Adapting Swiss emission models for the use in other countries: Life cycle assessment of farms in Austria

Maria Bystricky, Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences
Daniel U. Baumgartner, Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences
Thomas Jan Nemecek, Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences
Gérard Gaillard, Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences
Thomas Guggenberger, Agricultural Research and Education Centre Raumberg-Gumpenstein
Markus Herndl, Agricultural Research and Education Centre Raumberg-Gumpenstein

Farmers are increasingly faced with demands for reducing resource consumption and the effects of agricultural production on the environment. LCA on farm level therefore gains importance as a tool to assess the environmental performance of farms and to improve their eco-efficiency, but also to assist decision-making processes along the food value chain. Although there exist a lot of LCA and other environmental assessment tools worldwide, in many countries there are no tools that adequately represent their specific circumstances. Models developed for other purposes or geographical regions have to be used instead, which causes difficulties with the interpretation of results. 

At the Institute for Sustainability Sciences of Agroscope (Switzerland), we are testing the applicability of the SALCA models (Swiss Agricultural Life Cycle Assessment) in other European countries, with Austria as a current case study for regionalization. SALCA contains calculation tools for direct field and farm emissions as well as a data base of inventories for agricultural products and related upstream processes based on environmental conditions and data availability in Switzerland. Adaptations of the SALCA models to conditions in Austria, or other countries in general, have to be done if a) there are other climatic and soil conditions which do not occur in Switzerland, b) data are available in other forms than in Switzerland, or c) more specific or detailed data are available than in Switzerland. 

In Austria, we are analysing 70 farms with SALCA. As a basic rule, because of similar agricultural structures and natural conditions in the two countries, we assume that SALCA can be used in Austria in the same way as in Switzerland. Nevertheless, adaptations of the models become necessary following the principles mentioned above: Regarding case a), all models had to be extrapolated to cover the Pannonian climate with much lower rainfall and other soil types than there are in Switzerland. Case b) covers adaptations of the calculation tools to the Austrian system of collecting and processing information such as soil data. As an example for case c), the SALCA emission models are hitherto largely based on a division of the country’s surface into plain, hill and mountain region, containing different parameter values for each region. In Austria, we could use individual climate data for each farm to serve as criteria for assigning parameter values. 

In our contribution, we will present our approach to adapting the SALCA models for emissions of nitrate, phosphorus, heavy metals, nitrous oxide, ammonia, and methane. We will show the adaptations that were implemented, as well as results showing the differences to the approach in the original methodology.