Italian Journal of Agronomy <p>The <strong>Italian Journal of Agronomy</strong> <em>(IJA)</em> is the official journal of the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Italian Society for Agronomy</a>. It publishes quarterly original articles and reviews reporting experimental and theoretical contributions to agronomy and crop science, with main emphasis on original articles from Italy and countries having similar agricultural conditions. The journal deals with all aspects of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the interactions between cropping systems and sustainable development. Multidisciplinary articles that bridge agronomy with ecology, environmental and social sciences are also welcome.</p> en-US <p><strong>PAGEPress</strong> has chosen to apply the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><strong>Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License</strong></a>&nbsp;(CC BY-NC 4.0) to all manuscripts to be published.<br><br> An Open Access Publication is one that meets the following two conditions:</p> <ol> <li>the author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.</li> <li>a complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving.</li> </ol> <p>Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:</p> <ol> <li>Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.</li> <li>Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.</li> <li>Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.</li> </ol> (Paola Granata) (Tiziano Taccini) Thu, 14 May 2020 14:53:35 +0000 OJS 60 Integrated application of biochar and bio-fertilizer improves yield and yield components of Cowpea under water-deficient stress <p>A low amount of organic matter and insufficient irrigation are two main challenges facing successful crop production in arid and semiarid regions. Application of biochar as an organic amendment to soil not only can help increase organic matter in soil, but also may alleviate adverse effects of water deficit on plant growth and yield production. To test this hypothesis, a two-year field experiment was conducted to assess the effect of sugarcane biochar on yield and yield components of cowpea in water-deficient soil. Treatments consisted of two levels of seed treatment with nitroxin, three levels of biochar application (0, 4, and 8 ton/ha), and a threelevel irrigation regime (60, 90, and 120 mm from evaporation pan class A), laid out in a split-factorial design. Results showed that the seed number per plant was significantly higher in cowpea when grown with biochar, possibly due to the relief of water-deficient stress and higher phosphorus and potassium content. Biomass production of cowpea declined under a severe waterdeficit condition (ir3) compared to normal irrigation (ir<sub>1</sub>) in 2018 and 2019, decreasing by 39% and 42%, respectively. The maximum biomass obtained from application of 8 ton/ha biochar reached 617.43 and 664.92 g/m<sup>2</sup> in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Seeds treated with nitroxin exhibited 10% and 8% greater biomass production in 2018 and 2019 as compared with control treatments. Seed yield increased with the addition of biochar to soil under all irrigation regimes; however, the maximum seed yield of 266.46 and 275.36 g/m<sup>2</sup> was observed when there was no water-deficient stress condition and application of 8 ton/ha biochar in 2018 and 2019, respectively.</p> Seyed Afshin Mousavi, AliReza Shokuhfar, Shahram Lak, Mani Mojaddam, Mojtaba Alavifazel Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 29 May 2020 16:49:06 +0000 Biostimulants and cherry rootstock increased tomato fruit yield and quality in sustainable farming systems <p>Nowadays one of the main challenges in agriculture is to increase crop yield and quality in a sustainable way. Organic farming system (OFS) is considered more eco-friendly than the conventional farming system (CFS). However, cash crops showed a reduced yield when cultivated in OFS, and among them processing tomato reported the highest yield gap between OFS and CFS. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate, both in greenhouse and field experiments, the combined effects of a cherry rootstock, genotype ‘Tomito’, and the applications of different microbial biostimulants (single species and consortia). The agronomic performance of a commercial processing tomato genotype, ‘H3402’, was assessed in order to increase fruit yield and quality in sustainable farming systems. In greenhouse experiment, the use of ‘Tomito’ as rootstock highlighted both the highest plant height (35 cm) and leaf chlorophyll content (25.20), while plants inoculated with A. brasiliensis showed the highest number of flowers (4.5). In field experiment, the combined use of grafting and microbial biostimulants increased marketable (on average 2.3 kg plant<sup>–1</sup>) and total yield (on average 2.5 kg plant<sup>–1</sup>) in comparison with the genotype ‘H3402’. All the investigated treatments reduced the number of fruits affected by blossom-end rot (on average –4.7 fruits plant<sup>–1</sup>), and A. brasiliensis also improved the fruit solid soluble content, recording values of 6.23 °Brix and 3.54 of Brix t ha<sup>–1</sup>.</p> Federica Caradonia, Domenico Ronga, Alessia Flore, Riccardo Barbieri, Lionel Moulin, Valeria Terzi, Enrico Francia Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 29 May 2020 16:37:39 +0000 Treated wastewater outperformed freshwater for barley irrigation in arid lands <p>The high demand of barley for animal feed and the scarcity of fresh water increase the need for the reuse of treated wastewater as an alternative source for irrigation. Therefore, two-field experiments were conducted to study physiological processes, plant growth, grain yield and yield components of four-barley cultivars grown under four-irrigation treatments using treated wastewater or fresh water. Plants of four-barley cultivars (ACSAD176, Rum, Athroh, Yarmouk) were exposed to four-irrigation treatments: 1) Full-irrigation using treated wastewater (FWW); 2) Supplementary-irrigation using treated wastewater (SWW); 3) Supplementary-irrigation using fresh water (SFW); 4) Non-irrigation treatment (Rainfed). Full- or supplementary-irrigation using treated wastewater reduced stomatal resistance and increased plant photosynthetic rate, plant height, grain yield and yield components as estimated by grain number plant-1 and 1000-grain weight compared with rainfed conditions. Plants grown under supplementary-irrigation using treated wastewater produced higher grain yield than those grown under supplementary-irrigation using fresh water. Rum cultivar had the highest grain yield among cultivars grown under irrigation. Under rainfed conditions, Rum and ACSAD176 had the highest grain yield. In conclusion, supplementary-irrigation using treated wastewater improved grain yield of barley and can be a better choice to conserve water and reduce the risk of plant lodging at the end of the growing season. Irrigation barley using treated wastewater did not change heavy metal (Zn, Cd, and Pb) concentrations in soil or harvested grains.</p> Nezar H. Samarah, Khaled Y. Bashabsheh, Naem Th. Mazahrih Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 29 May 2020 14:27:06 +0000 Overview on Italian hemp production chain, related productive and commercial activities and legislative framework <p>Once a very important crop, the cultivation of hemp has seen a significant reduction in Europe for a long time, but it is now subject to direct payments and promotion initiatives. Italy used to be an important producer and exporter of hemp textiles until the Second World War but currently information is lacking regarding the hemp production chain and legislation on the issue is often misunderstood by producers. Moreover, there has been an important development of economic activities connected with hemp, such as the so-called “hemp shops” or “grow shops” and the market of a product called “cannabis light”, the dried inflorescences of industrial hemp. The aim of the study was to investigate 30 Italian hemp farms in order to identify the characteristics of the production chain and the uses of the crop. Some considerations on this sector in the Italian economic and legislative contest are made and an anonymous web survey on the commercial activities associated with hemp (grow shops) was conducted. Most farms are multifunctional, 83% have been set up recently (in the last ten years) and directly as hemp producers. They are run by young entrepreneurs (57% holders under 35) and allow the use of marginal abandoned territories (43% of the farms). The 30 farms cultivate 460 ha of hemp and the extension of the field crops is very variable, from small patches in the mountains of 0,001 ha to more than 100 ha farms in the plains (in particular in Campania region). Almost all the farms use the crop to produce more than one end-product (seeds, flour, decorticated seeds, hemp-beer, seeds for animal nutrition and food oil from seeds, seeds and inflorescences harvested for cosmetic use, herbal use and extraction of active ingredients). In some cases, “technical use” linked to selling of the dry top inflorescences of industrial hemp for smoking was declared and it was found that there has been a significant increase in grow shops in Italy, from 4 in 2002 to more than 700 in 2018. As emerges from the analyses of European and Italian legislation, there is a need for clear regulations and a system of control by regulatory organizations considering the actual criticalities. At the same time, the renewed appeal of this crop derives from the multiple possibilities of use of the plant and from growing consumer demand for eco-compatible and sustainable products.</p> Luca Giupponi, Valeria Leoni, Matteo Carrer, Giulia Ceciliani, Stefano Sala, Sara Panseri, Radmila Pavlovic, Annamaria Giorgi Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 29 May 2020 13:30:50 +0000 Environmental and management drivers of alpine grassland vegetation types <p>Current vegetation of alpine grasslands has been shaped by the combination of natural ecological factors (such as climate, soil, topography) and human activities, mainly represented by animal grazing and agricultural practices. An assessment of these factors can explain the present composition of plant communities and help to evaluate the future development of rangeland vegetation. Nowadays, the analysis of the botanical composition of grasslands is of a major importance in order to propose appropriate management plans for the sustainable exploitation of pastoral resources and their future conservation. The main purpose of this work was to assess the relevance of ecological and management factors in alpine grasslands in an area located in eastern Italy, currently used for extensive grazing, and to describe the main factors that affect the characteristics of pasture types. To this aim, about 900 ha of alpine grasslands were surveyed in Val Visdende (northern Veneto, province of Belluno, Italy) by means of 189 linear transects. Some environmental variables (altitude, slope, aspect) and factors related to management (pastoral value, animal excreta, distance from night barns) were collected for each botanical transect. Landolt indicators were calculated in order to evaluate the ecological space occupied by each type. This assessment made it possible to identify the most relevant grassland communities (namely nutrient poor, shrub encroached, nutrient rich and humid pastures) occurring in the studied area, the effectiveness of ecological indicators to describe and to differentiate vegetation groups and the effect of animal management and ecological factors in the discrimination of grassland types.</p> Giovanni Argenti, Nicolina Staglianò, Edoardo Bellini, Alessandro Messeri, Stefano Targetti Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 29 May 2020 11:05:23 +0000 Exogenously applied growth promoters modulate the antioxidant enzyme system to improve the cotton productivity under water stress conditions <p>Great climatic inconsistency and increased frequent occurrences of severe conditions results in plants being exposed to water stress at various growth stages, thus adversely affecting the productivity. This investigation was planned to minimize the water stress induced-losses to cotton plants with the exogenous application of growth promoters i.e. distilled water, salicylic acid (0.5 mM), jasmonic acid (50 μM) and moringa leaf extract (MLE30) including control (un sprayed). Cotton plants were exposed to water stress with the application of irrigation water at 10 (well watered) and 30 day intervals (severe water stress). Results indicated that water stress severely reduced the cotton productivity. It was observed that exogenous application of salicylic acid and moringa leaf extract improved the productivity both under well watered and water stress conditions as compared to other treatments. However, exogenous application of salicylic acid had greater influence on the studied parameters than MLE, although the insignificant differences were documented in most of the traits. Exogenous application of salicylic acid reduced the cell injury percentage, improved the cell membrane thermostability and produced significantly higher content of leaf protein, superoxide dismutase (SOD), peroxidase (POD) and catalase (CAT) that modulated the negative influence of water stress on yield contributing attributes and produced maximum seed cotton yield. These results indicate that exogenous application of SA and MLE helped the cotton plants to become more tolerant to water stress-induced losses by adjusting the membrane characteristics and improving their antioxidant defense mechanism.</p> Nazim Hussain, Azra Yasmeen, Muhammad Ahsan Afzal Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Tue, 19 May 2020 10:14:42 +0000 The response of soil physicochemical properties to tillage and soil fertility resources in Central Highlands of Kenya <p>To attain agricultural sustainability, use of soil resources and tillage requires equal consideration for chemical and physical components of soil fertility. We assessed responses of selected soil physical and chemical properties to tillage and soil fertility amending resources. The study was carried out in Meru South and Kandara sub-counties located in the Central Highlands of Kenya for four cropping seasons. The experimental design was split-plot with tillage as the main factor - conventional (D<sub>15</sub>) - and minimum (D<sub>0</sub>) tillage and soil fertility resources (SFR) as sub-factors - mineral fertilizer (F), crop residues + fertilizer (RF), residues + fertilizer + animal manure (RFM), residues + <em>Tithonia diversifolia</em> + manure (RTiM), residues + <em>Tithonia diversifolia</em> + phosphate rock (Minjingu) (RTiP), residues + manure + legume intercrop (RML) and control (no input). Compared with control, aggregate stability was significantly higher on average under SFRs with sole organics by 19% in Meru South. Total N and available P were higher under integration of fertilizer and organics in both sites. Calcium increased under sole organic or integration with fertilizer in Meru South and under sole organics in Kandara. Magnesium significantly increased under all SFRs compared with control in Kandara. Soil organic carbon significantly (P=0.02) increased under D<sub>0</sub> by 6% compared to D<sub>15</sub> in 0-5 cm depth in Kandara. Application of RTiM had the highest SOC in all depths’ at Meru South. SOC significantly increased under RTiP and RML by 11% in 0-5 cm depth and under RML by 13% in 5-10 cm depth at Kandara. Mineral-N (NO<sub>3</sub><sup>–</sup>-N and NH<sub>4</sub><sup>+</sup>-N) was higher under D<sub>0</sub> at planting compared with D<sub>15</sub> in Meru South. In Kandara, NO<sub>3</sub><sup>–</sup>-N and NH<sub>4</sub><sup>+</sup>-N were significantly higher by 17% and 30%, respectively under D<sub>0</sub> compared with D<sub>15</sub> at planting during SR16 season. Higher mineral N was recorded under F application on the 30<sup>th</sup> and 45<sup>th</sup> days in both sites. The highest mineral-N content was on the 45<sup>th</sup> day after planting during SR16 season and on the 30<sup>th</sup> day during LR17 season at Meru South. In Kandara, NO<sub>3</sub><sup>–</sup>-N and NH<sub>4</sub><sup>+</sup>-N were highest on the 45<sup>th</sup> day and 30<sup>th</sup> day, respectively, during SR16 season. During LR17 season, mineral-N was highest on the 30<sup>th</sup> day in Kandara. The study highlights that minimal soil disturbance and organic inputs use or integration with fertilizers are feasible alternatives for improving soil fertility in the Nitisols of Central Highlands of Kenya.</p> Milka N. Kiboi, Felix K. Ngetich, Anne Muriuki, Noah Adamtey, Daniel Mugendi Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Tue, 19 May 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Ornamental plants for floating treatment wetlands: preliminary results <p>Floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) represent a novel ecotechnology for the treatment of different types of wastewaters in natural or artificial water bodies, through the use of traditional rooted emergent macrophyte species supported by floating rafts. Although many studies have reported the treatment performances of FTWs, showing an excellent aptitude for removing nutrients, heavy metals as well as suspended solids, the investigation of vegetation has not received much attention up to now, especially for herbaceous ornamental plant species that could form an interesting opportunity to improve water quality and the esthetic-ornamental value of urban water bodies. For this reason, a pilot scale FTW was installed in Northern Italy to assess the growth performances of eleven wetland species having ornamental features: <em>Canna indica</em> L., <em>Pontederia cordata</em> L., <em>Thalia dealbata</em> Fraser ex Roscoe, <em>Acorus calamus</em> L., <em>Juncus effusus</em> L., <em>Iris laevigata</em> L., <em>Mentha aquatica</em> L., <em>Oenanthe javanica (Blume)</em> DC., <em>Caltha palustris</em> L., <em>Sparganium erectum</em> L. and <em>Zantedeschia aetiopica</em> (L.) Srengel. For these species, a suitability index was elaborated that considers plant survivability, above-mat biomass production, nitrogen uptake, root length and root-shoot ratio. On this basis, the results obtained clearly indicated that <em>C. indica</em>,<em> P. cordata </em>and<em> T. dealbata</em> were the most suitable species for FTW due to their high vigor and colonization of the floating mats (1638.9 g m<sup>–2</sup>, 483.4 g m<sup>–2</sup>, 566.1 g m<sup>–2</sup> of above-mat dry biomass, respectively; 38.8 cm, 62.0 cm, 43.8 cm root length, respectively; 0.8, 0.9, 1.2 root-shoot ratio, respectively), survival (100%), nitrogen uptake (15.1 g m<sup>–2</sup>, 15.0 g m<sup>–2</sup>, 15.7 g m<sup>–2</sup> respectively). On the contrary, <em>A. calamus</em>,<em> S. erectum </em>and<em> Z. aetiopica</em> did not present adequate features for use in FTWs.</p> Alberto Barco, Maurizio Borin Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Tue, 19 May 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Carbon input management in temperate rice paddies: implications for methane emissions and crop response <p>Agriculture contributes to over 20% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions and irrigated paddy fields account for 5–10% of CH4 emissions. Main organic input providing methanogenesis substrate is straw. We hypothesized that removing rice straw can mitigate CH4 emissions, and that replacing its carbon (C) input with raw or solid digestate can be a valuable alternative both for crop, soil and emission responses. A mesocosm study was setup to follow crop growth, changes in soil pore water chemistry (dissolved Fe(II) and dissolved Organic C), and CH4 emissions over one cropping season on soil treated with the combination of two straw managements (removal or incorporation) and three fertilizations (mineral, raw digestate, solid digestate). Soils not receiving straw on average emitted 38 % less than soils after straw incorporation, while the two organic fertilizers did not increase emissions with respect to mineral N application. Furthermore, straw incorporation induced a yield depression independently from the fertilization strategy, probably as a result of N immobilization, especially in early stages. This was evidenced by early SPAD observations and flag leaf length, and both grain and straw final production. Moreover, the two organic fertilizers were not fully able to sustain crop N requirements with respect to the mineral fertilizer. Straw management was therefore decisive for determining both rice yield and CH4 emissions, while the impact of fertilization treatments was crucial only for crop productivity.</p> Chiara Bertora, Barbara Moretti, Matteo Peyron, Simone Pelissetti, Cristina Lerda, Daniel Said-Pullicino, Marco Milan, Silvia Fogliatto, Francesco Vidotto, Luisella Celi, Dario Sacco Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Thu, 14 May 2020 16:59:49 +0000 Camelina (Camelina sativa L. Crantz) under low-input management systems in northern Italy: yields, chemical characterization and environmental sustainability <p>Camelina can be considered a valuable crop for bio-based products and biofuels, but, to date, there are still many uninvestigated aspects concerning the optimization of its agricultural management and its environmental impact. Consequently, a low-input camelina cultivation has been realized, in northern Italy environment, through a 4-year camelina-wheat rotation in open field. In these conditions, camelina was grown as winter crop. Camelina reached, over the years, a variable (CV=28%) mean seed yield of 0.82 Mg ha<sup>-1</sup>. This notwithstanding, the oil content - 39.17% (CV=3%) - and its related quality were rather stable, reaching an oil yield of 320 kg ha<sup>-1</sup> particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acid. The low input cultivation system here adopted implied an energy ratio (output energy/input energy) of 4 and a 30% decrease in Global Warming Potential per hectare, compared to the standard value reported by the European Renewable Energy Directive for sunflower, reducing, at the same time, other relevant environmental burdens. However, due to its relatively low oil production, the full use of all camelina co-products should be considered in order to fulfill the sustainability requirements for European jet fuel production. In fact, stability of yields and quality of oil, oilcake and straws makes low-input camelina eligible for many other novel green chemistry applications.</p> Roberto Matteo, Lorenzo D’Avino, Lenin Javier Ramirez-Cando, Eleonora Pagnotta, Luciana G. Angelini, Paolo Spugnoli, Silvia Tavarini, Luisa Ugolini, Lara Foschi, Luca Lazzeri Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Thu, 14 May 2020 15:46:28 +0000