SoilMate’s Weekly News Digest #29

Enjoy the collection of new studies and techniques from the agriculture sector!

Farmers producing zero-yield tillage can reduce the use of herbicides, control weeds, and protect harvests

According to a new study by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania, farmers using zero tillage, where the soil is never or rarely disturbed, can reduce herbicides use and maintain crop yields through the adoption of integrated weed control techniques. Although no-till agriculture can save soil and energy, it relies primarily on herbicides for weed control and to eliminate cover crops and perennial crops. To test whether it is possible to reduce the use of herbicides by decreasing the environmental impact and selection pressure on resistance to herbicides, researchers conducted a nine-year experiment using herbicide reduction techniques in dairy crop rotation.


A new solution that solves corrosion issues in agriculture equipment

According to the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, in 2013, corrosion of agricultural equipment cost farmers $2 billion in the US, $56.2 billion in China, and $17.7 billion in farmers in India. Global spending was staggering at $152.7 billion, more than the GDP of 134 countries. Corrosion and its impact on agricultural spending are not trivial. The new solution from Igus, a German manufacturer of motile plastics, solves the problem by using the service-free rotational shaft, which can be used on all types of agricultural equipment such as tractors, cultivators, seeders, combine harvesters, etc.


The measurement of electrical currents in the soil answer a question regard soil health

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a method for assessing soil conditions by measuring the electrical current produced by tiny microbes. This proof-of-concept research may lead to a simple real-time test for farmers to determine whether the soil is productive. The two soil samples used by the researchers were almost identical in terms of soil composition. Both were collected from no-till sites, had relatively high organic content, the same pH and soil type. But the researchers had data that showed that one of the soils was significantly more productive in wheat yields than the other. They found that the more productive soil produced electrical current, while the less productive soil produced almost no current — about 1 percent of the more productive soil.


Study: dynamic photosynthesis model simulates crop increase

A team from the University of Illinois developed a model that explains photosynthesis as a dynamic process rather than an activity that may happen or not. It allowed the group to study the effects of the many variations of light experienced by crop leaves due to intermittent clouds, overlying leaves, and the daily walk of the sun through the sky.

When the sun rises every morning, plants must prepare to receive nutrients from the sunlight, which takes time. Reducing the time taken to prepare plants can be a key to increasing the yield of many varieties. Researchers have shown that by using this technique, they can improve the response time of C4 plants (plants that use C4 carbon fixation for photosynthesis), such as corn, thereby increasing productivity by 10–20 percent.