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A new design of sustainable cropping diversifications

A new design of sustainable crop diversification

Credit: Jeroen CJ Groot, Xiaolin Yang

Cultivation systems are one of the key components in the crop production system, which is being stepped up to feed a growing world population. Previous studies have focused on high yields with less focus on the production of nutrients and vitamins for human nutrition. Since the Green Revolution, a dual crop system for winter wheat-summer maize has dominated the North China Plain (NCP), with the increasing supply of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation for high grain production for food security, resulting in the sharp depletion of groundwater and a series of environmental problems such as water pollution.

To meet multiple goals for high yield and good quality plus less groundwater abstraction, scientists from Wageningen University & Research and China Agricultural University collaborated and developed a multi-objective optimality model to create a new configuration for the 30 types of diversified cultivation systems that are applied in the NCP at regional level to coordinate trade-offs between indicators of economic, food security and environmental performance. Their study was published in Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering

Based on established cultivation systems database compiled by Yang et al. (202), Jeroen CJ Groot (Wageningen University & Research) and Yang (China Agricultural University) extensively evaluated the performance of 30 crop rotations for multiple indicators, including yield, economic benefits, groundwater consumption, vitamin C, feed energy and feed yield. Principal component analysis (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) were used to obtain the potential multi-objective cooperative cultivation systems. The evolutionary algorithm of differential evolution and the Pareto optimization model were used for multi-objective optimization to get the reconfiguration of diversified cropping systems with multi-objective trade-offs and synergies at the regional level.

Their results indicated that the performance differs between different cultivation systems on the above evaluated indicators. There was a synergistic relationship between economic income and dietary food, dietary energy and feed product, but this happened with the fall in groundwater. Vitamin C had a negative correlation with roughage products. Therefore, it is critical for the adaptation and optimization of the regional planting structure to take into account the multi-objective trade-offs and synergistic evaluation to meet people’s need for a better and healthier life.

Considering the multi-objective trade-off and synergy of groundwater level decline, nutritional energy, economic benefits, vitamin C and feed output, the researchers proposed optimization solutions for plant structure reconfiguration based on diversified cropping systems rather than the simple planting area of ​​a particular crop. This is a new and important point of view of their study. It is suggested that the plant structure optimization in the future study should target and act directly on the potential cropping systems rather than on the sowing area of ​​single crops. China is a typical country for multiple cropping systems, which improves system productivity by increasing the crop index. It is of great importance to fully consider the temporal and spatial configuration of different crop rotations and crop combinations.

Therefore, they proposed a new perspective for regional adaptation of the planting structure.

(1) It should conduct an integrated multi-objective evaluation of cropping systems, taking into account multi-dimensions of grain yield, economic benefit, green environment, healthy diet and soil health, which positively promotes the sustainable development of the agricultural system.

(2) It needs to improve and update the optimization algorithm more and more, such as genetic algorithms, Monte Carlo simulations, fuzzy programming algorithms and Pareto multi-objective optimization, which target the cultivation system directly instead of the simple planting area of a particular crop. The object of study focuses on the optimality of diversified cropping systems, implying the time- and space-scale configuration of crops on a regional scale. The Farm design model (Groot et al., 2012) based on Pareto optimization used in their research, has been proven to be a good tool for crop reconfiguration, providing the important references for policy makers to adapt plant structure at different scales.

(3) Urgent attention also needs to be given to the multi-objective optimization and reconfiguration of cropping systems in the context of future climate change scenarios to increase the resilience of the agricultural system.


Diverse farming systems do not increase carbon storage compared to switching maize and soybeans


More information:
Jeroen CJ Groot and Xiaolin Yang, considerations in the design of sustainable cropping systems at the regional level: a case study in the North China plain, Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering (2022). DOI: 10.15302/J-PHASE-2021434

Provided by Higher Education Press

Quote: A new design of sustainable crop diversification (2022, June 29) retrieved June 30, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-sustainable-cropping-diversifications.html

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