Journal Article

Environmental cost and impacts of chemicals used in agriculture: An integration of energy and life cycle assessment


Modern intensive agriculture worldwide is generating increasing environmental pressure, which prevents its sustainable development. A number of agricultural sustainability assessment approaches and methodological frameworks have been developed by research worldwide to assess the environmental costs and impacts of resources used in agricultural production. A joint use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA, to assess a process´ performance and environmental impacts) and Emergy Accounting (EMA, to estimate environmental support to resource generation and provision) is proposed in this study. The goal is not only to ascertain the environmental ‘cost’ of production of selected chemical resources used in agricultural processes, but also to develop a reliable calculation procedure capable to integrate the two approaches (LCA and EMA), while considering their different allocation algebra and space-time scales of application. Specifically, the UEVs of glyphosate and urea, which are respectively the most used herbicide and nitrogen fertilizer used in worldwide agriculture, are calculated, yielding values of 2.47E+13 sej/kg and 7.07E+12 sej/kg, respectively. In order to do so, UEVs of intermediate process chemicals such as ammonia, acetic anhydride, chlorine gas, formaldehyde, phosphorous chloride, and sodium hydroxide have also been calculated or updated, thus providing at the same time a procedure and a set of values potentially useful for future studies. The LCA impacts of agro-chemicals in China are compared to worldwide averages from the Ecoinvent database, and the UEVs for several chemicals are also compared to previous estimates from published emergy literature.

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Lyu Yanfeng
Raugei, Marco
Zhang Xiaohong
Mellino, Salvatore
Ulgiati, Sergio

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics


Year of publication: 2021
Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-08-24

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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