Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment of cereal food and non-food uses in Wallonia (Belgium)

Florence Van Stappen, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Alice Delcour, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Yannick Curnel, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Virginie Decruyenaere, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Didier Stilmant, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Philippe Burny, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Fabienne Rabier, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Jean-Pierre Goffart, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre
Presented by: Michaël Mathot, Walloon Agricultural Research Centre

In Wallonia (southern Belgium), roughly 60% of the arable cropped area is dedicated to cereals (DGSIE 2010). More than a half of the cereal chains are currently turned towards animal feed. Direct human food uses, i.e. milling and brewing, barely reach 10% of the grain production, mainly because of low prices paid for bread-making cereal varieties, less favorable climate conditions and scattered plots of land. Non-food uses are now growing, with most noticeably more than 25% of the Walloon grain production currently converted into bioethanol.

The concerns related to food security, environment protection, rural employment or competition between food and non-food need to be addressed carefully. Wallonia’s resources make no exception since this densely populated region produces among the world’s highest cereal yields (e.g. wheat yields average 10 t.ha-1 at 15% humidity (DAEA 2010; DGSIE 2010)).

Based on a comprehensive description of the Walloon cereal sector (Delcour et al. 2014), the “ALT-4-CER” project considers current and future opportunities for food, feed, fiber and fuel uses of Walloon cereal resources (“4F” scenarios) through an exhaustive comparison of production and processing chains performances. Walloon cereal flow quantification and scenario definition was supported by the consultation of all stakeholders of the cereal sector (producers, wholesalers, processors, consumers, and decision makers) in order to ensure a scientific approach based on existing and realistic potential cases (Van Stappen et al. 2014).

In the spirit of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (UNEP/SETAC 2011), environmental and socioeconomic impacts of these scenarios are evaluated through Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) fed by region-specific data adapted to the local context.

Consequential LCA is used to assess the consequences of possible evolutions in the Walloon cereal sector by providing clues on potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of existing and potential cereal uses. Furthermore, within each scenario, performances of individual 4F chains are isolated in order to interpret scenarios results and identify preponderant activities.System expansion is applied in order to account for co-products substitution wherever possible and appropriate. Economic allocation is used when substitution meets its limits (e.g. between grain and straw).

Environmental and socio-economic LCAs of the cereal scenarios stop at mid-point level in order to enable multi-criteria integration carried out with the support of stakeholders of the cereal sector. Classification, prioritization and weighting of mid-point impacts are indeed subjective tasks, highly related to the local context. Cereal cultivation and processing actors are supported by LCA experts in order to grasp issues related to environmental, social and economic LCA results. This multi-criteria analysis is expected to bring answers supporting future sustainable choices for the Walloon cereal sector.


DAEA (2010) Farm’s accounting data. SPW – Agricultural Economic Analysis Department, Namur, Belgium

Delcour A, Van Stappen F, Gheysens S, et al. (2014) Etat des lieux des flux céréaliers en Wallonie selon différentes filières d'utilisation. Biotechn Agron Soc Environ, in press

DGSIE (2010) Recensements agricoles de 1995, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2010. SPF Economie - Direction générale Statistique et information économique, Brussels, Belgium

UNEP/SETAC (2011) Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment - Making informed choices on products. In: Valdivia S, Sonnemann G (eds), UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, 86 p

Van Stappen F, Delcour A, Gheysens S, et al. (2014) Etablissement de scénarios alternatifs de valorisations alimentaires et non alimentaires des ressources céréalières wallonnes à l’horizon 2030. Biotechn Agron Soc Environ, submitted