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Variability of Greenhouse Gas Footprints of Field Tomatoes Grown for Processing: Interyear and Intercountry Assessment

Lam, Wan Yee, van Zelm, Rosalie, Benítez-López, Ana, Kulak, Michal, Sim, Sarah, King, J. M. Henry, Huijbregts, Mark A. J.
Environmental science & technology 2018 v.52 no.1 pp. 135-144
application methods, certification, data collection, environmental factors, environmental science, farm management, farms, fertilizer application, greenhouse gases, models, sustainable agriculture, tomatoes, Chile, India
Our study provides an integrated analysis of the variability of greenhouse gas (GHG) footprints of field-grown tomatoes for processing. The global farm-specific data set of 890 observations across 14 countries over a three-year period (2013–2015) was obtained from farms grown under Unilever’s sustainable agricultural code. It represents on average 3% of the annual global production of processing tomatoes: insights can be used to help inform corporate sourcing strategies and certification schemes. The median GHG footprint ranged from 18 in Chile to 61 kg CO₂-equiv per tonne of tomatoes in India, lower than results reported in other studies. We found that footprints are more consistent within countries than between them. Using linear mixed effect models, we quantified the relative influence of environmental conditions and farm management factors. Key variables were area of production and the method of fertilizer application. GHG footprints decreased with increasing area of production to a threshold of 17.4 ha. Farms using single fertilizer application methods in general had a larger GHG footprint than those using a combination of methods. We conclude that farm management factors should be prioritized for future data collection, and more stringent guidance on acceptable practices is required if greater comparability of outcomes is needed either within a scheme, such as the Unilever’s sustainable agriculture code, or between schemes.