-supportive policies that foster farmers’ identified and intrinsic motivations.
Semi-natural habitats support biological control, pollination and soil conservation in Europe. A review
Holland, John M. ; Douma, Jacob C. ; Crowley, Liam ; James, Laura ; Kor, Laura ; Stevenson, David R.W. ; Smith, Barbara M. - \ 2017
Agronomy for Sustainable Development 37 (2017)4. - ISSN 1774-0746
Agricultural policy - Agricultural research - Agroecology - Ecosystem services - Experimental design - Integrated pest management - Pollinators - Sustainable agriculture
Semi-natural habitats are integral to most agricultural areas and have the potential to support ecosystem services, especially biological control and pollination by supplying resources for the invertebrates providing these services and for soil conservation by preventing erosion and run-off. Some habitats are supported through agri-environment scheme funding in the European Union, but their value for ecosystem service delivery has been questioned. An improved understanding of previous research approaches and outcomes will contribute to the development of more sustainable farming systems, improve experimental designs and highlight knowledge gaps especially for funders and researchers. Here we compiled a systematic map to allow for the first time a review of the quantity of evidence collected in Europe that semi-natural habitats support biological control, pollination and soil conservation. A literature search selected 2252 publications, and, following review, 270 met the inclusion criteria and were entered into the database. Most publications were of pest control (143 publications) with less on pollination (78 publications) or soil-related aspects (31). For pest control and pollination, most publications reported a positive effect of semi-natural habitats. There were weaknesses in the evidence base though because of bias in study location and the crops, whilst metrics (e.g. yield) valued by end users were seldom measured. Hedgerows, woodland and grassland were the most heavily investigated semi-natural habitats, and the wider landscape composition was often considered. Study designs varied considerably yet only 24% included controls or involved manipulation of semi-natural habitats. Service providers were commonly measured and used as a surrogate for ecosystem service delivery. Key messages for policymakers and funders are that they should encourage research that includes more metrics required by end users, be prepared to fund longer-term studies (61% were of only 1-year duration) and investigate the role of soils within semi-natural habitats in delivering ecosystem services.
Social and ecological analysis of commercial integrated crop livestock systems : Current knowledge and remaining uncertainty
Garrett, R.D. ; Niles, M.T. ; Gil, J.D.B. ; Gaudin, A. ; Chaplin-Kramer, R. ; Assmann, A. ; Assmann, T.S. ; Brewer, K. ; Faccio Carvalho, P.C. de; Cortner, O. ; Dynes, R. ; Garbach, K. ; Kebreab, E. ; Mueller, N. ; Peterson, C. ; Reis, J.C. ; Snow, V. ; Valentim, J. - \ 2017
Agricultural Systems 155 (2017). - ISSN 0308-521X - p. 136 - 146.
Agroecology - Ecosystem services - Food systems - Mixed crop livestock - Sustainable agriculture

Crops and livestock play a synergistic role in global food production and farmer livelihoods. Increasingly, however, crops and livestock are produced in isolation, particularly in farms operating at the commercial scale. It has been suggested that re-integrating crop and livestock systems at the field and farm level could help reduce the pollution associated with modern agricultural production and increase yields. Despite this potential, there has been no systematic review to assess remaining knowledge gaps in both the social and ecological dimensions of integrated crop and livestock systems (ICLS), particularly within commercial agricultural systems. Based on a multi-disciplinary workshop of international experts and additional literature review, we assess the current knowledge and remaining uncertainties about large-scale, commercial ICLS and identify the source of remaining knowledge gaps to establish priorities for future research. We find that much is understood about nutrient flows, soil quality, crop performance, and animal weight gain in commercial ICLS, but there is little knowledge about its spatial extent, animal behavior or welfare in ICLS, or the tradeoffs between biodiversity, pest and disease control, greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation, and drought and heat tolerance in ICLS. There is some evidence regarding the economic outcomes in commercial ICLS and supply chain and policy barriers to adoption, but little understanding of broader social outcomes or cultural factors influencing adoption. Many of these knowledge gaps arise from a basic lack of data at both the field and system scales, which undermines both statistical analysis and modeling efforts. Future priorities for the international community of researchers investigating the tradeoffs and scalability of ICLS include: methods standardization to better facilitate international collaborations and comparisons, continued social organization for better data utilization and collaboration, meta-analyses to answer key questions from existing data, the establishment of long term experiments and surveys in key regions, a portal for citizen science, and more engagement with ICLS farmers.

Policies for reintegrating crop and livestock systems : A comparative analysis
Garrett, Rachael D. ; Niles, Meredith ; Dias Bernardes Gil, Juliana ; Dy, Philip ; Reis, Julio ; Valentim, Judson - \ 2017
Sustainability 9 (2017)3. - ISSN 2071-1050 - 22 p.
Agroecology - Brazil - New zealand - Sustainable agriculture - United states

The reintegration of crop and livestock systems within the same land area has the potential to improve soil quality and reduce water and air pollution, while maintaining high yields and reducing risk. In this study, we characterize the degree to which federal policies in three major global food production regions that span a range of socioeconomic contexts, Brazil, New Zealand, and the United States, incentivize or disincentivize the use of integrated crop and livestock practices (ICLS). Our analysis indicates that Brazil and New Zealand have the most favorable policy environment for ICLS, while the United States provides the least favorable environment. The balance of policy incentives and disincentives across our three cases studies mirrors current patterns of ICLS usage. Brazil and New Zealand have both undergone a trend toward mixed crop livestock systems in recent years, while the United States has transitioned rapidly toward continuous crop and livestock production. If transitions to ICLS are desired, particularly in the United States, it will be necessary to change agricultural, trade, environmental, biofuels, and food safety policies that currently buffer farmers from risk, provide too few incentives for pollution reduction, and restrict the presence of animals in crop areas. It will also be necessary to invest more in research and development in all countries to identify the most profitable ICLS technologies in each region.

How Agricultural Intensification Affects Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Emmerson, M. ; Morales, M.B. ; Oñate, J.J. ; Batáry, P. ; Berendse, F. ; Liira, J. ; Aavik, T. ; Guerrero, I. ; Bommarco, R. ; Eggers, S. ; Pärt, T. ; Tscharntke, T. ; Weisser, W. ; Clement, L. ; Bengtsson, J. - \ 2016
Advances in Ecological Research 55 (2016). - ISSN 0065-2504 - p. 43 - 97.
Agricultural intensification - Agriculture - Agroecology - Biodiversity - Ecosystem services - Europe - Landscape diversity - Pesticide - Scale

As the world's population continues to grow, the demand for food, fodder, fibre and bioenergy will increase. In Europe, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has driven the intensification of agriculture, promoting the simplification and specialization of agroecosystems through the decline in landscape heterogeneity, the increased use of chemicals per unit area, and the abandonment of less fertile areas. In combination, these processes have eroded the quantity and quality of habitat for many plants and animals, and hence decreased biodiversity and the abundance of species across a hierarchy of trophic levels and spatial scales within Europe. This biodiversity loss has led to profound changes in the functioning of European agroecosystems over the last 50 years. Here, we synthesize the findings from a large-scale pan-European investigation of the combined effects of agricultural intensification on a range of agroecosystem services. These include (1) the persistence of high conservation value species; (2) the level of biological control of agricultural pests and (3) the functional diversity of a number of taxonomic groups, including birds, beetles and arable weeds. The study encompasses a gradient of geography-bioclimate and agricultural intensification that enables the large-scale measurement of ecological impacts of agricultural intensification across European agroecosystems. We provide an overview of the role of the CAP as a driver of agricultural intensification in the European Union, and we demonstrate compelling negative relationships between the application of pesticides and the various components of biodiversity studied on a pan-European scale.

Ratooning and perennial staple crops in Malawi. A review
Rogé, Paul ; Snapp, Sieglinde ; Kakwera, Mayamiko Nathaniel ; Mungai, Leah ; Jambo, Isaac ; Peter, Brad - \ 2016
Agronomy for Sustainable Development 36 (2016)3. - ISSN 1774-0746
Africa - Agroecology - Malawi - Perennial staple crops - Ratooning

The management of staple crops as perennials is a historic legacy and a present-day strategy in some regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, yet perenniality is rarely an agronomic subject. Farmers in Malawi cut annual crops, such as pigeonpea and sorghum, to extend production for more than one growing season. Cassava, a perennial food crop, has a proven track record of abating hunger. Here we review ratooning, as well as the historic role of perennial staple crops in Malawi. Ratooning is a method of harvesting a crop which leaves the roots and the lower parts of the plant uncut to give the ratoon or the stubble crop. This review is completed with interviews with Malawian farmers. The major points follow. The management of staple crops as perennials is underserved by research. Indeed, we retrieved only 86 references on ratooning sorghum and pigeonpea. Of these, 9 % and 19 % respectively were from the African continent. The literature and interviews indicate that pigeonpea and sorghum have high productive potential when well managed in ratoon systems. Thirty-five percent of interviewee responses that supported ratooning mentioned saving seed. Other primary reasons to ratoon include stimulating regrowth (30 %) and saving labor (20 %). However, 31 % of responses that were against ratooning cited increased disease potential, as well as excessive vegetative regrowth (18 %).

Structure, function and management of semi-natural habitats for conservation biological control : A review of European studies
Holland, John M. ; Bianchi, Felix J.J.A. ; Entling, Martin H. ; Moonen, Anna Camilla ; Smith, Barbara M. ; Jeanneret, Philippe - \ 2016
Pest Management Science 72 (2016)9. - ISSN 1526-498X - p. 1638 - 1651.
Agri-environment - Agroecology - Biocontrol - Field margins - Integrated pest management - Natural enemies - Sustainable agriculture

Different semi-natural habitats occur on farmland, and it is the vegetation's traits and structure that subsequently determine their ability to support natural enemies and their associated contribution to conservation biocontrol. New habitats can be created and existing ones improved with agri-environment scheme funding in all EU member states. Understanding the contribution of each habitat type can aid the development of conservation control strategies. Here we review the extent to which the predominant habitat types in Europe support natural enemies, whether this results in enhanced natural enemy densities in the adjacent crop and whether this leads to reduced pest densities. Considerable variation exists in the available information for the different habitat types and trophic levels. Natural enemies within each habitat were the most studied, with less information on whether they were enhanced in adjacent fields, while their impact on pests was rarely investigated. Most information was available for woody and herbaceous linear habitats, yet not for woodland which can be the most common semi-natural habitat in many regions. While the management and design of habitats offer potential to stimulate conservation biocontrol, we also identified knowledge gaps. A better understanding of the relationship between resource availability and arthropod communities across habitat types, the spatiotemporal distribution of resources in the landscape and interactions with other factors that play a role in pest regulation could contribute to an informed management of semi-natural habitats for biocontrol.

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