Recent Submissions

  • Journal Article

    The AgTech Startup Perspective to Farmers Ex Ante Acceptance Process of Autonomous Field Robots 

    von Veltheim, Friedrich Rübcke; Heise, Heinke
    Sustainability 2020; 12(24)
    Autonomous vehicles not only provide a new impetus in the development of car models in the automotive industry—even in agriculture there has recently been talk of autonomous field robots (AFR). Great expectations are placed on these digital assistants from a wide variety of perspectives. However, it is still unclear whether they will make the transition from market niches to broad-based distribution. Apart from various factors, this depends on user acceptance of this new technology expected by the innovators, since this is likely to be essential for the further development of AFR. For this purpose, the ex ante user acceptance of farmers from the perspective of various AgTech startups with AFR involvement in Europe was investigated in this exploratory and qualitative study. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) served as the basis for the developed interview guideline. In summary, the results confirm that a variety of factors potentially influence farmer acceptance and AFR diffusion from the perspective of AgTech startups, with perceived usefulness being considered the main motivation for using AFR. The interviewed experts believe that AFR will initially be used in crops that have relatively high costs for crop protection treatments before becoming economically attractive for other crops. The basic prerequisite for a successful market launch is an adjustment of the legal framework, which sets standards in relation to AFR and thus, provides security in the production process. The results could support political decision-makers in dealing with this new technology and AFR manufacturers in the promotion of AFR.
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  • Journal Article

    Signs of Warning: Do Health Warning Messages on Sweets Affect the Neural Prefrontal Cortex Activity? 

    Mehlhose, Clara; Risius, Antje
    Nutrients 2020; 12(12)
    In the global attempt to combat rising obesity rates, the introduction of health warning messages on food products is discussed as one possible approach. However, the perception of graphical health warning messages in the food context and the possible impact that they may have, in particular at the neuronal level, have hardly been studied. Therefore, the aim of this explorative study was to examine consumers’ reactions (measured as neuronal activity and subjective reporting) of two different types of graphical health warning messages on sweets compared to sweets without warning messages. One type used the red road traffic stop sign as graphical information (“Stop”), while the other one used shocking pictures (“Shock”), an approach similar to the images on cigarette packages. The neural response of 78 participants was examined with the neuroimaging technique functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Different hemodynamic responses in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the frontopolar cortex (FOC), and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) were observed, regions which are associated with reward evaluation, social behavior consequences, and self-control. Further, the health warning messages were actively and emotionally remembered by the participants. These findings point to an interesting health information strategy, which should be explored and discussed further.
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  • Journal Article

    Blue light treatment but not green light treatment after pre-exposure to UV-B stabilizes flavonoid glycoside changes and corresponding biological effects in three different Brassicaceae sprouts 

    Neugart, Susanne; Majer, Petra; Schreiner, Monika; Hideg, Éva
    Frontiers in Plant Science 2021; 11
    Ultraviolet-B (UV-B; 280–315 nm) radiation induces the biosynthesis of secondary plant metabolites such as flavonoids. Flavonoids could also be enhanced by blue (420–490 nm) or green (490–585 nm) light. Flavonoids act as antioxidants and shielding components in the plant’s response to UV-B exposure. They are shown to quench singlet oxygen and to be reactive to hydroxyl radical. The aim was to determine whether treatment with blue or green light can alter flavonoid profiles after pre-exposure to UV-B and whether they cause corresponding biological effects in Brassicaceae sprouts. Based on their different flavonoid profiles, three vegetables from the Brassicaceae were selected. Sprouts were treated with five subsequent doses (equals 5 days) of moderate UV-B (0.23 kJ m–2 day–1 UV-BBE), which was followed with two subsequent (equals 2 days) doses of either blue (99 μmol m–2 s–1) or green (119 μmol m–2 s–1) light. In sprouts of kale, kohlrabi, and rocket salad, flavonoid glycosides were identified by HPLC-DAD-ESI-MSn. Both Brassica oleracea species, kale and kohlrabi, showed mainly acylated quercetin and kaempferol glycosides. In contrast, in rocket salad, the main flavonol glycosides were quercetin glycosides. Blue light treatment after the UV-B treatment showed that quercetin and kaempferol glycosides were increased in the B. oleracea species kale and kohlrabi while—contrary to this—in rocket salad, there were only quercetin glycosides increased. Blue light treatment in general stabilized the enhanced concentrations of flavonoid glycosides while green treatment did not have this effect. Blue light treatment following the UV-B exposure resulted in a trend of increased singlet oxygen scavenging for kale and rocket. The hydroxyl radical scavenging capacity was independent from the light quality except for kale where an exposure with UV-B followed by a blue light treatment led to a higher hydroxyl radical scavenging capacity. These results underline the importance of different light qualities for the biosynthesis of reactive oxygen species that intercept secondary plant metabolites, but also show a pronounced species-dependent reaction, which is of special interest for growers.
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  • Journal Article

    Direct and plant‐mediated effects of climate on bird diversity in tropical mountains 

    Vollstädt, Maximilian G. R.; Albrecht, Jörg; Böhning‐Gaese, Katrin; Hemp, Andreas; Howell, Kim M.; Kettering, Laura; Neu, Alexander; Neuschulz, Eike Lena; Quitián, Marta; Santillán, Vinicio E.; et al.
    Töpfer, TillSchleuning, MatthiasFritz, Susanne A.
    Ecology and Evolution 2020; 10(24) p.14196-14208
    Aim Although patterns of biodiversity across the globe are well studied, there is still a controversial debate about the underlying mechanisms and their generality across biogeographic scales. In particular, it is unclear to what extent diversity patterns along environmental gradients are directly driven by abiotic factors, such as climate, or indirectly mediated through biotic factors, such as resource effects on consumers. Location Andes, Southern Ecuador; Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Methods We studied the diversity of fleshy‐fruited plants and avian frugivores at the taxonomic level, that is, species richness and abundance, as well as at the level of functional traits, that is, functional richness and functional dispersion. We compared two important biodiversity hotspots in mountain systems of the Neotropics and Afrotropics. We used field data of plant and bird communities, including trait measurements of 367 plant and bird species. Using structural equation modeling, we disentangled direct and indirect effects of climate and the diversity of plant communities on the diversity of bird communities. Results We found significant bottom‐up effects of fruit diversity on frugivore diversity at the taxonomic level. In contrast, climate was more important for patterns of functional diversity, with plant communities being mostly related to precipitation, and bird communities being most strongly related to temperature. Main conclusions Our results illustrate the general importance of bottom‐up mechanisms for the taxonomic diversity of consumers, suggesting the importance of active resource tracking. Our results also suggest that it might be difficult to identify signals of ecological fitting between functional plant and animal traits across biogeographic regions, since different species groups may respond to different climatic drivers. This decoupling between resource and consumer communities could increase under future climate change if plant and animal communities are consistently related to distinct climatic drivers.
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  • Journal Article

    Effects of sire line, birth weight and sex on growth performance and carcass traits of crossbred pigs under standardized environmental conditions 

    Elbert, Kathrin; Matthews, Neal; Wassmuth, Ralf; Tetens, Jens
    Archives Animal Breeding 2020; 63(2) p.367-376
    A variety of available terminal sire lines makes the choice of terminal sire line complex for the pig producer. Higher birth weights are important for subsequent growth performance and selection for this trait is also necessary in sire lines. The aim was to investigate the effect of sire line, birth weight and gender on growth performance, carcass traits and meat quality. In total 3844 crossbred pigs from Camborough Pig Improvement Company (PIC) dams matched with either a Synthetic (A) or Piétrain (B) sire line were used. Pigs from line A grew faster (p<0.01), showed higher feed intake (p<0.01) and reached a higher final body weight (p≤0.01), but they had a similar efficiency (p=0.179). Leaner carcasses and heavier primal cuts (p<0.001) were observed in pigs from line B. Carcasses from pigs sired by line A had higher meat quality (p<0.001). Males had a higher growth rate (p≤0.05) but had a poorer feed efficiency (p<0.01). Heavier birth weight pigs and females had leaner, higher value carcasses with heavier primal cuts (p<0.001) compared to middle and low birth weight females or males. Sire line by sex interactions was significant for growth (p≤0.05) and carcass traits (p<0.001). Interaction between sire line and birth weight classes were only detected for loin depth (p<0.01). Line A is preferable if the numbers of fatting pigs per fattening place and year should be improved, and line B is an option to increase leanness and carcass primal cuts.
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  • Journal Article

    Investigation of Pig Activity Based on Video Data and Semi-Supervised Neural Networks 

    Wutke, Martin; Schmitt, Armin Otto; Traulsen, Imke; Gültas, Mehmet
    AgriEngineering 2020; 2(4) p.581-595
    The activity level of pigs is an important stress indicator which can be associated to tail-biting, a major issue for animal welfare of domestic pigs in conventional housing systems. Although the consideration of the animal activity could be essential to detect tail-biting before an outbreak occurs, it is often manually assessed and therefore labor intense, cost intensive and impracticable on a commercial scale. Recent advances of semi- and unsupervised convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have made them to the state of art technology for detecting anomalous behavior patterns in a variety of complex scene environments. In this study we apply such a CNN for anomaly detection to identify varying levels of activity in a multi-pen problem setup. By applying a two-stage approach we first trained the CNN to detect anomalies in the form of extreme activity behavior. Second, we trained a classifier to categorize the detected anomaly scores by learning the potential activity range of each pen. We evaluated our framework by analyzing 82 manually rated videos and achieved a success rate of 91%. Furthermore, we compared our model with a motion history image (MHI) approach and a binary image approach using two benchmark data sets, i.e., the well established pedestrian data sets published by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and our pig data set. The results show the effectiveness of our framework, which can be applied without the need of a labor intense manual annotation process and can be utilized for the assessment of the pig activity in a variety of applications like early warning systems to detect changes in the state of health.
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  • Journal Article

    M1 Maize root and shoot litter quality controls short - term CO 2 and N 2 O emissions and bacterial community structure of arable soil 

    Rummel, Pauline Sophie; Pfeiffer, Birgit; Pausch, Johanna; Well, Reinhard; Schneider, Dominik; Dittert, Klaus
    Biogeosciences 2020; 17(4) p.1181-1198
    Chemical composition of root and shoot litter controls decomposition and, subsequently, C availability for biological nitrogen transformation processes in soils. While aboveground plant residues have been proven to increase N2O emissions, studies on root litter effects are scarce. This study aimed (1) to evaluate how fresh maize root litter affects N2O emissions compared to fresh maize shoot litter, (2) to assess whether N2O emissions are related to the interaction of C and N mineralization from soil and litter, and (3) to analyze changes in soil microbial community structures related to litter input and N2O emissions. To obtain root and shoot litter, maize plants (Zea mays L.) were cultivated with two N fertilizer levels in a greenhouse and harvested. A two-factorial 22 d laboratory incubation experiment was set up with soil from both N levels (N1, N2) and three litter addition treatments (control, root, root + shoot). We measured CO2 and N2O fluxes, analyzed soil mineral N and water-extractable organic C (WEOC) concentrations, and determined quality parameters of maize litter. Bacterial community structures were analyzed using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Maize litter quality controlled NO−3 and WEOC availability and decomposition-related CO2 emissions. Emissions induced by maize root litter remained low, while high bioavailability of maize shoot litter strongly increased CO2 and N2O emissions when both root and shoot litter were added. We identified a strong positive correlation between cumulative CO2 and N2O emissions, supporting our hypothesis that litter quality affects denitrification by creating plant-litter-associated anaerobic microsites. The interdependency of C and N availability was validated by analyses of regression. Moreover, there was a strong positive interaction between soil NO−3 and WEOC concentration resulting in much higher N2O emissions, when both NO−3 and WEOC were available. A significant correlation was observed between total CO2 and N2O emissions, the soil bacterial community composition, and the litter level, showing a clear separation of root + shoot samples of all remaining samples. Bacterial diversity decreased with higher N level and higher input of easily available C. Altogether, changes in bacterial community structure reflected degradability of maize litter with easily degradable C from maize shoot litter favoring fast-growing C-cycling and N-reducing bacteria of the phyla Actinobacteria, Chloroflexi, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria. In conclusion, litter quality is a major driver of N2O and CO2 emissions from crop residues, especially when soil mineral N is limited.
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  • Journal Article

    The Role of Socio-Economic Determinants of Horse Farms for Grassland Management, Vegetation Composition and Ecological Value 

    Hüppe, Cecilia Frauke; Schmitz, Anja; Tonn, Bettina; Isselstein, Johannes
    Sustainability 2020; 12(24) p.1-18: Art. 10641
    Socio-economic context is increasingly seen as a decisive factor for sustainable agricultural land use. The high prevalence of part-time farming and frequent lack of formal agricultural education within the equine sector are often seen as reasons why horse-grazed pastures do not fulfill their biodiversity potential. In spite of the substantial variability within horse farming, little is known about the relationship of socio-economic determinants with vegetation characteristics of horse-grazed grasslands. We surveyed 122 horse farms in Germany, classifying them into four socio-economic classes according to farm income type and farm managers’ agricultural education. We recorded farm structure parameters, grassland management practices and vegetation characteristics. Socio-economic class partly explained the great variability in farm structure that we observed. In contrast to our expectation, income type and agricultural education did not distinctly affect grassland management and were neither directly nor indirectly related to vegetation characteristics. Part-time farming and lack of agricultural education thus did not adversely affect the ecological value of horse-grazed grasslands. By contrast, both farm structure and paddock level management affected grassland vegetation and ecological value. Therefore, the socio-economic context of horse farms should be addressed in further research with strategies targeting the development of sustainable grassland management in horse keeping.
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  • Journal Article

    Diversity of Expression Types of Ht Genes Conferring Resistance in Maize to Exserohilum turcicum 

    Ludwig Navarro, Barbara; Hanekamp, Hendrik; Koopmann, Birger; von Tiedemann, Andreas
    Frontiers in Plant Science 2020; 11 p.1-11: Art. 607850
    Northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) is an important leaf disease in maize (Zea mays) worldwide and is spreading into new areas with expanding maize cultivation, like Germany. Exserohilum turcicum, causal agent of NCLB, infects and colonizes leaf tissue and induces elongated necrotic lesions. Disease control is based on fungicide application and resistant cultivars displaying monogenic resistance. Symptom expression and resistance mechanisms differ in plants carrying different resistance genes. Therefore, histological studies and DNA quantification were performed to compare the pathogenesis of E. turcicum races in maize lines exhibiting compatible or incompatible interactions. Maize plants from the differential line B37 with and without resistance genes Ht1, Ht2, Ht3, and Htn1 were inoculated with either incompatible or compatible races (race 0, race 1 and race 23N) of E. turcicum. Leaf segments from healthy and inoculated plants were collected at five different stages of infection and disease development from penetration (0–1 days post inoculation - dpi), until full symptom expression (14–18 dpi). Symptoms of resistance responses conveyed by the different Ht genes considerably differed between Ht1 (necrotic lesions with chlorosis), Ht2 (chlorosis and small lesions), Ht3 (chlorotic spots) and Htn1 (no lesions or wilt-type lesions). In incompatible interactions, fungal DNA was only detected in very low amounts. At 10 dpi, DNA content was elevated in all compatible interactions. Histological studies with Chlorazol Black E staining indicated that E. turcicum formed appressoria and penetrated the leaf surface directly in both types of interaction. In contrast to incompatible interactions, however, the pathogen was able to penetrate into xylem vessels at 6 dpi in compatible interactions and strongly colonized the mesophyll at 12 dpi, which is considered the crucial process differentiating susceptible from resistant interactions. Following the distinct symptom expressions, resistance mechanisms conferred by Ht1, Ht2, Ht3, and Htn1 genes apparently are different. Lower disease levels and a delayed progress of infection in compatible interactions with resistant lines imply that maize R genes to E. turcicum are associated with or confer additional quantitative resistance.
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  • Journal Article

    Environmental Concern and Urbanization in India: Towards Psychological Complexity 

    Bettin, Johannes; Wollni, Meike
    Sustainability 2020; 12(24) p.1-25: Art. 10402
    Urbanizing social-ecological systems often experience environmental degradation, especially in the Global South. Traditional urban psychology has attributed this to decreasing environmental concern due to weakening connections to nature. However, urban psychological research has barely considered how predictions may improve when including psychological complexity, exemplified by context, in the urbanization-concern link. In this work, we test for sensitivity of a loss of nature connection to cultural context, for substitution by additional southern urban features, and for the emergence of aggregate preferences based on the feedback between these mediators in regard to the overall relationship. Our structural equations model is calibrated using original survey data from the globalized southern megacity Bangalore, India. The spatial explicitness of our data allows for representative sampling from its rich urban variation. Spatial lags of exogenous variables provide instrumental variables to control for endogeneity arising from feedback. The results suggest that modernization-induced value change is the main policy leverage that facilitates pro-environmental preferences within a uniquely Indian interplay of various urban psychological effects.
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  • Journal Article

    Mucilage Polysaccharide Composition and Exudation in Maize From Contrasting Climatic Regions 

    Nazari, Meisam; Riebeling, Sophie; Banfield, Callum C.; Akale, Asegidew; Crosta, Margherita; Mason-Jones, Kyle; Dippold, Michaela A.; Ahmed, Mutez Ali
    Frontiers in Plant Science 2020; 11 p.1-13: Art. 587610
    Mucilage, a gelatinous substance comprising mostly polysaccharides, is exuded by maize nodal and underground root tips. Although mucilage provides several benefits for rhizosphere functions, studies on the variation in mucilage amounts and its polysaccharide composition between genotypes are still lacking. In this study, eight maize (Zea mays L.) genotypes from different globally distributed agroecological zones were grown under identical abiotic conditions in a randomized field experiment. Mucilage exudation amount, neutral sugars and uronic acids were quantified. Galactose (∼39–42%), fucose (∼22–30%), mannose (∼11–14%), and arabinose (∼8–11%) were the major neutral sugars in nodal root mucilage. Xylose (∼1–4%), and glucose (∼1–4%) occurred only in minor proportions. Glucuronic acid (∼3–5%) was the only uronic acid detected. The polysaccharide composition differed significantly between maize genotypes. Mucilage exudation was 135 and 125% higher in the Indian (900 M Gold) and Kenyan (DH 02) genotypes than in the central European genotypes, respectively. Mucilage exudation was positively associated with the vapor pressure deficit of the genotypes’ agroecological zone. The results indicate that selection for environments with high vapor pressure deficit may favor higher mucilage exudation, possibly because mucilage can delay the onset of hydraulic failure during periods of high vapor pressure deficit. Genotypes from semi-arid climates might offer sources of genetic material for beneficial mucilage traits.
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  • Journal Article

    Animal Welfare Programs in Germany—An Empirical Study on the Attitudes of Pig Farmers 

    Schukat, Sirkka; von Plettenberg, Louisa; Heise, Heinke
    Agriculture 2020; 10(12) p.1-17: Art. 609
    In Europe, there is ongoing social criticism of conventional pig farming and demands for higher farm animal welfare standards. This applies primarily to products from pig production, as consumers criticize, among other things, the animals’ housing conditions, tail docking, neutering, or keeping them on slatted floors. Various animal welfare programs have tried to meet the consumers’ demands. Pig farmers are directly involved in the production process and are therefore key stakeholders for the successful implementation of animal welfare programs such as the German Initiative Animal Welfare. The Initiative Animal Welfare was founded in 2015 and serves as an example in this study, as it has been established for two rounds and involves high numbers of participants. However, little is known about the attitudes of pig farmers towards this specific animal welfare program. Thus, the aim of this study is to investigate these attitudes towards animal welfare programs using the example of German pig producers and identify group differences. Based on an online survey of German conventional pig farmers, four clusters were formed which differ in their attitude to the Initiative Animal Welfare. Overall, all farmers, regardless of the cluster, feel publicly pressured by politics and the media. In addition, all farmers are skeptical about the effort involved in participating in the Initiative Animal Welfare (IAW), especially with regard to the additional documentation requirements and unannounced controls. The findings can provide guidance for the design of animal welfare programs taking into account the needs of farmers.
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  • Journal Article

    Frameshift Variant in Novel Adenosine-A1-Receptor Homolog Associated With Bovine Spastic Syndrome/Late-Onset Bovine Spastic Paresis in Holstein Sires 

    Krull, Frederik; Hirschfeld, Marc; Wemheuer, Wilhelm Ewald; Brenig, Bertram
    Frontiers in Genetics 2020; 11 p.1-13: Art. 591794
    Since their first description almost 100 years ago, bovine spastic paresis (BSP) and bovine spastic syndrome (BSS) are assumed to be inherited neuronal-progressive diseases in cattle. Affected animals are characterized by (frequent) spasms primarily located in the hind limbs, accompanied by severe pain symptoms and reduced vigor, thus initiating premature slaughter or euthanasia. Due to the late onset of BSP and BSS and the massively decreased lifespan of modern cattle, the importance of these diseases is underestimated. In the present study, BSP/BSS-affected German Holstein breeding sires from artificial insemination centers were collected and pedigree analysis, genome-wide association studies, whole genome resequencing, protein–protein interaction network analysis, and protein-homology modeling were performed to elucidate the genetic background. The analysis of 46 affected and 213 control cattle revealed four significantly associated positions on chromosome 15 (BTA15), i.e., AC_000172.1:g.83465449A>G (–log$_{10}$P = 19.17), AC_000172.1:g.81871849C>T (–log$_{10}$P = 8.31), AC_000172.1:g.81872621A>T (–log$_{10}$P = 6.81), and AC_000172.1:g.81872661G>C (–log$_{10}$P = 6.42). Two additional loci were significantly associated located on BTA8 and BTA19, i.e., AC_000165.1:g.71177788T>C and AC_000176.1:g.30140977T>G, respectively. Whole genome resequencing of five affected individuals and six unaffected relatives (two fathers, two mothers, a half sibling, and a full sibling) belonging to three different not directly related families was performed. After filtering, a homozygous loss of function variant was identified in the affected cattle, causing a frameshift in the so far unknown gene locus LOC100848076 encoding an adenosine-A1-receptor homolog. An allele frequency of the variant of 0.74 was determined in 3,093 samples of the 1000 Bull Genomes Project.
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  • Journal Article

    Biodiversity in Tomatoes: Is It Reflected in Nutrient Density and Nutritional Yields Under Organic Outdoor Production? 

    Erika, Cut; Griebel, Stefanie; Naumann, Marcel; Pawelzik, Elke
    Frontiers in Plant Science 2020; 11 p.1-14: Art. 589692
    In many regions of the world, human nutrition is still characterized by an insufficient intake of essential nutrients like minerals such as iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn). In view of decreasing resources and a growing world population, the efficiency and the sustainability of cultivation systems should be considered not only in terms of crop yield and profit margin but also in terms of the yield of essential nutrients. Tomatoes are the most consumed vegetable in the world. Organic outdoor tomato cultivation is generally characterized by a higher diversity of varieties and lower fertilization input compared to conventional production. A 2-year field experiment with a set of 20 cultivars was performed to evaluate their variation regarding fruit mineral concentrations [potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), phosphorous (P), Fe, and Zn], their contribution to the dietary reference intake (DRI), and the nutritional yields (adults ha$^{–1}$ year$^{–1}$). Results show that mineral concentrations differed significantly by cultivar and by year. However, even though significant genotype-by-year effects appear, several cultivars exhibit high genotype stability across years for the single traits studied. Taking this together with medium-to-high heritability, genetics strongly controls most studied traits. Among the cultivars, the contribution of 100 g fresh fruits varied from 4.5 to 7.7% for K, 0.8 to 1.8% for Ca, 2.3 to 4.4% for Mg, 3 to 6.6% for P, 3.1 to 6.9% for Fe, and 1.9 to 4.2% for Zn to meet daily requirements. Based on average fruit yields per hectare, the cultivars varied with regard to the nutritional yields for all the studied minerals, but most strongly for Fe (44–120 adults ha$^{–1}$ year$^{–1}$) and Zn (22–84 adults ha$^{–1}$ year$^{–1}$). In terms of contribution to the DRI and nutritional yield for Fe, the cocktail cultivar “Bartelly F1” produced the highest results, while for Zn the salad cultivar “Bocati F1” showed the highest values. Our results show that the targeted use of tomato biodiversity in organic outdoor production can be suitable to achieve high fruit yields as well as to produce high nutritional yields per unit area, thus contributing to more effective land use and improved food security. These findings also provide valuable insights for tomato breeders to improve the tomato fruit quality while maintaining yield.
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  • Journal Article

    Factors influencing German farmer’s decision to grow alley cropping systems as ecological focus areas: a regression analysis 

    Beer, Lara; Theuvsen, Ludwig
    International Food and Agribusiness Management Review 2020; 23(4) p.529-546
    The cultivation of alley cropping agricultural wood is an opportunity to comply with the greening requirements of the common agricultural policy (CAP; 2014-2020), but farmers are not permitted to display the whole alley cropping system (ACS) as ecological focus area (EFA) in Germany. They can display the agricultural wood stripes separately as EFA instead. The willingness of farmers is of key importance for a successful establishment, but, so far, the acceptance of this greening measure is extremely low. The aim of this paper is therefore to point out factors which have linkages to the acceptance of ACS as EFAs by conducting an online survey among German conventional farmers. The results of the regression analysis show that factors such as attitude towards agricultural wood, level of professional education, location and social environment affect the acceptance of ACS as EFA. To conclude, starting points that promote this type of greening measure are identified.
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  • Journal Article

    Using Local Convolutional Neural Networks for Genomic Prediction 

    Pook, Torsten; Freudenthal, Jan; Korte, Arthur; Simianer, Henner
    Frontiers in Genetics 2020; 11 p.1-14: Art. 561497
    The prediction of breeding values and phenotypes is of central importance for both livestock and crop breeding. In this study, we analyze the use of artificial neural networks (ANN) and, in particular, local convolutional neural networks (LCNN) for genomic prediction, as a region-specific filter corresponds much better with our prior genetic knowledge on the genetic architecture of traits than traditional convolutional neural networks. Model performances are evaluated on a simulated maize data panel (n = 10,000; p = 34,595) and real Arabidopsis data (n = 2,039; p = 180,000) for a variety of traits based on their predictive ability. The baseline LCNN, containing one local convolutional layer (kernel size: 10) and two fully connected layers with 64 nodes each, is outperforming commonly proposed ANNs (multi layer perceptrons and convolutional neural networks) for basically all considered traits. For traits with high heritability and large training population as present in the simulated data, LCNN are even outperforming state-of-the-art methods like genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP), Bayesian models and extended GBLUP, indicated by an increase in predictive ability of up to 24%. However, for small training populations, these state-of-the-art methods outperform all considered ANNs. Nevertheless, the LCNN still outperforms all other considered ANNs by around 10%. Minor improvements to the tested baseline network architecture of the LCNN were obtained by increasing the kernel size and of reducing the stride, whereas the number of subsequent fully connected layers and their node sizes had neglectable impact. Although gains in predictive ability were obtained for large scale data sets by using LCNNs, the practical use of ANNs comes with additional problems, such as the need of genotyping all considered individuals, the lack of estimation of heritability and reliability. Furthermore, breeding values are additive by design, whereas ANN-based estimates are not. However, ANNs also comes with new opportunities, as networks can easily be extended to account for additional inputs (omics, weather etc.) and outputs (multi-trait models), and computing time increases linearly with the number of individuals. With advances in high-throughput phenotyping and cheaper genotyping, ANNs can become a valid alternative for genomic prediction.
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  • Journal Article

    Bringing Policy Decisions to the People—Education for Sustainable Development through a Digital Simulation Game 

    Ivens, Sven; Wiese, Gerlinde; Dittert, Klaus; Mußhoff, Oliver; Oberle, Monika
    Sustainability 2020; 12(20) p.1-18: Art. 8743
    After repeated warnings by the European Commission regarding high nitrate concentrations in German waters, in 2017, Germany implemented a new fertilizer application ordinance (FO) with stricter nitrate value limits. The new regulations have severely affected agricultural regions in Germany and could lead to a high number of job losses if farmers must conform to the new regulations and do not implement new production methods. Therefore, a simulation game was developed to educate farmers and residents about the new FO and to facilitate adaptation to the new environmentally friendly legislation. The aims of the newly developed simulation game are to educate residents and farmers in affected regions about the new FO and to develop new ideas on how to comply with the new regulations. The aims of the present study are, first, to research participants’ evaluation of the simulation game and, second, to assess the effect of the simulation game on subjective knowledge, internal efficacy, and attitude towards the new FO. This pre- and post-comparison design study was based on pre-test and post-test with participants in two games (N = 90). The results were analyzed using descriptive statistics, multiple regression analyses, qualitative content analysis, and mean value comparisons. The simulation game had a positive effect on participants’ subjective knowledge (Cohen’s d 0.65) and internal efficacy (Cohen’s d 0.36), but it did not have an effect on their attitudes toward the new FO, and it was shown to slightly lower their interest in agriculture politics (Cohen’s d −0.33). The participants reported that the game made them more aware of both the difficulty and necessity of finding compromises in the field of agriculture politics. Overall, the simulation was rated very positively and was perceived as interesting and informative by the participants.
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  • Journal Article

    High microphone signal-to-noise ratio enhances acoustic sampling of wildlife 

    Darras, Kevin F.A.; Deppe, Franziska; Fabian, Yvonne; Kartono, Agus P.; Angulo, Andres; Kolbrek, Bjørn; Mulyani, Yeni A.; Prawiradilaga, Dewi M.
    PeerJ 2020; 8 p.1-21: Art. e9955
    Background. Automated sound recorders are a popular sampling tool in ecology. However, the microphones themselves received little attention so far, and specifications that determine the recordings' sound quality are seldom mentioned. Here, we demonstrate the importance of microphone signal-to-noise ratio for sampling sonant animals. Methods. We tested 12 different microphone models in the field and measured their signal-to-noise ratios and detection ranges. We also measured the vocalisation activity of birds and bats that they recorded, the bird species richness, the bat call types richness, as well as the performance of automated detection of bird and bat calls. We tested the relationship of each one of these measures with signal-to-noise ratio in statistical models. Results. Microphone signal-to-noise ratio positively affects the sound detection space areas, which increased by a factor of 1.7 for audible sound, and 10 for ultrasound, from the lowest to the highest signal-to-noise ratio microphone. Consequently, the sampled vocalisation activity increased by a factor of 1.6 for birds, and 9.7 for bats. Correspondingly, the species pool of birds and bats could not be completely detected by the microphones with lower signal-to-noise ratio. The performance of automated detection of bird and bat calls, as measured by its precision and recall, increased significantly with microphone signal-to-noise ratio. Discussion. Microphone signal-to-noise ratio is a crucial characteristic of a sound recording system, positively affecting the acoustic sampling performance of birds and bats. It should be maximised by choosing appropriate microphones, and be quantified independently, especially in the ultrasound range.
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  • Journal Article

    A Global Survey on Diseases and Pests in Oilseed Rape—Current Challenges and Innovative Strategies of Control 

    Zheng, Xiaorong; Koopmann, Birger; Ulber, Bernd; von Tiedemann, Andreas
    Frontiers in Agronomy 2020; 2 p.1-15: Art. 590908
    The introduction of high-yielding and hybrid cultivars and the opening of new markets in the food and feed sector have steadily increased rapeseed production since the 1980s in the main production regions, Canada, Europe, China, India, and Australia. Since the 1990s, however, the average growth rate of yields has declined in Europe and Australia, which has been associated with a less effective control of biotic stresses. A global survey including the knowledge of 22 experts from 10 countries revealed a total of 16 diseases, 37 insect pests, several species of nematodes, and slugs currently affecting rapeseed production globally. A ranking of the top 10 most important biotic stresses in the four global regions where Brassica napus is grown (Canada, China, Europe, Australia) indicated an increase in several important stresses and distinct regional differences in the priority of prevailing diseases and pests. A stronger overlap exists among diseases, with Sclerotinia stem rot, Phoma stem canker, and clubroot occurring in all the four global regions on the top 10 list, while the range of prevailing insect pests was more diverse among the regions, with no top 10 insect playing an equally important role worldwide. Management options are substantially broader in disease than in pest control, making the latter the larger challenge. Since common integrated pest management (IPM) tools such as crop rotation, soil management, resistant cultivars or biocontrol are ineffective or not available, insect control largely relies on insecticides. Increasing restrictions on insecticide use, particularly in Europe, and losses in insecticide efficacy threaten the profitability of oilseed rape production and its role as an important break crop in cereal dominated cropping systems. Since the survival time of insects in the absence of their main host is relatively short (<1 year), a regional synchronization of cropping schemes resulting in one or more years without the crop could lead to a substantial disruption of regional insect populations. If rotation schemes were implemented on the landscape instead the farm level, by coordination among growers in zones covering the range distances of insect pests, an efficient and chemical low management strategy could be established and enable a more sustainable rapeseed production in the future.
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  • Journal Article

    BioSounds: an open-source, online platform for ecoacoustics 

    Darras, Kevin; Pérez, Noemí; -, Mauladi; Hanf-Dressler, Tara
    F1000Research 2020; 9 p.1-12: Art. 1224
    Passive acoustic monitoring of soundscapes and biodiversity produces vast amounts of audio recordings. However, the management of these raw data presents technical challenges and their analysis suffers from bottlenecks. A multitude of software solutions exist, but none can perform all the data processing needed by ecologists for analysing large acoustic data sets. The field of ecoacoustics needs a software tool that is free, evolving, and accessible. We take a step in that direction and present BioSounds: an open-source, online platform for ecoacoustics designed by ecologists and built by software engineers. Biosounds can be used for archiving and sharing recordings, manually creating and reviewing annotations of sonant animals in soundscapes, analysing audio in time and frequency, and storing reference recordings for different taxa. We present its features and structure, and compare it with similar software. We describe its operation mode and the workflow for typical use cases such as the analysis of bird and bat communities sampled in soundscape recordings. BioSounds is available from: https://github.com/nperezg/biosounds
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