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  • REVIEW
    Xianmin DIAO,James SCHNABLE,Jeffrey L. BENNETZEN,Jiayang LI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(1): 16-20. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2014011

    Model organisms such as Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and rice (Oryza sativa) have proven essential for efficient scientific discovery and development of new methods. With the diversity of plant lineages, some important processes such as C4 photosynthesis are not found in either Arabidopsis or rice, so new model species are needed. Due to their small diploid genomes, short life cycles, self-pollination, small adult statures and prolific seed production, domesticated foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and its wild ancestor, green foxtail (S. viridis), have recently been proposed as novel model species for functional genomics of the Panicoideae, especially for study of C4 photosynthesis. This review outlines the development of these species as model organisms, and discusses current challenges and future potential of a Setaria model.

  • REVIEW
    Liangliang GAO,Daoliang LI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(4): 267-276. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2014041

    Water quality models are important in predicting the changes in surface water quality for environmental management. A range of water quality models are wildly used, but every model has its advantages and limitations for specific situations. The aim of this review is to provide a guide to researcher for selecting a suitable water quality model. Eight well known water quality models were selected for this review: SWAT, WASP, QUALs, MIKE 11, HSPF, CE-QUAL-W2, ELCOM-CAEDYM and EFDC. Each model is described according to its intended use, development, simulation elements, basic principles and applicability (e.g., for rivers, lakes, and reservoirs and estuaries). Currently, the most important trends for future model development are: (1) combination models—individual models cannot completely solve the complex situations so combined models are needed to obtain the most appropriate results, (2) application of artificial intelligence and mechanistic models combined with non-mechanistic models will provide more accurate results because of the realistic parameters derived from non-mechanistic models, and (3) integration with remote sensing, geographical information and global position systems (3S) —3S can solve problems requiring large amounts of data.

  • LETTER
    Hongbing HAN,Yonghe MA,Tao WANG,Ling LIAN,Xiuzhi TIAN,Rui HU,Shoulong DENG,Kongpan LI,Feng WANG,Ning LI,Guoshi LIU,Yaofeng ZHAO,Zhengxing LIAN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(1): 2-5. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2014007
  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Tongli WANG, Guangyu WANG, John L. INNES, Brad SEELY, Baozhang CHEN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2017, 4(4): 448-458. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2017172

    While low-to-moderate resolution gridded climate data are suitable for climate-impact modeling at global and ecosystems levels, spatial analyses conducted at local scales require climate data with increased spatial accuracy. This is particularly true for research focused on the evaluation of adaptive forest management strategies. In this study, we developed an application, ClimateAP, to generate scale-free (i.e., specific to point locations) climate data for historical (1901–2015) and future (2011–2100) years and periods. ClimateAP uses the best available interpolated climate data for the reference period 1961–1990 as baseline data. It downscales the baseline data from a moderate spatial resolution to scale-free point data through dynamic local elevation adjustments. It also integrates and downscales the historical and future climate data using a delta approach. In the case of future climate data, two greenhouse gas representative concentration pathways (RCP 4.5 and 8.5) and 15 general circulation models are included to allow for the assessment of alternative climate scenarios. In addition, ClimateAP generates a large number of biologically relevant climate variables derived from primary monthly variables. The effectiveness of the local downscaling was determined based on the strength of the local linear regression for the estimate of lapse rate. The accuracy of the ClimateAP output was evaluated through comparisons of ClimateAP output against observations from 1805 weather stations in the Asia Pacific region. The local linear regression explained 70%–80% and 0%–50% of the total variation in monthly temperatures and precipitation, respectively, in most cases. ClimateAP reduced prediction error by up to 27% and 60% for monthly temperature and precipitation, respectively, relative to the original baselines data. The improvements for baseline portions of historical and future were more substantial. Applications and limitations of the software are discussed.

  • REVIEW
    Jianchang YANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2015, 2(2): 115-123. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2015055

    This article discusses approaches to simultaneously increase grain yield and resource use efficiency in rice. Breeding nitrogen efficient cultivars without sacrificing rice yield potential, improving grain fill in later-flowering inferior spikelets and enhancing harvest index are three important approaches to achieving the dual goal of high grain yield and high resource use efficiency. Deeper root distribution and higher leaf photosynthetic N use efficiency at lower N rates could be used as selection criteria to develop N-efficient cultivars. Enhancing sink activity through increasing sugar-spikelet ratio at the heading time and enhancing the conversion efficiency from sucrose to starch though increasing the ratio of abscisic acid to ethylene in grains during grain fill could effectively improve grain fill in inferior spikelets. Several practices, such as post-anthesis controlled soil drying, an alternate wetting and moderate soil drying regime during the whole growing season, and non-flooded straw mulching cultivation, could substantially increase grain yield and water use efficiency, mainly via enhanced remobilization of stored carbon from vegetative tissues to grains and improved harvest index. Further research is needed to understand synergistic interaction between water and N on crop and soil and the mechanism underlying high resource use efficiency in high-yielding rice.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Yonggui XIAO,Jianjun LIU,Haosheng LI,Xinyou CAO,Xianchun XIA,Zhonghu HE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2015, 2(2): 168-178. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2015061

    Improved lodging resistance is important for achieving high yield in irrigated environments. This study was conducted to determine genotypic variation in lodging resistance and related morphological traits among winter wheat cultivars planted at two densities, and to identify key traits associated with lodging resistance. Lodging performance of 28 genotypes, including 24 released cultivars and four advanced lines, was evaluated at 250 plants per square meter and 500 plants per square meter in Shandong province during the 2008&ndash;2009 and 2009&ndash;2010 crop seasons. At the higher density, the average grain yield was 2.6% higher, even though lodging score rose by as much as 136%. The higher planting density increased lodging through increased leaf area index (LAI), plant height, center of gravity and length of basal internodes, and reduced grain weight per spike and diameter of the lower two stem internodes. LAI, center of gravity and diameter of first internodes, as the important indicators for lodging resistance, were significantly correlated with lodging score, with R= 0.62, 0.59 and &minus;0.52 (P<0.01), respectively. Plant pushing resistance was significantly associated with diameter and length of the first internodes (R = 0.71&ndash;0.77, P<0.01), indicating it could be used to assess the strength of the lower stem. Higher planting density could be used to select genotypes with lodging resistance in irrigated environments. Cultivars carrying high plant density tolerance and high yield potential, such as Jimai 22 and Liangxing 66, were recommended as leading cultivars for production as well as elite crossing parents for further increasing yield potential in the Yellow and Huai Valleys Winter Wheat Zone in China.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Jian LI,Caichao WAN,Yun LU,Qingfeng SUN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(1): 46-52. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2014004

    An effectively mild solvent solution containing NaOH/PEG was employed to dissolve the cellulose extracted from the wheat straw. With further combined regeneration process and freeze-drying, the cellulose aerogel was successfully obtained. Scanning electron microscope, X-ray diffraction technique, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and Brunauer-Emmett-Teller were used to characterize this cellulose aerogel of low density (about 40 mg·cm-3) and three-dimensional network with large specific surface area (about 101 m2·g-1). Additionally, with a hydrophobic modification by trimethylchlorosilane, the cellulose aerogel showed a strong absorptive capacity for oil and dye solutions.

  • REVIEW
    Yaojian XIE, Roger J. ARNOLD, Zhihua WU, Shuaifei CHEN, Apeng DU, Jianzhong LUO
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2017, 4(4): 380-390. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2017171

    Eucalypt plantations in China currently exceed 4.5 Mhm2, and this country has the third largest area of such plantations after India and Brazil. China’s eucalypt industry now comprises a complex, multifaceted industry including seedling propagation, fertilizer production and supply, plantation silviculture, harvesting and transport, wood processing for products including lumber, pulp and paper, and wood-based panels, as well as bioenergy production and various forest byproducts and non-wood forest products. In 2015, the combined value of output of this whole industry was around 300 billion CNY. Chinese research and development (R&D) has been instrumental in supporting growth and development across the whole breadth of the country’s eucalypt industry. In this report, recent advances in this R&D are reviewed under six key topics: (1) advanced propagation technology; (2) genetic resources and breeding; (3) targeted silviculture; (4) eucalypt disease and pest management; (5) enhancing plantation ecology and sustainability; and (6) wood processing and byproduct technology. R&D has greatly facilitated expansion and proliferation of all parts of China’s eucalypt industry. This industry is now of major importance to China’s economy; it involves tens of thousands of growers and companies that provide livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of people.

  • REVIEW
    Jianbo SHEN, Qichao ZHU, Xiaoqiang JIAO, Hao YING, Hongliang WANG, Xin WEN, Wen XU, Tingyu LI, Wenfeng CONG, Xuejun LIU, Yong HOU, Zhenling CUI, Oene OENEMA, William J. DAVIES, Fusuo ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2020, 7(1): 5-13. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019300

    Realizing sustainable development has become a global priority. This holds, in particular, for agriculture. Recently, the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Nineteenth National People’s Congress has delivered a national strategy for sustainable development in China—realizing green development. The overall objective of Agriculture Green Development (AGD) is to coordinate “green” with “development” to realize the transformation of current agriculture with high resource consumption and high environmental costs into a green agriculture and countryside with high productivity, high resource use efficiency and low environmental impact. This is a formidable task, requiring joint efforts of government, farmers, industry, educators and researchers. The innovative concept for AGD will focus on reconstructing the whole crop-animal production and food production-consumption system, with the emphasis on high thresholds for environmental standards and food quality as well as enhanced human well-being. This paper addresses the significance, challenges, framework, pathways and potential solutions for realizing AGD in China, and highlights the potential changes that will lead to a more sustainable agriculture in the future. Proposals include interdisciplinary innovations, whole food chain improvement and regional solutions. The implementation of AGD in China will provide important implications for the countries in developmental transition, and contribute to global sustainable development.

  • REVIEW
    David R. CHADWICK, John R. WILLIAMS, Yuelai LU, Lin MA, Zhaohai BAI, Yong HOU, Xinping CHEN, Thomas H. MISSELBROOK
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2020, 7(1): 45-55. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019293

    As the demand for livestock products continues to increase in China, so too does the challenge of managing increasing quantities of manure. Urgent action is needed to control point source (housing, storage and processing) and diffuse (field application) pollution and improve the utilization of manure nutrients and organic matter. Here, we review strategies to improve management at each stage of the manure management chain and at different scales. Many strategies require infrastructure investment, e.g., for containment of all manure fractions. Engineering solutions are needed to develop advanced composting systems with lower environmental footprints and design more efficient nutrient stripping technologies. At the field-scale, there is an urgent need to develop a manure nutrient recommendation system that accounts for the range of manure types, cropping systems, soils and climates throughout China. At the regional scale, coordinated planning is necessary to promote recoupling of livestock and cropping systems, and reduce nutrient accumulation in regions with little available landbank, while minimizing the risk of pollution swapping from one region to another. A range of stakeholders are needed to support the step change and innovation required to improve manure management, reduce reliance on inorganic fertilizers, and generate new business opportunities.

  • REVIEW
    Qiuyue LIU,Zhangyuan PAN,Xiangyu WANG,Wenping HU,Ran DI,Yaxing YAO,Mingxing CHU
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(4): 282-290. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2014042

    The existence of major genes affecting fecundity in sheep flocks throughout the world has been demonstrated. Three major genes whose mutations can increase ovulation rate have been discovered, and all related to the transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) superfamily. The mutant FecB of bone morphogenetic protein receptor 1B (BMPR1B) has an additive effect on ovulation rate. Six mutations (FecXI, FecXH, FecXG, FecXB, FecXL, FecXR) of bone morphogenetic protein 15 (BMP15) related with fertility have been identified that share the same mechanism. All the mutants can increase ovulation rate in heterozygotes and cause complete sterility in homozygotes. Homozygous ewes with two new mutations (FecXGr, FecXO) of BMP15 had increased ovulation rate without causing sterility. There are five mutations in growth differentiation factor 9 (GDF9) associated with sheep prolificacy where FecGE and FecGF have additive an effect on ovulation rate and litter size. The newly identified β-1,4-N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase 2 (B4GALNT2) gene of FecL is proposed as a new mechanism of ovulation rate regulation in sheep. Woodlands is an X-linked maternally imprinted gene which increases ovulation rate. In addition, several putative major genes need to be verified. This review is focused on the identification of the mutations and mechanisms whereby the major genes affecting ovulation rate.

  • LETTER
    Yuheng LI,Guoming DU,Yansui LIU
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2016, 3(3): 181-185. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2016110

    This paper aims to show the importance of land consolidation in transforming the Loess Plateau of China. The paper comprehensively analyzes how over recent decades the Grain for Green Project and Gully Land Consolidation Project jointly transformed the ecology and landscape of the Loess Plateau and the livelihood of its residents. The findings show that these two projects have achieved a balance between green protection, new land creation, and improved food security and livelihood of local people in the hilly areas of China. The paper points out that the successful transformation of the Plateau lies in a holistic approach incorporating various components of the human and natural systems. Finally, the paper highlights the necessity of retaining these two land consolidation projects as part of an ongoing policy in the mountain and hilly areas of China, changing agricultural management to suit the new relationship between humans and the land.

  • REVIEW
    Wujun MA, Zitong YU, Maoyun SHE, Yun ZHAO, Shahidul ISLAM
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(3): 279-287. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019267

    Before the advent of the wheat genomic era, a wide range of studies were conducted to understand the chemistry and functions of the wheat storage proteins, which are the major determinants of wheat flour the suitability of wheat flour for various end products, such as bread, noodles and cakes. Wheat grain protein is divided into gluten and non-gluten fractions and the wheat processing quality mainly depends on the gluten fractions. Gluten provides the unique extensibility and elasticity of dough that are essential for various wheat end products. Disulfide bonds are formed between cysteine residues, which is the chemical bases for the physical properties of dough. Based on the SDS-extractability, grain protein is divided into SDS-unextractable polymeric protein (UPP) and SDS-extractable polymeric protein. The percentage of UPP is positively related to the formation of disulfide bonds in the dough matrix. In the wheat genomic era, new glutenins with long repetitive central domains that contain a high number of consensus hexapeptide and nonapeptide motifs as well as high content of cysteine and glutamine residues should be targeted.

  • REVIEW
    Sridhar BHAVANI, David P. HODSON, Julio HUERTA-ESPINO, Mandeep S. RANDHAWA, Ravi P. SINGH
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(3): 210-224. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019268

    Races belonging to the Ug99 (TTKSK) lineage of the wheat stem rust fungus, carrying complex virulence combinations, and their migration to countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia continue to pose a significant threat to global wheat production. The rapid spread of additional races, e.g., TKTTF or the Digalu lineage, in several countries causing localized epidemics reminds us of the vulnerability of wheat germplasm to stem rust disease, a formidable foe referenced as early as biblical times. A global rust monitoring system reflecting increased surveillance efforts has identified 13 races within the Ug99 lineage in 13 countries and unrelated lineages are emerging, spreading and posing serious threats to wheat production. Race TKTTF has caused localized epidemics in Ethiopia and its variants have been recently implicated in stem rust outbreaks in Europe. Concerted research efforts have resulted in the identification of several new resistance genes and gene combinations for use in breeding. Combining multiple adult plant resistance (APR) genes in high-yielding backgrounds and discovery of new quantitative trait loci conferring stem rust resistance has progressed in the recent years, enhancing the durability of resistance. Effective gene stewardship and new generation breeding materials and cultivars that combine multiple race-specific or minor to intermediate effect APR genes, complemented by active surveillance and monitoring, have helped to limit major epidemics and increase grain yield potential in key target environments.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Fusuo ZHANG, Zhenling CUI, Weifeng ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(1): 53-61. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2014006

    The challenges of how to simultaneously ensure global food security, improve nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and protect the environment have received increasing attention. However, the dominant agricultural paradigm still considers high yield and reducing environmental impacts to be in conflict with one another. Here we examine a Three-Step-Strategy of past 20 years to produce more with less in China, showing that tremendous progress has been made to reduce N fertilizer input without sacrificing crop yield. The first step is to use technology for in-season root-zone nutrient management to significantly increase NUE. The second is to use technology for integrated nutrient management to increase both yield and NUE by 15%–20%. The third step is to use technology for integrated soil-crop system management to increase yield and NUE by 30%–50% simultaneously. These advances can thus be considered an effective agricultural paradigm to ensure food security, while increasing NUE and improving environmental quality.

  • REVIEW
    Martin BLACKWELL, Tegan DARCH, Richard HASLAM
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(4): 332-340. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019274

    The continued supply of phosphate fertilizers that underpin global food production is an imminent crisis. The rock phosphate deposits on which the world depends are not only finite, but some are contaminated, and many are located in geopolitically unstable areas, meaning that fundamental changes will have to take place in order to maintain food production for a growing global population. No single solution exists, but a combination of approaches to phosphorus management is required not only to extend the lifespan of the remaining non-renewable rock phosphate reserves, but to result in a more efficient, sustainable phosphorus cycle. Solutions include improving the efficiency of fertilizer applications to agricultural land, alongside a better understanding of phosphorus cycling in soil-plant systems, and the interactions between soil physics, chemistry and biology, coupled with plant traits. Opportunities exist for the development of plants that can access different forms of soil phosphorus (e.g., organic phosphorus) and that use internal phosphorus more efficiently. The development of different sources of phosphorus fertilizers are inevitably required given the finite nature of the rock phosphate supplies. Clear opportunities exist, and it is now important that a concerted effort to make advances in phosphorus use efficiency is prioritized.

  • REVIEW
    Andrea Giovanna NIÑO-SAVALA, Zhong ZHUANG, Xin MA, Andreas FANGMEIER, Huafen LI, Aohan TANG, Xuejun LIU
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(4): 419-430. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019273

    The application of mineral and organic phosphorus fertilizers to arable land has greatly increased crop yield to meet the world food demand. On the other hand, impurities in these fertilizers, such as heavy metals, are being added to agricultural soils, resulting both from the raw materials themselves and the processes used to obtain the final product. Cadmium, a non-essential and toxic heavy metal, has been found in relatively high amounts in common P fertilizers obtained from sediments. This metal poses a high risk for soil fertility, crop cultivation, and plants in general. Furthermore, human health might be compromised by the cadmium concentrations in agricultural and livestock products, due to the bioaccumulation effect in the food web. The accumulation in the different matrixes is the result of the high mobility and flexible availability of this harmful metal. This review summarizes risks to human health, the factors influencing cadmium movement in soils and crop uptake, as well as common plant responses to its toxicity. In addition, it summarizes cadmium balances in soils, trends, long-term experiments, and further studies. Cadmium inputs and outputs in arable soil, together with their calculated concentrations, are compared between two different regions: the European countries (in particular Germany) and China. The comparison appears useful because of the different proportions in the inputs and outputs of cadmium, and the diverse geographical, environmental and social factors. Moreover, these variables and their influences on cadmium contamination improve the understanding of the pollution from phosphate fertilizers and will help to establish future mitigation policies.

  • REVIEW
    Hongxiang MA, Xu ZHANG, Jinbao YAO, Shunhe CHENG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(3): 251-264. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019262

    With the changes of climate and cultivation systems, the Fusarium head blight (FHB) epidemic area in China has extended since 2000 from the reaches of the Yangtze River to the north and west winter wheat region. Breeding for FHB resistance in wheat is an effective way to control the disease. Chinese wheat breeders commenced research on FHB in the 1950s. Sumai 3, Ning 7840, Yangmai 158, Ningmai 9 and other cultivars with improved FHB resistance were developed through standard breeding methods and widely applied in production or breeding programs. In addition to intervarietal crosses, alien germplasm was used to improve FHB resistance of wheat. Addition, substitution and translocation lines with alien chromosomes or chromosome fragments were created to enhance FHB resistance. Somaclonal variation was also used to develop a FHB resistant cv. Shengxuan 3 and other cultivars with moderate resistance to FHB were released by such methods. QTL (quantitative trait loci) for FHB resistance were characterized in cultivars originating from China. The major QTL, Fhb1, was identified on chromosome 3BS in Sumai 3, Ning 894037, Wangshuibai and other Chinese resistant sources. Diagnostic molecular markers for Fhb1 have been applied in wheat breeding and breeding lines with improved FHB resistance and desirable agronomic traits have been obtained. However, breeding for FHB resistance is a long-term task, new technologies are likely to increase the efficiency of this process and better FHB resistance of new cultivars is expected to be achieved within the next decade.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    La ZHUO, Arjen Y. HOEKSTRA
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2017, 4(2): 185-194. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2017149

    This paper explores the effect of varying agricultural management practices on different water efficiency indicators: irrigation efficiency (IE), crop water use efficiency (WUE), and green and blue water footprint (WF). We take winter wheat in an experimental field in Northern China as a case study and consider a dry, average and wet year. We conducted 24 modeling experiments with the AquaCrop model, for all possible combinations of four irrigation techniques, two irrigation strategies and three mulching methods. Results show that deficit irrigation most effectively improved blue water use, by increasing IE (by 5%) and reducing blue WF (by 38%), however with an average 9% yield reduction. Organic or synthetic mulching practices improved WUE (by 4% and 10%, respectively) and reduced blue WF (by 8% and 17%, respectively), with the same yield level. Drip and subsurface drip irrigation improved IE and WUE, but drip irrigation had a relatively large blue WF. Improvements in one water efficiency indicator may cause a decline in another. In particular, WUE can be improved by more irrigation at the cost of the blue WF. Furthermore, increasing IE, for instance by installing drip irrigation, does not necessarily reduce the blue WF.

  • REVIEW
    Xiying ZHANG,Wenli QIN,Juanna XIE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2016, 3(1): 25-33. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2016090

    Reducing irrigation water use by improving water use efficiency (WUE) in grain production is critical for the development of sustainable agriculture in the North China Plain (NCP). This article summarizes the research progresses in WUE improvement carried out at the Luancheng station located in the Northern part of NCP for the past three decades. Progresses in four aspects of yield and WUE improvement are presented, including yield and WUE improvement associated with cultivar selection, irrigation management for improving yield and WUE under limited water supply, managing root system for efficient soil water use and reducing soil evaporation by straw mulch. The results showed that annual average increase of 0.014 kg·m-3 for winter wheat and 0.02 kg·m-3 in WUE were observed for the past three decades, and this increase was largely associated with the improvement in harvest index related to cultivar renewal and an increase in chemical fertilizer use and soil fertility. The results also indicated that deficit irrigation for winter wheat could significantly reduce the irrigation water use, whereas the seasonal yield showed a smaller reduction rate and WUE was significantly improved. Straw mulching of summer maize using the straw from winter wheat could reduce seasonal soil evaporation by 30–40 mm. With new cultivars and improved management practices it was possible to further increase grain production without much increase in water use. Future strategies to further improve WUE are also discussed.

  • REVIEW
    Song-Song XU, Meng-Hua LI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2017, 4(3): 279-288. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2017151

    Sheep are one of the most economically important domesticated animals for human society. However, genetic improvements for the key traits associated with meat, growth, milk, wool, reproduction, horns and tails progress slowly using conventional crossbreeding methods. With the development and utilization of high-throughput screening technologies over the last decade, a list of functional genes and genetic variants associated with these traits has been identified. This review covers recent genome-wide studies on sheep productive traits using high-throughput screening technologies, including those based on single-nucleotide polymorphisms and copy number variants at the whole-genome level (e.g., genome-wide association studies), transcriptome and DNA methylation sequences. Additionally, comprehensive information on functional genes and genetic variants associated with economically important traits in sheep is provided.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Dawn M. BROWNING, Sheri SPIEGAL, Richard E. ESTELL, Andres F. CIBILS, Raul H. PEINETTI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2018, 5(1): 44-56. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2017193

    In water-limited landscapes, patterns in primary production are highly variable across space and time. Livestock grazing is a common agricultural practice worldwide and a concern is localized overuse of specific pasture resources that can exacerbate grass losses and soil erosion. On a research ranch in New Mexico with average annual rainfall of 217 mm, we demonstrate with a quantitative approach that annual seasons vary greatly and examine foraging patterns in Angus-Hereford (Bos taurus) cows. We define five seasonal stages based on MODIS NDVI: pre-greenup, greenup, peak green, drydown and dormant, and examine livestock movements in 2008. Daily distance traveled by cows was greater and foraging area expanded during periods with higher precipitation. A regression model including minimum NDVI, rainfall and their interaction explained 81% of the seasonal variation in distance traveled by cows (P<0.01). Cows explored about 81 ha·d1 while foraging, but tended to explore smaller areas as the pasture became greener (greenup and peak green stages). Cows foraged an average of 9.7 h daily and spent more time foraging with more concentrated search patterns as pastures became greener. Our findings suggest that phenological context can expand the capacity to compare and integrate findings, and facilitate meta-analyses of grazing studies conducted at different locations and times of year.

  • REVIEW
    Jianchun JIANG,Junming XU,Zhanqian SONG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2015, 2(1): 13-27. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2015050

    Increased demand for liquid transportation fuels, environmental concerns and depletion of petroleum resources requires the development of efficient conversion technologies for production of second-generation biofuels from non-food resources. Thermochemical approaches hold great potential for conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into liquid fuels. Direct thermochemical processes convert biomass into liquid fuels in one step using heat and catalysts and have many advantages over indirect and biological processes, such as greater feedstock flexibility, integrated conversion of whole biomass, and lower operation costs. Several direct thermochemical processes are employed in the production of liquid biofuels depending on the nature of the feedstock properties: such as fast pyrolysis/liquefaction of lignocellulosic biomass for bio-oil, including upgrading methods, such as catalytic cracking and hydrogenation. Owing to the substantial amount of liquid fuels consumed by vehicular transport, converting biomass into drop-in liquid fuels may reduce the dependence of the fuel market on petroleum-based fuel products. In this review, we also summarize recent progress in technologies for large-scale equipment for direct thermochemical conversion. We focus on the technical aspects critical to commercialization of the technologies for production of liquid fuels from biomass, including feedstock type, cracking catalysts, catalytic cracking mechanisms, catalytic reactors, and biofuel properties. We also discuss future prospects for direct thermochemical conversion in biorefineries for the production of high grade biofuels.

  • REVIEW
    Hong LI,Ziding ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2016, 3(2): 102-112. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2016100

    Plants are frequently affected by pathogen infections. To effectively defend against such infections, two major modes of innate immunity have evolved in plants; pathogen-associated molecular pattern-triggered immunity and effector-triggered immunity. Although the molecular components as well as the corresponding pathways involved in these two processes have been identified, many aspects of the molecular mechanisms of the plant immune system remain elusive. Recently, the rapid development of omics techniques (e.g., genomics, proteomics and transcriptomics) has provided a great opportunity to explore plant–pathogen interactions from a systems perspective and studies on protein–protein interactions (PPIs) between plants and pathogens have been carried out and characterized at the network level. In this review, we introduce experimental and computational identification methods of PPIs, popular PPI network analysis approaches, and existing bioinformatics resources/tools related to PPIs. Then, we focus on reviewing the progress in genome-wide PPI networks related to plant–pathogen interactions, including pathogen-centric PPI networks, plant-centric PPI networks and interspecies PPI networks between plants and pathogens. We anticipate genome-wide PPI network analysis will provide a clearer understanding of plant–pathogen interactions and will offer some new opportunities for crop protection and improvement.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Rongmin ZHANG,Yang WANG,Zhihai LIU,Jiyun LI,Wenjuan YIN,Lei LEI,Congming WU,Jianzhong SHEN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2015, 2(3): 223-229. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2015065

    In recent years, the mobile metallo-β-lactamase (MBL) genes have been found to correspond to one of the most important resistance characters identified in Gram-negative bacteria, severely affecting clinical chemotherapy and threatening public health. The prevalence of mobile MBL genes and their flanking regions in Gram-negative bacteria from diseased pigs in China was investigated. A total of 334 lung samples from diseased pigs were screened for Gram-negative bacteria classified as non-susceptible to meropenem (MIC≥4 mg·L−1). Six isolates, including three Escherichia coli, two Acinetobacter baumanii and one A. calcoaeticus, exhibited MBL production and carried the blaNDM-1 gene. S1-PFGE and Southern blot analysis showed that the blaNDM-1 gene was located on the chromosome of one A. baumanii isolate and on plasmids of various sizes in the other five isolates. MIC testing using broth microdilution revealed that all blaNDM-1-carrying isolates and some of their transconjugants exhibited resistance to almost all β-lactams tested. Whole genome sequencing revealed that the flanking region of the blaNDM-1 gene from all porcine isolates had high levels of similarity with the corresponding regions in human isolates. One porcine E. coli isolate carrying blaNDM-1 was typed as ST48, a common sequence type in human E. coli isolates. These results suggest the possibility of human-to-food animal transfer of blaNDM-1-producing E. coli, highlighting the need for surveillance of carbapenemase producers among bacteria from food animals. In addition, the prudent use of antimicrobial agents to decrease the opportunities for co-selection of carbapenemase genes in food animals is also urgently needed.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Qian DONG,Huiying LIU,Xinyun LI,Wei WEI,Shuhong ZHAO,Jianhua CAO
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(2): 137-143. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2014014

    Meat quality is an important trait in the pig industry. To identify genomic regions and haplotype blocks responsible for meat quality traits in pigs, a genome-wide association study was conducted for five traits including intramuscular fat content, pH at 45 min and 24 h, drip loss within 24 h and water-holding capacity in 231 Yorkshire barrows using illumina porcine 60k SNP chips. The results showed that a total of 344 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) were significantly associated with five meat quality traits (P<1×10-4). Moreover, 323 SNPs were within the reported QTL regions, of which 21 were novel. Also, 158 SNPs fell into the proximal region of meat quality related genes. In addition, 25 haplotype blocks based on 116 SNPs were revealed with SNP combination patterns for five traits. Our study added new SNP information for identification of meat quality traits in pigs and will help elucidate the mechanisms of meat quality in pigs.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Hongxia MIAO,Peiguang SUN,Yulu MIAO,Juhua LIU,Jianbin ZHANG,Caihong JIA,Jingyi WANG,Zhuo WANG,Zhiqiang JIN,Biyu XU
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2016, 3(4): 346-356. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2016127

    β-amylase (BAM) is an important enzyme involved in conversion of starch to maltose in multiple biological processes in plants. However, there is currently insufficient information on the BAM gene family in the important fruit crop banana. This study identified 16 BAM genes in the banana genome. Phylogenetic analysis showed that MaBAMs were classified into four subfamilies. Most MaBAMs in each subfamily shared similar gene structures. Conserved motif analysis showed that all identified MaBAM proteins had the typical glyco hydro 14 domains. Comprehensive transcriptomic analysis of two banana genotypes revealed the expression patterns of MaBAMs in different tissues, at various stages of fruit development and ripening, and in responses to abiotic stresses. Most MaBAMs showed strong transcript accumulation changes during fruit development and late-stage ripening. Some MaBAMs showed significant changes under cold, salt, and osmotic stresses. This finding indicated that MaBAMs might be involved in regulating fruit development, ripening, and responses to abiotic stress. Analysis of five hormone-related and seven stress-relevant elements in the promoters of MaBAMs further revealed that BAMs participated in various biological processes. This systemic analysis provides new insights into the transcriptional characteristics of the BAM genes in banana and may serve as a basis for further functional studies of such genes.

  • RESEARCH ARTICLE
    Yuxin MIAO, David J. MULLA, Pierre C. ROBERT
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2018, 5(4): 432-441. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2018230

    Dividing fields into a few relatively homogeneous management zones (MZs) is a practical and cost-effective approach to precision agriculture. There are three basic approaches to MZ delineation using soil and/or landscape properties, yield information, and both sources of information. The objective of this study is to propose an integrated approach to delineating site-specific MZ using relative elevation, organic matter, slope, electrical conductivity, yield spatial trend map, and yield temporal stability map (ROSE-YSTTS) and evaluate it against two other approaches using only soil and landscape information (ROSE) or clustering multiple year yield maps (CMYYM). The study was carried out on two no-till corn-soybean rotation fields in eastern Illinois, USA. Two years of nitrogen (N) rate experiments were conducted in Field B to evaluate the delineated MZs for site-specific N management. It was found that in general the ROSE approach was least effective in accounting for crop yield variability (8.0%–9.8%), while the CMYYM approach was least effective in accounting for soil and landscape (8.9%–38.1%), and soil nutrient and pH variability (9.4%–14.5%). The integrated ROSE-YSTTS approach was reasonably effective in accounting for the three sources of variability (38.6%–48.9%, 16.1%–17.3% and 13.2%–18.7% for soil and landscape, nutrient and pH, and yield variability, respectively), being either the best or second best approach. It was also found that the ROSE-YSTTS approach was effective in defining zones with high, medium and low economically optimum N rates. It is concluded that the integrated ROSE-YSTTS approach combining soil, landscape and yield spatial-temporal variability information can overcome the weaknesses of approaches using only soil, landscape or yield information, and is more robust for MZ delineation. It also has the potential for site-specific N management for improved economic returns. More studies are needed to further evaluate their appropriateness for precision N and crop management.

  • REVIEW
    David KEMP, Guodong HAN, Fujiang HOU, Xiangyang HOU, Zhiguo LI, Yi SUN, Zhongwu WANG, Jianping WU, Xiaoqing ZHANG, Yingjun ZHANG, Xuyin GONG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2018, 5(1): 9-23. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2018204

    China has almost 400 Mhm2 of grasslands, 90% of which is considered degraded to varying degrees, on which 16 million herders depend for their livelihoods and many more indirectly, along the value-adding chain. Since 1950, average stocking rates across China have increased 4-fold. National policies have focused over recent decades on finding ways to rehabilitate the degraded grasslands, to sustain livestock production from them, and to improve the livelihoods of herder households, who are among the poorest people in China. A large collaborative program commenced in the early 2000s to help find solutions to the sustainable management of grasslands. This paper summarizes key findings of many research projects, identifies where knowledge is weak and argues that the successful rehabilitation of grasslands will also require policies that provide incentives and support for herders as they move from a focus on survival to a focus on production of higher quality products, for which consumers are increasingly willing to pay. A key focus is to emphasize the improvement of animal production per head. When this is done, it naturally leads to lower stocking rates, which in turn provides the opportunities for grasslands to recover. Across a range of experiments, farm demonstrations and analyses using models, in Inner Mongolia and Gansu, a consistent result has been that a 50% reduction in stocking rates, improves net household income and starts the process of grassland rehabilitation. Rather than focusing on stocking rates, better management of grasslands could be achieved by maintaining the grasslands above critical values for herbage mass, values that help optimize botanical composition, reduce soil erosion, optimize animal growth rates and aid ecosystem functions. Managing to critical values for herbage mass is likely to be more effective than efforts to calculate sustainable stocking rates. An early summer rest is valuable for aiding grassland rehabilitation and summer productivity, but a total grazing ban (typically for 5 years) may not achieve its aims as evidence shows it may take 10–15 years to achieve a better grassland state. Less-desirable plant species often increase in degraded grasslands that are rested and grazing can help manage those species. Surveys of herders indicate they have very mixed views on the benefits of total grazing bans that are unlikely to rehabilitate grasslands to an ideal botanical composition. The current objective is to work with grasslands that herders now have and optimize the existing composition. Grazing grasslands in winter results primarily in weight loss by animals and there is now evidence of how winter grazing reduces grassland growth in the next summer. It is better to keep animals in well-built sheds and feed them better, improved feeding through the cold months is required. In addition to the application of results from national programs designed to improve grasslands, it will be important to train herders as they move from survival to production, to foster the development of better markets for their livestock products, to devise better financial support for herder businesses and to revise land tenure arrangements so that herders can expand the area of land they graze on better terms than apply at present.

  • REVIEW
    Zachariah MCLEAN, Björn OBACK, Götz LAIBLE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2020, 7(2): 148-160. https://doi.org/10.15302/J-FASE-2019305

    Selecting beneficial DNA variants is the main goal of animal breeding. However, this process is inherently inefficient because each animal only carries a fraction of all desirable variants. Genome editing technology with its ability to directly introduce beneficial sequence variants offers new opportunities to modernize animal breeding by overcoming this biological limitation and accelerating genetic gains. To realize rapid genetic gain, precise edits need to be introduced into genomically-selected embryos, which minimizes the genetic lag. However, embryo-mediated precision editing by homology-directed repair (HDR) mechanisms is currently an inefficient process that often produces mosaic embryos and greatly limits the numbers of available edited embryos. This review provides a summary of genome editing in bovine embryos and proposes an embryo-mediated accelerated breeding scheme that overcomes the present efficiency limitations of HDR editing in bovine embryos. It integrates embryo-based genomic selection with precise multi-editing and uses embryonic cloning with elite edited blastomeres or embryonic pluripotent stem cells to resolve mosaicism, enable multiplex editing and multiply rare elite genotypes. Such a breeding strategy would enable a more targeted, accelerated approach for livestock improvement that allows stacking of beneficial variants, even including novel traits from outside the breeding population, in the most recent elite genetic background, essentially within a single generation.