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    Tianzuo ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,
    Maoying WANG, Lingyun CHENG, Chengdong HUANG, Yang LYU, Lin ZHANG, Zhenya LU, Changzhou WEI, Wenqi MA, Zed RENGEL, Jianbo SHEN, Fusuo ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● The pursuit of green development faces challenges of environmental impacts and low resource-use efficiency in fertilizer production.

    ● Green intelligent fertilizers can be designed to harness the synergy among plants, soils, microorganisms, nutrient sources and the environment.

    ● New strategies are proposed to align with the principles of green development in both industry and agriculture.

    ● Green intelligent fertilizers highlight a path toward harmonizing fertilizer production with the imperatives of green agriculture.

    This review addresses the growing disparity between the current state of fertilizer production in China and the evolving demands of green agriculture in the 21st century. It explores major advances in fertilizers, proposes the concept of green intelligent fertilizers and develops new strategies aligned with the principles of green development in fertilizer industry and agriculture. Green intelligent fertilizers may be designed to maximize the synergistic effects among plants, soils, microorganisms, nutrient sources and the environment. This concept emphasizes the integration of industry and agriculture toward green development for entire industry chain, using an interdisciplinary approach to drive the green transformation of fertilizer industry, and promote green and sustainable development of agriculture. By bridging the gap between the current state of fertilizer industry and a growing need for environmentally responsible agricultural practices, this review highlights a path toward harmonizing fertilizer production with the imperatives of green agriculture.

  • Yujia SHI, Haixia ZENG, Linfa FANG, Yue DENG, Ran XIAO
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,
    Kemo JIN, Nico HEERINK, William J. DAVIES, Jianbo SHEN, Yifeitong ZHANG, Yong HOU, Yaqiao ZHAO, Zhengxiong ZHAO, Fusuo ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Challenges of agricultural development in the Erhai Lake basin.

    ● STB model promoting agricultural green transformation in Erhai Lake basin.

    ● Approach and impact of the Erhai STB in agriculture green development.

    ● Balancing farmer income with environmental goals.

    ● Erhai’s success: a blueprint for global sustainable farming.

    Balancing ecological preservation with sustainable agricultural practices is a global issue. Erhai Lake has felt this challenge keenly. To address it, in 2022, a Science and Technology Backyards (STBs) project was launched in Gusheng Village. The goal of this is to care for the environment while ensuring that farms and farmers can thrive sustainably. The uniqueness of the Erhai STB arises from its interdisciplinary integration, encompassing fields such as ecology, agronomy and social science, resulting in specifically-designed solutions for the Erhai context. While this model aligns with broader STB paradigms, its distinctive edge lies in technological innovation and robust support mechanisms for local agricultural stakeholders. This paper describes the methodology and outcomes of the STB initiative, highlighting its pivotal role in spearheading sustainable transition in Erhai. Preliminary findings underscore the potential of the STB model as an efficacious tool for harmonizing environmental conservation and agricultural practices, that are both financially and environmentally sustainable, rendering it a potential model for comparable regions in China and other counties.

    Xiangwen FAN, Xiaomeng ZHANG, Xiaofei WU, Wenqi MA, Zhaohai BAI, Lin MA
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Utilizing optimization technology in crop and livestock systems can enhance food production.

    ● Numerous technologies have the potential to contribute to the mitigation of environmental impacts within food systems.

    ● Three potential pathways are proposed that could transform the current food system to align with SDGs and agricultural green development.

    A recent UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) analysis indicated a significant regression in the global SDG goal scores, particularly in SDG 2—Zero Hunger. The emissions of environmental pollution caused by meeting food demands have prompted some countries to intensify their climate change mitigation efforts. These circumstances have introduced significant uncertainty to the future global sustainable food development. Additionally, a notable global challenge is the persistence of hidden hunger, primarily characterized by the insufficient consumption of high-quality animal protein. Addressing this issue would necessitate increased environmental costs to attain high-quality food security. The future food system presents a significant challenge in coordinating food security, food quality and environmental quality. This article presents a comprehensive review and proposes a three-step strategy for future agricultural development based on food security, quality, and environmental aspects. This is a novel food system transfer strategy, as it concurrently addresses both global food security and environmental thresholds. It involves the construction of an efficient food system that operates within the constraints of environmental limits. The objective is to align with global SDG indicators and to maintain natural resource consumption and pollutant emissions within planetary boundaries.

  • Kunguang WANG, Qiaofang LU, Zhechao DOU, Zhiguang CHI, Dongming CUI, Jing MA, Guowei WANG, Jialing KUANG, Nanqi WANG, Yuanmei ZUO
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,
    Provvidenza Rita D’URSO, Claudia ARCIDIACONO, Giovanni CASCONE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Environmental impacts in the dairy sector are mostly related to emissions of ammonia and greenhouse gases.

    ● Highest concentrations of these gases were in the center of the open barn during warm periods.

    ● Gas distribution varied vertically and horizontally, and differed between gases.

    ● Openings and the cooling systems increased indoor ventilation diluting these gases.

    ● Cleaning, milking and cooling practices affected cow behavior and altered diurnal gas patterns.

    This research aimed to quantify concentrations of ammonia (NH3), carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), estimate emissions, and analyze the factors influencing them during warm periods in an open dairy barn equipped with two cooling systems in a Mediterranean climate zone. Gas distribution within the barn was observed to vary both vertically and horizontally, with the highest gas concentrations observed in the central area of the barn. NH3, CH4 and CO2 ranged in 1.7–7.4, 7–18, 560–724 μg·g–1, respectively. Natural ventilation through openings and the operation of cooling systems induced changes in indoor microclimate conditions, influencing cow behavior and, consequently, gas production. Gas concentrations were the highest at air velocities below 0.5 m·s–1. The highest concentration of NH3 was observed when the temperature-humidity index (THI) was > 72 and ≤ 78; and CO2 and CH4 concentrations were the highest with THI ≥ 72 and decreased with THI ≤ 72. NH3 concentrations when barn management included three daily milkings were higher than those measured when barn management was based on two daily milkings, and lower for CH4 and CO2. NH3 and CH4 emissions were the highest during barn cleaning, while the lowest NH3 emissions occurred during activity of the cows (i.e., feeding, walking).

    Fanlei MENG, Menru WANG, Yong HOU, Lin MA, Wenqi MA, Xuejun LIU, Fusuo ZHANG, Wen XU
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● The framework of multi-objective nitrogen (N) management was developed.

    ● Multi-objective targets were established to support agriculture sustainable production.

    ● A food chain approach was developed to accurately quantify N flow in food system.

    ● “3R” principle was used in developing N management strategy.

    ● The collaboration with different stakeholders is crucial for promoting technologies.

    Nitrogen (N) is an essential nutrient for food production. The rapid increase in population requires high inputs of N to meet the growing food demand. If not managed well, the substantial loss of N from the food system has multiple impacts on grain yield, air and water pollution, and the economic benefits of agricultural. Multi-objective (food security, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability) synergistic consideration of N management in the food system is still lacking. This study employed strategies for optimizing N management in the food system, using Quzhou County as a typical example on the North China Plain. Firstly, a food chain approach was adopted to understand drivers and reasons behind N losses from the food system. Secondly, a top-down approach was used to define multi-objective N management, taking into consideration food security, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability. Multi-objective N management aims to reduce N losses to the environment and increase N use efficiencies, while simultaneously increasing yields and economic benefits. Thirdly, 3R (reduce-retain-recycle) N management strategies were identified for specific crops and animals through a bottom-up approach and then analyzed the potential of these strategies to achieve the multi-objectives. Finally, there is a discussion of how to engage different stakeholders to promote the technologies implementation. This study provides new insights into the synergistic achievement of multi-objective N management in the food system and the development of environmentally-friendly agriculture.

    Gang HE, Zhaohui WANG, Qichao ZHU, Jianbo SHEN, Fusuo ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Ecological fragility and water shortage are key challenges in the Yellow River Basin.

    ● Efficient water use technology in drylands greatly increases crop production.

    ● Water-saving irrigation has been widely adopted and has greatly improved water use.

    ● Changing water use from unregulated and inefficient to intensive and efficient is key solution.

    ● Watershed-scale coordination is a key step towards agriculture green development.

    The Yellow River Basin is an important food production area and an ecological challenge for China, where environmental protection and water scarcity are the major constraints. For the upper reaches of the Yellow River Basin, optimizing the adoption of chemicals in agricultural production and integrating crops with livestock are the key strategies for protecting the eco-environment. For dryland agriculture in the middle and upper reaches, this study summarizes four aspects of efficient precipitation techniques in terms of collection, storage, conservation, and use, which have greatly improved crop yields and supported dryland crop production. Irrigated agriculture in the middle and lower reaches is the core area of China’s grain production, where the area under water-saving irrigation reached 13.0 Mha in 2018, greatly improving water use. Compared with 1998, cereal production in 2018 increased by 62.2 Mt under similar total water withdrawals (49.7 billion to 51.6 billion m3), and the annual soil erosion at the Tongguan Hydrological Observatory reduced by 584 million m3 in 2018, achieving great success in environmental protection and efficient water use. The Chinese government has set a goal for the Yellow River Basin to become the national leader in environmental protection and efficient water use by 2035. Such a high demand requires the combined efforts of the whole community, as well as the adoption of new technologies, coordinated basin-wide development, and adequate policy support.

    Min LI, Yahui HUANG, Xiaomin DONG, Xu ZHANG, Qing MA
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● First report of bacteria Paenarthrobacter nitroguajacolicus for effective control of cucumber corynespora leaf spot and promotion of cucumber growth.

    P. nitroguajacolicus strain BJ-5 is well-adapted for biocontrol being tolerant of saline environments.

    P. nitroguajacolicus produces a variety of secondary metabolites that promote plant growth.

    Currently, the disease control in cucumber mainly depends on agrochemicals, which is not an environmentally benign strategy. Biocontrol bacteria not only resist plant pathogens but also promote plant growth, which is ecofriendly and sustainable option. A biocontrol bacterial strain BJ-5 was screened using Corynespora cassiicola as the target pathogen, and BJ-5 was determined to be Paenarthrobacter nitroguajacolicus by morphological and molecular methods. The effect of BJ-5 on C. cassiicola was studied, including the spore germination, cell membrane permeability and infected cucumbers. BJ-5 inhibited the germination of C. cassiicola spores in vitro and led to atrophy and deformation of the C. cassiicola budding tubes. BJ-5 caused the relative extracellular conductivity of C. cassiicola mycelia to increase compared with the control. Additionally, BJ-5 reduced the severity of cucumber corynespora leaf spot of cucumber infected with C. cassiicola. The inhibition efficacy of BJ-5 suspension as a foliar spray against cucumber corynespora leaf spot reached 63% inhibition, which is higher than a 5000-fold dilution of Luna-Son SC fungicide. In addition, BJ-5 was tested on the emergence of cucumber seedlings, recording the biomass and photosynthesis of cucumber during the growth period. BJ-5 at 1.5 × 105 CFU·mL−1 promoted the germination of cucumber seeds and increased biomass and photosynthesis at the adult plant stage. Also, the secondary metabolites of BJ-5 were determined. BJ-5 could produce chitinases, siderophore, cellulase, amylase and protease in the respective medium. Finally, adaptation assay of BJ-5 showed good salt tolerance and good adaptability in alkaline conditions, and that BJ-5 retains inhibition of fungi activity at higher temperatures. This is the first report of the biocontrol by P. nitroguajacolicus with antagonism to C. cassiicola and promote cucumber growth. This study indicates that P. nitroguajacolicus may serve as potential biocontrol agents against cucumber corynespora leaf spot fungus.

    Xiao XU, Yanxiang JIA, Yuan FENG, Haixing ZHANG, Wen XU, Qichao ZHU
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Objective based county-level AGD evaluation index system was established.

    ● A typical agricultural county of Quzhou County in the North China Plain was use as a representative study.

    ● Unbalanced development was revealed as well as large gaps relative to targets.

    ● Spearman rank correlation analysis revealed more synergistic effect than trade-off effect.

    ● Trade-off existed between eco-environment and both food production and socioeconomic dimensions.

    Agriculture green development (AGD) has become an unavoidable choice to address the unique national circumstances of China. This study established a county-level AGD evaluation index system, comprised three dimensions, food production, ecological environment and socioeconomic development, using 20 indicators. The assessment delved into historical trend and current situation, utilizing Spearman rank correlation analysis to analyze trade-off and synergy relationships, using Quzhou County, Hebei Province as a case study. The main findings were in four areas. Firstly, the index for AGD in Quzhou County increased by 58.9% from 1978 to 2019. The major contribution were the social economy (65.8%) and food production (53.5%), whereas the ecological environment was found to have had a negative impact. Secondly, in 2019, the AGD index was only 56.4, indicating substantial potential for improvement relative to the target value. A notable difference in scores existed between the three dimensions, with the order being ecological environment (66.3) > food production (61.7) > socioeconomic (41.3). Also, 90% of the indicators did not reach the target value. Thirdly, relationship analysis of the indicators revealed that the synergistic effect exceeded the trade-off effect. Specifically, 46.3% of the indicators had no significant relationship, 35.3% had a synergistic relationship, and 18.4% had a trade-off relationship. Finally, interdimensional indicator relationships exhibited a trade-off effect between the ecological environment and both food production and socioeconomic dimensions. However, a positive trend of synergy between production and ecology has emerged since 2015. In conclusion, the quantitative evaluation index system exposed the unbalanced development and significant potential relative to the target value of AGD in Quzhou County, despite notable progress.

    Jianbo SHEN, Qichao ZHU, Yong HOU, Wen-Feng CONG, Wen XU, Jiuliang XU, Zhichao AN, Xiaoqiang JIAO, Kai ZHANG, Tianxiang YU, Lin MA, Oene OENEMA, William J. DAVIES, Fusuo ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Agriculture green development (AGD) has been undertaken in China for 5 years.

    ● New insights and advances on the four themes of AGD in China are elucidated.

    ● AGD involves interdisciplinary research innovation, multistakeholder participation, multi-objective realization and regional-specific technology implementation.

    ● Implementation of AGD in China will provide valuable experience paradigm for the world.

    Reconciling the tasks of producing adequate amounts of nutritious food for the increasing global population while preserving the environment and natural ecosystems simultaneously is an enormous challenge. The concept of agriculture green development (AGD) and the necessary governmental policies were developed to address the aforementioned challenge in China and to help achieve the related global sustainable development goals. Agriculture green development emphasizes the synergy between green and development; current agriculture has to transform from the intensive farming with high inputs, high environmental impacts and low resource-use efficiency to a more sustainable agriculture, in order to ensure an adequate supply of nutritious food while delivering environmental integrity, improved economic profitability, and social equity. A research program on AGD was established by China Agricultural University with four research themes, namely: green crop production, green integrated crop-animal production, green food and industry, and green ecological environment and ecosystem services, to provide a scientific basis for future developments and to facilitate the implementation of AGD in practice. AGD requires a multistakeholder approach, fueled by innovative and interdisciplinary research. Joint actions have to be taken by governments, farmers, supply industries, consumers, educators, extension services and researchers to support AGD. This requires strong coordination and public awareness campaigns. This review presents the progress that has been made over the past 5 years and makes recommendations for more research and development, in order to better deliver agricultural green and sustainable development on national and international scales.

    Lei DENG, Haitao HU, Jiwei LI, Xue LI, Chunbo HUANG, Zhijing YU, Hailong ZHANG, Qing QU, Xiaozhen WANG, Lingbo DONG, Zhouping SHANGGUAN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Analyzes the current situation of planted forests construction in China.

    ● Summarizes the dynamic and benefit of C sequestration in plantation forest.

    ● Proposes the enhancement path of C sequestration for planted forests in China.

    ● Provides the path for realization of forest C sink trading in China.

    ● Suggests some insights for C sequestration and emission reduction in planted forests.

    Tree plantations are an important forest resource that substantively contributes to climate change mitigation and carbon sequestration. As the area and standing volume of tree plantations in China have increased, issues such as unreasonable structure, low productivity, limited ecological functionality and diminishing ecological stability have occurred, which hinder the ability of tree plantations to enhance carbon sequestration. This study outlined the trajectory of carbon sequestration and its associated benefits in tree plantations by examining the current state of tree plantation establishment and growth, elucidated the strategies for advantages of carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation in planted forests, and summarized the existing problems with tree plantations. This paper underscores the pressing need for concerted efforts to boost carbon sequestration within planted forests and proposes management and development strategies for Chinese tree plantations. In the future, it will be necessary to apply scientific theories to practice and develop multi-objective management optimization models for the high-quality development of tree plantations. This will involve establishing a cohesive national carbon trading market, improving the prediction of carbon sequestration, and identifying priority zones for afforestation and reforestation, to better serve China’s national strategy for achieving peak carbon and carbon neutrality.

    Xiaomeng ZHANG, Xiangwen FAN, Wenqi MA, Zhaohai BAI, Jiafa LUO, Jing YANG, Ling LIU, Jianjie ZHANG, Lin MA
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● Development of a novel multi-indicator partition optimization method of nitrogen nutrient management.

    ● Calculation of multi-indicator environmental thresholds for ammonia volatilization, nitrogen surplus and soil carrying capacity in various regions within the basin.

    ● Recommendation of various regional spatial optimization methods to enhance nutrient management in crop–livestock systems.

    Although China has achieved great advancements toward national food security, the country is still confronted with a range of challenges, including natural resource stress, imbalanced diets and environmental pollution. Optimized management of crop–livestock systems is the key measure to realize agricultural green transformation. However, optimized management of crop–livestock systems that use multi-objective zoning is lacking. This study employed a multi-objective zoning management approach to comprehensively analyze four indicators: ammonia volatilization, nitrogen surplus, soil carrying capacity and ecological red line area. With its significant ecological integrity and a strong emphasis on sustainability, the Baiyangdian Basin serves as a unique and suitable test case for conducting analyses on multi-objective nutrient optimization management, with the aim to facilitate the agricultural green transformation. This study finds that less than 8% of the area in the Baiyangdian Basin meet the acceptable environmental indicator standard, whereas around 50% of the area that had both nitrogen surplus and ammonia volatilization exceeded the threshold. Implementation of unified management, that is, the same management technique across the study areas, could result in an increase of areas meeting environmental indicator thresholds to 21.1%. This project developed a novel multi-indicator partition optimization method, in which distinct measures are tailored for different areas to satisfy multiple environmental indicators. Implementation of this method, could potentially bring more than 50% area below the threshold, and areas with ammonia emissions and nitrogen surplus could be reduced to 15.8%. The multi-indicators partition optimization method represents a more advanced and efficiency-oriented management approach when compared to unified management. This approach could be regarded as the best available option to help China achieve agricultural transformation to improve efficient production and reduce environmental pollution. It is recommended that current policies aimed at nutrient management toward sustainable agricultural development should shift toward the application of multi-indicators partition optimization.

    , Muhammad Waqar AKRAM, Guiqiang LI, Muhammad Zuhaib AKRAM, Muhammad FAHEEM, Muhammad Mubashar OMAR, Muhammad Ghulman HASSAN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering,

    ● A machine vision-based prototype system was developed for fruit grading.

    ● Deep learning and image processing algorithms are used for defective fruit detection.

    ● The mechanical system is controlled by microcontroller guided by computer vision.

    ● Maximum validation accuracies for mangoes and tomatoes were around 94%.

    Artificial intelligence-based automatic systems can reduce time, human error and post-harvest operations. By using such systems, food items can be successfully classified and graded based on defects. For this context, a machine vision system was developed for fruit grading based on defects. The prototype consisted of defective fruit detection and mechanical sorting systems. Image processing algorithms and deep learning frameworks were used for detection of defective fruit. Different image processing algorithms including pre-processing, thresholding, morphological and bitwise operations combined with a deep leaning algorithm, i.e., convolutional neural network (CNN), were applied to fruit images for the detection of defective fruit. The data set used for training CNN model consisted of fruit images collected from a publicly-available data set and captured fruit images: 1799 and 1017 for mangoes and tomatoes, respectively. Subsequent to defective fruit detection, the information obtained was communicated to microcontroller that further actuated the mechanical sorting system accordingly. In addition, the system was evaluated experimentally in terms of detection accuracy, sorting accuracy and computational time. For the image processing algorithms scheme, the detection accuracy for mango and tomato was 89% and 92%, respectively, and for CNN architecture used, the validation accuracy for mangoes and tomatoes was 95% and 94%, respectively.