Life cycle assessment (LCA) in crop production, case study: apple and grape

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Environmental Engineering, School of Civil Engineering, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 Iranian Research Institute of Plant Protection, Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), Tehran, Iran


Introduction: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive assessment method that allows the estimation of cumulative environmental impacts from all life cycle stages of an activity. The destructive effects of agricultural development on the environment are of great importance. Insufficient attention to the pattern of consumption of production inputs in the agricultural sector as the primary consumer of water in Iran can exacerbate environmental challenges. Inputs misuse such as chemical fertilizers to increase agricultural productivity pollutes water and soil resources. On the other hand, in environmental impact assessment studies, crops have received much more attention than horticultural crops, while horticultural crops generally have more water requirements.
Material and methods: As Iran, a semi-arid country, is facing a water shortage crisis, in this study, the evaluation of agricultural activities and apple and grape crops is considered. The ecological footprint and life cycle assessment (LCA) are used as suitable solutions for plans to reduce environmental pressures and meet needs to achieve sustainable development goals. Input generation information of Simapro software was used to analyze the environmental impact. Calculations were performed for a functional unit of 1 kg. Life cycle impact was assessed and categorized into six impact groups: cumulative energy demand, ecological footprint, water footprint, global warming potential, greenhouse gas protocol, and eco-indicator (including greenhouse gases, ozone layer, acidification, eutrophication, heavy metals, pesticide, and energy resources).
Results and discussion: According to the results, the water scarcity index based on the water footprint for apples was about 1.7 times that of grapes. The ecological footprint of carbon dioxide and surface occupation for apples was 1.3 and 4.65 times that of the grapes. Based on the accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxides, the potential for global warming was not significantly different between the two crops. Its value for apples was 1.3 times that of grapes. Greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide damages were 1.29 and 4.24 times higher for apples, respectively than for grapes. Consumption of energy sources for one functional unit of two apple and grape crops was 10.1 and 9.13 MJ LHV, respectively.
Conclusion: Generally, the evaluation of the environmental impacts of apple and grapes production showed that in most of the studied indicators, apple causes more damage to the environment. However, the reduction of carbon dioxide per kilogram of apple is 44 times the same amount of grapes. Depending on the environmental situation of the study area, it is possible to decide on the cultivation preference of these two crops. Due to the limited water resources in Iran, changing and improving the cultivation pattern on micro and macro scales can significantly affect the environment. Crop management methods such as organic inputs, nitrogen-fixing plants, and tillage management can reduce environmental impacts. The use of biological pest control methods can prevent the improper use of pesticides and toxins, causing minor damage to the environment.


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