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Alternative management for olive orchards grown in semi-arid environments: An energy, economic and environmental analysis

Pergola, Maria, Favia, Mariafara, Palese, Assunta Maria, Perretti, Biagio, Xiloyannis, Cristos, Celano, Giuseppe
Scientia horticulturae 2013 v.162 pp. 380-386
carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, computer software, emissions, energy conversion, environmental assessment, farm inputs, life cycle assessment, management systems, microirrigation, olives, orchards, profitability, risk, semiarid zones, soil, soil quality, wastewater
The objective of this study was to test a more productive and sustainable system compared to the traditional approach to manage olive orchards at risk of abandonment placed on hilly and mountainous areas of semi-arid environments. The main sustainable features include the use of treated urban wastewater for drip irrigation and the exploitation of environmentally friendly techniques aimed to preserve/maintain soil quality, to increase the atmospheric carbon storage in the soil, to correctly use natural resources. The comparison between the two management systems, sustainable – SS′ and conventional – CS′, was carried out through an energy, economic and environmental analysis. The data used in this paper refer to averages for the period 2001–2008. Energy values were calculated by multiplying the amount of farm inputs by the related energy conversion factors. The total input energy per kg of olives was 4.43 and 2.80MJ in the SS and CS, respectively. The economic analysis showed that the gross profit of the SS was considerably higher (6276€ha−1) than the CS (1517€ha−1). The environmental analysis was carried out according to the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology using SimaPro7.2 software. Emissions of CO2 eq per kg of olives, in SS were 0.08kg, while in the conventional olive orchard were equal to 0.11kg. Under our experimental conditions, although the SS was the most energy-consuming system, its greater productivity enabled a more ‘sustainable’ kg of olives to be produced, at least regarding CO2 eq emissions, and it seemed to be a much more effective management model in terms of productivity and profitability. The combined use of various methodologies (LCA, energy and economic analysis) could provide critical information for policy makers and producers and help them in making strategic choices.