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) Wed, 22 Jul 2020 14:56:58 +0000 OJS 60 Effects of different levels of mulch and irrigation on growth traits and essential oil content of basil <p><em>Ocimum basilicum</em> L. is an herbaceous plant from the Labiate family that used fresh, as a spice, and as a medicinal plant. Mulch is technique capable of reducing evaporation from the surface of the soil in basil production systems; it has more impacts on yield and essential oil quality of a basil crop. This research was performed in order to study the effects of different mulch types and irrigation regimes on various growth parameters and the essential oil content of basil. Treatments included two mulch types (black plastic, wood chips, and control) and three irrigation levels (100, 80, and 60% of water requirements, calculated by evaporation pan class A), following a randomised complete block design with four replications. Results showed that the effect of irrigation on fresh weight, dry weight, leaf relative water content, leaf area, and essential oil yield was significant (P&lt;0.05). The effect of mulch on fresh weight, dry weight, leaf area, inter-node distance, number of branches, and essential oil yield was significant (P&lt;0.05). Interaction between irrigation and mulch on inter-node distance, fresh weight, dry weight, and leaf area was significant (P&lt;0.05). This study identified wood chips as the best mulch treatment. The highest dry weight yield (38.35 g/plant) and the highest essential oil yield (82.83 L/ha) resulted when wood chip mulch was used in combination with irrigation at 100% of the water requirement. This combination also resulted in the highest water productivity in basil production.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Highlights</strong></p> <p>- Different levels of irrigation alone did not always increase plant growth and yield of basil. <br>- Different levels of mulch alone did not always increase plant growth and yield of basil. <br>- Different levels of irrigation and mulch in combination used, increased, growth and essential oil yield of basil. <br>- This study identified wood chips as the best mulch treatment. <br>- The highest essential oil yield resulted with wood chip mulch and irrigation at 100% of the water requirement.</p> Fatemeh Nejatzadeh-Barandozi Copyright (c) 2020 The Author(s) Wed, 22 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Growth control of herbaceous ground cover and egg quality from an integrated poultry-hazelnut orchard system <p>The present study was designed to assess the impact of hen grazing on plant biodiversity in the ground cover of hazelnut orchards, as well as the quality of eggs from hens grazing in the orchards. Two different sites of hazelnut orchards located in Basilicata region were selected to conduct this study. The results showed that hen grazing affected the composition of herbaceous stratum of the orchards. By using the quadrat method, a total of 99 (46 in site A and 53 in site B) plant species were identified at the beginning of the trial. After hen grazing, the number of identified plants dropped to 72 (30 in site A and 42 in site B). Amongst the most consumed species we found <em>Lolium sp.</em>, <em>Trifolium sp.</em>, <em>Polygonum sp.</em>, <em>Cichorium intybus</em>, <em>Cynodon dactylon</em>. Alpha diversity analysis (species richness, diversity and evenness) as well as beta diversity analysis (Morisita-Horn and Sørensen indices) confirmed that hen grazing played a role in controlling vegetation growth. Concerning egg quality, most of the chemical parameters differed significantly when comparing the eggs from the sites with those from the control group, indicating that egg quality was influenced by the food resources available in each site. Overall, our results confirm that poultry may play a positive role in an orchard system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Highlights</strong> <br>- The impact of an integrated poultry-hazelnut orchard system on herbaceous plant species diversity and on egg quality was evaluated. <br>- Hen grazing may benefit herbaceous ground cover biodiversity of the orchards. <br>- Egg quality may be affected by the food resources available in the orchards.</p> Carlo Cosentino, Pierangelo Freschi, Simonetta Fascetti, Rosanna Paolino, Mauro Musto Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Thu, 02 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0000 Increased planting speed did not affect silage and grain yield of maize, while saving seed and energy <p>Optimal planting speed of vacuum maize planters is usually suggested by planter’s manufacturers, while increased planting speed may influence plant spacing and finally yield. Our hypothesis was that by increasing planting speed over the suggested level plant spacing variability will also increase which will result in decrease of silage and grain yield and saving of seed and energy. The field trial consisted of three planting speeds of 7, 9 and 11 km/h in the form of random blocks. The following measurements were taken as follows: plant spacing, silage and grain yield, fuel and energy use at planting. Results in this study show that planting speed did not have significant influence on silage and grain yield of maize, while up to 10% less seed was needed per hectare and fuel and energy use was lower for 15%. By the increase of planting speed the distance between the plants in a row, and in most cases also the plant spacing variability increased. It was noticed that by increasing planting speed plant density decreased. This research established that at higher planting speeds significant increase of the silage yield per individual plant and of the grain yield per individual plant was achieved. The ear parameters also show that the kernel mass per individual ear, the ear mass, and the cob mass, as well as the individual kernel mass, are larger at the planting speed of 11 km/h than at the planting speed of 7 km/h. At the latter planting speed, significantly higher fuel consumption per hectare and higher energy use was achieved than at the other two planting speeds. Overall the main benefits of planting speed of 11 km/h is saving seed and energy at planting while maintaning the same level of silage and grain yield compared to lower planting speeds used in the trial.</p> Filip Vučajnk, Igor Šantavec, Darja Kocjan Ačko, Jurij Rakun, Jože Verbič, Rajko Bernik, Stanislav Trdan, Matej Vidrih Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Thu, 02 Jul 2020 00:00:00 +0000 COVID-19 and labour in agriculture: Economic and productive impacts in an agricultural area of the Mediterranean <p>Social distancing and mobility restrictions adopted in Italy to deal with the COVID-19 emergency can also alter the operating conditions of the Italian agricultural labour market. The restrictions can limit the movement of temporary labour that is already on the national territory and can prevent the arrival of other foreign workers to be engaged mainly in the harvesting of crops. In Italy, temporary workers support diverse farming activities and are mainly young immigrants engaged in working relationships characterized by extreme flexibility. They must be available for very different tasks, interacting with multiple farms and moving between different areas of the country, generally based on the succession of the harvesting calendars of the main crops. Reducing the mobility of this workforce on the national territory decreases its availability in local labour markets with worrying damage to agricultural production. This paper analyses the possible impact of this labour availability reduction in a farming area of Southern Italy (Centre-West Sardinia), where various farm types operate, with diverse productive orientations. An economic model estimates this impact on production and income based on the structural characteristics of these farm types, among others own farm labour endowment, as well as on the technical requirements of the productive processes, including labour needs. The model considers the expectations of farmers on the temporary labour availability and identifies the possible adaptations that can be undertaken to better contrast the reduction generated by the constraints to the mobility of individuals in the COVID-19 crisis. These adjustments result in changes in income levels, as well as employment in the single farm types and the area as a whole. There is a strong, albeit very diversified, impact on the types of farms. Significant reductions in income are found in the types that heavily depend on temporary labour for certain crop operations, especially harvesting. These effects are generated despite these farms change their activities, expanding some crops to make better use of their family labour and permanent employees. The less profitable types of farm, therefore even less able to attract external resources, considerably worsen their conditions; this would aggravate the social and environmental balance of the areas in which they operate, which are also the most marginal in the study area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Highlights</strong><br>- The measures taken in Italy to deal with the COVID-19 emergency modify the conditions of the agricultural labour market restricting the mobility of temporary labour.<br>- Temporary workers support many farming activities in Italy and are mainly young immigrants engaged in working relationships characterized by extreme flexibility.<br>- An economic model estimates the possible impacts of this labour availability reduction in a farming Mediterranean area of Southern Italy, where different farm types operate.<br>- The farm types that heavily depend on temporary labour for certain crop operations, especially harvesting, face appreciable income level reductions.<br>- Farm types with lower profitability are also notably endangered, with serious implications for the social and environmental balances of the marginal areas in which they operate.</p> Raffaele Cortignani, Giacomo Carulli, Gabriele Dono Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 12 Jun 2020 00:00:00 +0000 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 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> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Highlights</strong><br>- This research work led to proper identification of the different types of grassland occurring in an alpine study area<br>- The importance of main management and ecological factors to discriminate different types of pasture was assessed<br>- Landolt indicators are an efficient and synthetic tool to describe the relationships between environmental factors and alpine plant communities<br>- The information collected on the interaction among different types of grassland can support activities aimed at a sustainable management and conservation of these alpine herbaceous resources</p> Giovanni Argenti, Nicolina Staglianò, Edoardo Bellini, Alessandro Messeri, Stefano Targetti Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 29 May 2020 00:00:00 +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 <em>A. brasiliensis</em> 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 yields (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 <em>A. brasiliensis</em> also improved the fruit solid soluble content, recording values of 6.23 °Brix and 3.54 of Brix t ha<sup>–1</sup>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Highlights<br></strong>- In the greenhouse experiment, the use of the rootstock ‘Tomito’ increased the leaf chlorophyll content and plant height<br>- In the greenhouse experiment, <em>Azospirillum brasiliensis</em> sp 245 induced early flowering <br>- In the field experiment, the use of rootstock ‘Tomito’ increased the number of fruits in comparison with non-grafted plants<br>- Grafted plants inoculated with <em>Paraburkholderia graminis</em> or the bacterial consortium showed the highest total yield</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 00:00:00 +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: i) Full-irrigation using treated wastewater (FWW); ii) Supplementary-irrigation using treated wastewater (SWW); iii) 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<sup>–1</sup> 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 of barley using treated wastewater did not change heavy metal (Zn, Cd, and Pb) concentrations in soil or harvested grains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Highlights</strong> <br>- Full- or supplementary-irrigation using treated wastewater increased photosynthetic rate and grain yield of barley compared with rainfed. <br>- Supplementary-irrigation using treated wastewater produced higher grain yield than supplementary-irrigation using fresh water. <br>- Rum cultivar had the highest grain yield among cultivars grown under irrigation. <br>- Under rainfed conditions, Rum and ACSAD176 cultivars had the highest grain yield. <br>- Irrigation using treated wastewater did not change the concentration of heavy metals in soil and barley grains.</p> Nezar H. Samarah, Khaled Y. Bashabsheh, Naem T. Mazahrih Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Fri, 29 May 2020 00:00:00 +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 <em>i.e.</em> 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 stressinduced losses by adjusting the membrane characteristics and improving their antioxidant defence mechanism.</p> Nazim Hussain, Azra Yasmeen, Muhammad Ahsan Afzal Copyright (c) 2020 the Author(s) Tue, 19 May 2020 00:00:00 +0000