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Application of water footprint to olive growing systems in the Apulia region: a comparative assessment

Pellegrini, Giustina, Ingrao, Carlo, Camposeo, Salvatore, Tricase, Caterina, Contò, Francesco, Huisingh, Donald
Journal of cleaner production 2016 v.112 pp. 2407-2418
carbon, carbon dioxide, cropping systems, food production, fossil fuels, freshwater, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, life cycle assessment, methane, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, olives, sustainable agriculture, water footprint, water utilization, Italy
Agriculture is acknowledged worldwide as a great contributor to global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, in particular when there is no efficient management of the resources involved. Agriculture is also the largest freshwater consumer, accounting for almost 70% of the world's water withdrawals. Therefore, it is essential at the local, regional and global level to shift towards sustainable agriculture and food-production systems by using practices that are much less GHG emitting and, both fossil-fuel and water demanding but enable preserving yield, quality and safety of agro-foods. In this regard, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and other tools, such as Water, Carbon, Nitrogen and Ecological Footprints, are increasingly playing an important guiding role.In this context, this research was designed to compare Water Footprint (WF) of different olive agronomic cropping systems, which reduce water demand at the regional and global levels.Based upon results obtained, the high-density cropping system was found to be the most competitive due to the reduced WF(tot) compared with the other systems investigated. Hence, the authors recommend expanded implementation of agricultural practices designed to reduce the WF, to enhance environmental sustainability and to optimise management and ecological costs in the olive production sector. This research contributes to enhance the knowledge on the applicability and usefulness of foot-printing tools for assessing and enabling more environmentally sustainable agricultural systems for water usage.