Impact of geographical location and production methods on the life cycle impacts of strawberry production in the U.S.

Seyed Mohammad Hossein Tabatabaie, Oregon State University
Ashley Loneman, National Agricultural Library, ARS, USDA
Peter Arbuckle, National Agricultural Library, ARS, USDA
Ezra Kahn, National Agricultural Library, ARS, USDA
Susan McCarthy, National Agricultural Library, ARS, USDA
Ganti S. Murthy. Oregon State University

Strawberries are the fourth most valuable fruit produced in the U.S. Increasingly producers, food retailers and consumers are becoming conscious of the environmental impacts of the products they produce, sell and /or consume. Therefore, assessing the environmental impacts of strawberry production is essential to enable a more sustainable production practices and inform consumers of their choices. An earlier Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study for production of strawberries in Italy indicated that most of the environmental impacts could be attributed to the plastics use in production (Peano et al. 2010). Similar studies were performed to assess the life cycle impacts of strawberry production in Australia (Gunady et al. 2012) and UK, Spain (Williams et al. 2008). However, to date, there is no comprehensive LCA for strawberry production in the United States to the best of our knowledge. This effort represents the first comprehensive life cycle assessment for strawberry production in US accounting for variations in production practices across different geographical locations.

The LCA environmental impacts are strongly dependent on geographical location and production practices. These practices vary widely across states in the case of strawberry production. Therefore the goal of this study was to perform a comprehensive LCA for the major US strawberry production methods namely, matted row, plasticulture and high tunnel methods. Life cycle Inventory data was collected using modified enterprise crop budgets, “LCA extended crop budgets,” for the production methods practiced in the US and was used to develop a complete LCA in OpenLCA software. The environmental impacts will be quantified using 18 midpoint indicators defined in the ReciPe 2008 method. Sensitivity analysis will be conducted in order to identify and rank the inputs that have the greatest influence on the outcomes.

Currently, peer-reviewed LCI data for US strawberry production do not exist and we are obtaining this data from crop enterprise budgets as discussed in the associated abstract (Arbuckle et al. 2014). Data related to agricultural machinery and nursery section also were considered in order to make the inventory as precise as possible. Based on our preliminary data, there are significant differences in the usage of agro-chemicals and practices across different states which would lead to significant differences in the life cycle impacts of the strawberry production. Sustainability metrics based on nitrogen, phosphorus and water use were defined for assessing strawberry production. These metrics are intended to aid in improving the sustainability of strawberry production.


References:

Arbuckle, P., Kahn, E., Loneman, A., McCarthy, S., Tabatabaie, S.M.H., Murthy, G.S. 2014. Unit process data collection for specialty crop production. LCA Food 2014 Conference. (Submitted)

Gunady, M.G.A., Biswas, W., Solah, V.A., James, A.P. 2012. Evaluating the global warming potential of the fresh produce supply chain for strawberries, romaine/cos lettuces (Lactuca sativa), and button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) in Western Australia using life cycle assessment (LCA). J. Cleaner Prod. 28:81-87.

Peano, C., Girgenti, V., Giuggioli, N., Bounous. 2010. Strawberry production chain: Application of a LCA model. XXVIII International Horticultural Congress on Science and Horticulture for People (IHC2010): International Symposium on the Challenge for a Sustainable Production, Protection and Consumption of Mediterranean Fruits and Nuts.

Williams, A., Pell, E., Webb, J., Moorhouse, E., Audsley, E. 2008. Strawberry and tomato production for the UK compared between the UK and Spain Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on LCA in the Agri-Food Sector (2008), pp. 254–262.