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Global warming potential of wheat production in Western Australia: a life cycle assessment

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Abstract

This study presents a greenhouse gas (GHG) life cycle assessment of 1 tonne of wheat transported to port in south-western Australia, including emissions from prefarm, onfarm and postfarm stages. The prefarm stage included GHG emissions from agricultural machinery, fertiliser and pesticide production. The onfarm stage included GHG emissions from diesel use, liming and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from N fertiliser applications. The postfarm stage included grain storage and transportation to the port. GHG emissions decreased from 487 to 304 kg carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents when we used regional-specific data for N2O emissions instead of the IPCC default value for the application of synthetic N fertilisers to land (1.0%). Fertiliser production in the prefarm stage contributed significantly (35%) to GHG, followed by onfarm CO2 emissions (27%) and emissions from transportation of inputs and wheat (12%). N2O emissions from paddock represented 9% of the total GHGs emitted. We recommend utilising regionally specific data for soil N2O emissions, rather than international default values, when assessing GHG for agricultural production systems.
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Keywords: cereal production; global warming; life cycle assessment; nitrous oxide

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre of Excellence in Cleaner Production, Division of Science and Engineering, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA, Australia; 2: School of Earth & Geographical Sciences, Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia; and 3: Department of Agriculture and Food, Perth, WA, Australia

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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