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    Xianmin DIAO,James SCHNABLE,Jeffrey L. BENNETZEN,Jiayang LI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(1): 16-20.

    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.

    Tongli WANG, Guangyu WANG, John L. INNES, Brad SEELY, Baozhang CHEN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 0: 448-458.

    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.

    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.
    Liangliang GAO,Daoliang LI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(4): 267-276.

    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.

    Jianchang YANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 0: 115-123.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Yaojian XIE, Roger J. ARNOLD, Zhihua WU, Shuaifei CHEN, Apeng DU, Jianzhong LUO
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2017, 4(4): 380-390.

    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.

    Yonggui XIAO,Jianjun LIU,Haosheng LI,Xinyou CAO,Xianchun XIA,Zhonghu HE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2015, 2(2): 168-178.

    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.

    Jian LI,Caichao WAN,Yun LU,Qingfeng SUN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2014, 1(1): 46-52.

    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.

    Wujun MA, Zitong YU, Maoyun SHE, Yun ZHAO, Shahidul ISLAM
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(3): 279-287.

    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.

    Yuheng LI,Guoming DU,Yansui LIU
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 0: 181-185.

    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.

    Martin BLACKWELL, Tegan DARCH, Richard HASLAM
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(4): 332-340.

    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.

    Sridhar BHAVANI, David P. HODSON, Julio HUERTA-ESPINO, Mandeep S. RANDHAWA, Ravi P. SINGH
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 0: 210-224.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Hongxiang MA, Xu ZHANG, Jinbao YAO, Shunhe CHENG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2019, 6(3): 251-264.

    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.

    La ZHUO, Arjen Y. HOEKSTRA
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2017, 4(2): 185-194.

    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.

    Song-Song XU, Meng-Hua LI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2017, 4(3): 279-288.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Fusuo ZHANG, Zhenling CUI, Weifeng ZHANG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 0: 53-61.

    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.

    Lu HE,Bin ZHANG,Xingchun WANG,Hongying LI,Yuanhuai HAN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2015, 2(2): 124-133.

    Foxtail millet is a minor yet important crop in some areas of the world, particularly northern China. It has strong adaptability to abiotic stresses, especially drought, and poor soil. It also has high nutritional value. Foxtail millet is rich in essential amino acids, fatty acids and minerals, and is considered to be one of the most digestible and non-allergenic grains available and has significant importance for human health. Given foxtail millet&rsquo;s ability to adapt to abiotic stresses associated with climate change, it is more important than ever to develop breeding strategies that facilitate the increasing demand for high quality grain that better satisfies consumers. Here we review research on foxtail millet quality evaluation, appearance, cooking and eating quality at the phenotypic level. We review analysis of the main nutrients in foxtail millet, their relationships and the biochemical and genetic factors affecting their accumulation. In addition, we review past progress in breeding this regionally important crop, outline current status of breeding of foxtail millet, and make suggestions to improve grain quality.

    Zhong WEI, Ville-Petri FRIMAN, Thomas POMMIER, Stefan GEISEN, Alexandre JOUSSET, Qirong SHEN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2020, 7(3): 317-328.

    Managing plant health is a great challenge for modern food production and is further complicated by the lack of common ground between the many disciplines involved in disease control. Here we present the concept of rhizosphere immunity, in which plant health is considered as an ecosystem level property emerging from networks of interactions between plants, microbiota and the surrounding soil matrix. These interactions can potentially extend the innate plant immune system to a point where the rhizosphere immunity can fulfil all four core functions of a full immune system: pathogen prevention, recognition, response and homeostasis. We suggest that considering plant health from a meta-organism perspective will help in developing multidisciplinary pathogen management strategies that focus on steering the whole plant-microbe-soil networks instead of individual components. This might be achieved by bringing together the latest discoveries in phytopathology, microbiome research, soil science and agronomy to pave the way toward more sustainable and productive agriculture.

    David S. POWLSON
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2020, 7(3): 246-250.
    Dawn M. BROWNING, Sheri SPIEGAL, Richard E. ESTELL, Andres F. CIBILS, Raul H. PEINETTI
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 0: 44-56.

    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.

    Xiying ZHANG,Wenli QIN,Juanna XIE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2016, 3(1): 25-33.

    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.

    Jianchun JIANG,Junming XU,Zhanqian SONG
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 0: 13-27.

    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.

    Xinquan ZHAO, Liang ZHAO, Qi LI, Huai CHEN, Huakun ZHOU, Shixiao XU, Quanmin DONG, Gaolin WU, Yixin HE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2018, 5(1): 1-8.

    To mitigate the impacts of grassland degradation on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau (QTP), in recent decades China has been implementing large-scale conservation programs and has invested about 42 billion CNY (7 billion USD). However, these programs are faced with major challenges involving trade-offs between ecological function, livestock production and income of pastoralists. Scientific assessments, as well as technical and policy issues, have not fully captured the complex ecological, social and economic dynamics of the challenges facing grassland management on the QTP. Pastoral livestock production on the QTP is characterized by imbalance in both quality and quantity between livestock seasonal nutrient requirements and herbage production, which forces pastoralists to keep larger numbers of livestock for longer periods, leading to overgrazing. To solve these problems, an integrated crop-livestock system is promoted to improve the efficiency of livestock production and conserve natural grassland as well for a sustainable system for the QTP.

    Yongjun ZHENG, Shenghui YANG, Xingxing LIU, Jie WANG, Tomas NORTON, Jian CHEN, Yu TAN
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2018, 5(2): 159-167.

    The downwash flow field of the multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), formed by propellers during operation, has a significant influence on the deposition, drift and distribution of droplets as well as the spray width of the UAV for plant protection. To study the general characteristics of the distribution of the downwash airflow and simulate the static wind field of multi-rotor UAVs in hovering state, a 3D full-size physical model of JF01-10 six-rotor plant protection UAV was constructed using SolidWorks. The entire flow field surrounding the UAV and the rotation flow fields around the six rotors were established in UG software. The physical model and flow fields were meshed using unstructured tetrahedral elements in ANSYS software. Finally, the downwash flow field of UAV was simulated. With an increased hovering height, the ground effect was reduced and the minimum current velocity increased initially and then decreased. In addition, the spatial proportion of the turbulence occupied decreased. Furthermore, the appropriate operational hovering height for the JF01-10 is considered to be 3 m. These results can be applied to six-rotor plant protection UAVs employed in pesticide spraying and spray width detection.

    Zachariah MCLEAN, Björn OBACK, Götz LAIBLE
    Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering, 2020, 7(2): 148-160.

    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.