Life cycle assessment of Australian sugarcane production with a focus on sugarcane growing

Renouf, Marguerite Anne, Wegener, Malcolm K. and Pagan, Robert J. (2010) Life cycle assessment of Australian sugarcane production with a focus on sugarcane growing. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 15 9: 927-937. doi:10.1007/s11367-010-0226-x

Author Renouf, Marguerite Anne
Wegener, Malcolm K.
Pagan, Robert J.
Title Life cycle assessment of Australian sugarcane production with a focus on sugarcane growing
Journal name International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0948-3349
Publication date 2010-11
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s11367-010-0226-x
Volume 15
Issue 9
Start page 927
End page 937
Total pages 11
Place of publication Germany
Publisher Springer
Collection year 2011
Language eng
Subject C1
Formatted abstract
Purpose Past life cycle assessments (LCA) of sugarcane
(Saccharum officinarum) production have commonly been
based on limited datasets, and variability has not been well
described. In this work, Australian sugarcane production
was assessed more comprehensively in order to generate a
robust set of LCA results for use in subsequent assessments
of sugarcane products and also to investigate: (1) variability
due to regional differences, (2) factors influencing variability,
and (3) significance of the impacts.
Methods An average scenario for Australian sugarcane
production was modeled based on data for the state of
Queensland (98% of Australian production). Life cycle
impact assessment (LCIA) results were generated using
Impact 2002+, modified to be more representative of
Australian conditions, and with the inclusion of water use
and land use indicators. A Monte Carlo uncertainty
analysis, using minimum and maximum values for production
data, was undertaken to evaluate variability. Different
regional production practices were also modeled to identify
factors that influence variability. Normalization aimed to
show the significance of total Australian sugarcane production
relative to total Australian impacts.
Results and discussion Considerable variability was found
in the LCIA results, with the key variables being yield, N
use efficiency, the susceptibility of soils to N leakage,
irrigation (water and energy intensity), and pre-harvest
burning. N leakage was found to be an important issue that
influences a range of impact categories. When normalized
against total national impacts, water use and land use
appear to be the most significant impacts (based on simple
indicators of consumption), followed by eutrophication
potential, acidification potential, and respiratory impacts,
whereas non-renewable energy input and global warming
are less significant. The results suggest that toxicity impacts
are insignificant; however, this may not be supported by
other observations that link pesticide loss from sugarcane to
toxicity concerns in receiving waters and is a subject for
further research.
Conclusions and recommendations The potential for significant
variability in the impacts from sugarcane growing
suggests a need for LCAs of sugarcane systems to consider
ranges for key variables. The key variables and significant
impacts identified in this work can guide data collection
priorities for future assessment of sugarcane and possibly
other Australian cropping systems. To further develop LCA
as a useful predictive tool for Australian agricultural
systems, further development and testing of impact assessment
models for eutrophication, toxicity, and land and
water resource depletion appropriate for Australia and its
subregions will be required.
Keyword Agriculture
Environmental impact
Saccharum officinarum
Sugarcane growing
Sugarcane production
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online: 27 July 2010

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Created: Sun, 07 Nov 2010, 00:09:07 EST