Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Greenhouse gas emissions profile for 1 tonne of wheat produced in Central Zone (East) New South Wales: a life cycle assessment approach

Philippa Brock A E , Patrick Madden B , Graeme Schwenke C and David Herridge D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Leader, Life Cycle Assessment, Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 1, Nelson Bay, NSW 2315, Australia.

B Policy Economist, Department of Primary Industries, Locked Bag 21, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

C Soil Scientist, Department of Primary Industries, 4 Marsden Park Road, Calala, NSW 2340, Australia.

D Scientist, Primary Industries Innovation Centre, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: pip.brock@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Crop and Pasture Science 63(4) 319-329 https://doi.org/10.1071/CP11191
Submitted: 20 July 2011  Accepted: 20 April 2012   Published: 19 June 2012

Abstract

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has become an increasingly common approach across different industries, including agriculture, for environmental impact assessment. A single-issue LCA focusing on greenhouse gas emissions was conducted to determine the emissions profile and total carbon footprint of wheat produced in the Central Zone (East) of New South Wales. Greenhouse gas emissions (in carbon dioxide equivalents; CO2-e) from all stages of the production process, both pre-farm and on-farm, were included. Total emissions were found to be 200 kg CO2-e per t of wheat at the farm gate, based on a 3.5 t/ha grain yield. The relative contribution of greenhouse gas emissions from different components of the production system was determined, with most emissions (37%) coming from pre-farm production and transport of fertiliser (30%) and lime (7%) and from the nitrous oxide (N2O) emitted from the nitrogenous fertiliser applied to the crop (26%). Other important emissions included the CO2 emissions from the use of fertiliser and lime (15%) and the production, transport and use of diesel (16%). The relative importance of other minor emissions is also discussed. For a higher yielding crop (5.0 t/ha), total emissions were found to be 150 kg CO2-e per t of wheat. This paper considers the effect of different management scenarios on the emissions profile and the effect of adopting a N2O emissions factor, which is based on current New South Wales field research, rather than the current Australian National Greenhouse Accounts National Inventory Report default value. This LCA provides a template from which comparative farming systems LCA can be developed and provides data for the Australian Life Cycle Inventory.

Additional keywords: carbon footprint, greenhouse gas, LCA, Life Cycle Assessment, nitrous oxide, wheat production.


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