About this Research Topic
Global change is posing new threats to agroecosystems. First, climate modifications in the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall increase the risks of severe droughts during the growing season of most crops. In contrast, storms are more likely to occur when soils are bare due to changes in the cropping sequence, causing high erosion risks. The intensity of heatwaves and rising temperatures is also constraining crop development.
Second, a new conscience about more environmentally-friendly agroecosystems has arisen and, in many countries including the European Union, legislation is trying to forbid or limit those agricultural practices that are harmful for the environment and to promote the adoption of best management practices (reduction in pesticide use, alternative agricultural production systems, etc.). Furthermore, consumers tend to look for healthy products that, sometimes, do not match the objectives of conventional agriculture.
In this context, research about sustainable and environmentally-friendly agricultural practices has increased. Studies on soil management using cover crops proved that significant reductions in soil losses by water erosion can be achieved. Moreover, other ecosystem services might be provided by these cover crops, such as increasing carbon sequestration or enhancements of biodiversity, which would allow for the appearance of natural enemies for pests, thereby aiding the reduction of/ helping to reduce pesticide applications. In addition, there has been a great effort devoted to exploring different techniques for scheduling irrigation in order to reduce water application while maintaining crop yield, thereby increasing water use efficiency. In this line of research, a new challenge has been opened by studying the use of regenerated wastewater for irrigation, although the threat of emergent contaminants (such as antibiotics) in this context still has to be addressed.
Nevertheless, sustainability must be understood also from the economic point of view since not all the best management practices that research proved useful for preserving the agroecosystems are easily adopted by farmers. Therefore, economic assessments dealing with the establishment or changing agricultural management practices are needed.
The social aspect of global change is also of great relevance since economic crisis and changes in wealth distribution are moving population to the rural areas in a number of countries. This has the advantage of renewing population in depressed areas but also changes the way that these areas are managed. Besides, the perception on the assessment of environmental and economic sustainability of agricultural and food production is increasing and becoming a concern for growers, entrepreneurs, consumers and public decision makers. Therefore, social features are relevant for agroecosystems sustainability.
This Research Topic will present recent scientific progress concerning agricultural practices that allow agroecosystems to cope with the new challenges imposed by global change. We expect inter- and transdisciplinary studies, addressing the environmental and technological understanding of sustainability (in its broadest sense) in agroecosystems, through experimental, integrative or modelling approaches. Studies dealing with economy and social features will be welcomed.
Keywords: environmental sustainability, best management practices, soil erosion, integrated pest management, biotic and abiotic stresses