Together with international partners, Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture has developed a web tool that can create a simplified Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for protecting the cultivation of horticulture products
An additional web tool will be available to calculate the economic consequences of environment-friendly measures. The web tools are a result of a 4-year EUphoros research project.
The EUphoros research project was started in 2008. With a subsidy from the European Union, an effort has been made in recent years to develop systems that contribute to an efficient use of raw materials in protected crops. Researchers and partners from the business sector in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Estonia and Hungary have worked together on this project.
A study was carried out in the Netherlands and in the Mediterranean region to examine whether it would be possible to reduce the use of resources (such as energy, fertilizers and crop protection products) and business requirements without doing this at the expense of production. These sub-projects had delivered a great deal of information and this is currently processed into two LCA web tools and economic analysis.
LCA is a method of assessing the environmental effects during all the phases of a production process. It also takes into account the environmental effects of the commonly used production means. EUphoros uses a simplified LCA to establish the environmental effects of a representative tomato crop in the Netherlands, Hungary and Spain and a representative rose crop in the Netherlands. A comparison is made of the effect of various interventions and the method also calculates the economics of various measures.
Based on these calculation methods, two web tools were developed, which can calculate the LCA and productivity of environment-friendly measures on horticulture products – up to the point that these products leave the production site. Transport is not included in the LCA. These web tools will be available shortly. They will provide growers and suppliers with new insights about how various measures affect the environment.
Spain versus the Netherlands
The LCA clearly indicated that in Spain the use of pesticides, fertilizers and other business requirements was responsible for the immense environmental burden. If the environmental burden is divided up into categories, then fertilizers, pesticides and business requirements mostly contribute to acid rain, eutrophication of surface water and global warming. In the Dutch cultivation sector, climate systems (or energy consumption) are responsible by far for the greatest environmental burden on all fronts. In tomato cultivation, the use of pesticides is responsible for the acidification of the environment and for eutrophication. In roses cultivation the consumption of water poses a great burden for the environment.
Scenario studies have shown that Spain can considerably reduce the environmental burden of its tomato cultivation while improving its yields by building new types of greenhouses. In Dutch greenhouses for tomato crops, energy-saving is the most significant measure. In the cultivation of roses, it is difficult to take measures to compensate the high electricity consumption used for lighting.