Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. - IS0205

The environmental burdens and resource use involved in producing ten, specified agricultural and horticultural commodities will be calculated using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). It will be coded in a user-accessible program in Excel.

For each commodity, the functional unit and system boundary will be defined in a way that takes account of differences in quality and is transparent to subsequent users. A number of production systems will be defined in consultation with experts in each area. The production systems will encompass the range of typical methods and intensities (e.g. outdoor or indoor pigs) that are (or could, in the future be) used, e.g. organic, conventional, extensive, LEAF, precision and integrated. The actual choice of production systems will be specific to each commodity.

Further production systems will also need to be defined, such as those to produce inputs to livestock production, which may be direct products (e.g. barley grain) or by-products (e.g. sugar beet pulp). In the latter case, an appropriate method of allocating burdens must be determined, such as by the economic value of the product and by-product.

The overall production of a commodity will be the sum of the proportion of each production system. This proportion will be readily adjustable by the user. The data that defined each production system will effectively be a table of values that can be readily altered if assumptions are changed or alternative data become available. The data sources will be documented to ensure traceability. The data quality will recorded so that there will be measures of uncertainty associated with the data. This will be reflected in the results for each production system and commodity so that comparisons can be made with known confidence.

The implementation of the LCA model in Excel will follow the disciplined approach of the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). This involves each step in an evolutionary delivery being clearly prioritised by Defra's requirements and set within rigid time and resource constraints. It also requires the involvement of Defra in evaluating prototypes to help ensure continuing focus on the model development.

The results will be used to determine hot spots in production systems, i.e. those that have the greatest influence on burdens if changed.

1) To develop, and later realise, a conceptual model to quantify the environmental burdens and resource use associated with the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities using the principles of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
2) To identify and classify the major typical production systems in England and Wales for the commodities specified and define a production process flow chart for each system.
3) To establish the mass and energy flows for each commodity and other necessary input data for the working LCA model, ensure that the sources and derivation are clearly identified and the uncertainties quantified.
4) To code the LCA model in a package, such as Microsoft Excel, with all the main data readily accessible
5) To use the LCA model to analyse these production systems and demonstrate that the model can compare production systems and can identify high risk parts the systems (so called hot spots).
6) To publish and publicise the working LCA model.

Project Documents
• Final Report : Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities.   (1674k)
• Executive Summary : Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities.   (84k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2005

Cost: £399,077
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Silsoe Research Institute (BBSRC)
Agricultural Land              
Air Pollution              
Arable Farming              
Climate and Weather              
Climate Change              
Environmental Protection              
Natural Resource Use              
Rural Communities              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Production              
Water Pollution