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Knudsen M.T.,Copenhagen University | Knudsen M.T.,University of Aarhus | Fonseca de Almeida G.,Federal University of Sao Carlos | Langer V.,Copenhagen University | And 2 more authors.
Organic Agriculture

Growing global trade with organic products has given rise to a debate on the environmental impacts during both production and transport. Environmental hotspots of organic orange juice produced by smallholders in Brazil, processed and imported to Denmark, were identified in a case study using a life cycle approach. Furthermore, small-scale organic orange production was compared with small-scale conventional and large-scale organic orange production in the case study area in Brazil. Transport was the main contributor (58%) to the global warming potential of organic orange juice from small-scale farmers imported to Denmark, followed by the farm stage (23%), especially the truck transport of fresh oranges in Brazil and of reconstituted orange juice in Europe. Non-renewable energy use per hectare was significantly lower on the organic small-scale farms than on the conventional, with a similar pattern for global warming potential and eutrophication. Including soil carbon sequestration in organic plantations widened the difference in global warming potential between organic and conventional. Organic small-scale farms had a higher crop diversity than conventional, which may have a positive effect on biodiversity along with the spontaneous vegetation between the organic orange trees and the absence of toxic pesticides. Comparing small-scale with large-scale organic orange production, crop diversity was higher on the small-scale farms, while global warming potential, eutrophication potential and the use of copper per hectare were significantly lower, indicating that environmental impacts from small-scale differ from large-scale organic farms. © 2011 Springer Science & Business Media BV. Source

Panneerselvam P.,University of Aarhus | Halberg N.,International Center for Research in Organic Food Systems | Vaarst M.,University of Aarhus | Hermansen J.E.,University of Aarhus
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

In India, the number of farmers converting to organic farming has increased in the recent past despite the lack of government support in providing knowledge and extension to the farmers. The aim of this article is to investigate the perceived relevance, benefits and barriers to a conversion to organic agriculture in three different Indian contexts-in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand states. In each state, 40 farmers from both organic and conventional systems were interviewed. The findings indicated that conventional producers identified production and marketing barriers as the main constraints to adopting organic farming, while the age and education of the farmer were not deemed a problem. Lack of knowledge and lack of institutional support were other barriers to conversion. Some farmers were, however, interested in converting to organic farming in the near future in Madhya Pradesh due to the low cost of production, and in Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand due to the price premium and health benefits. On the other hand, organic farmers were more concerned with health, environmental and production factors when institutional support was available. The years under conversion were positively associated with reduced input costs in all three states and with increased income in Tamil Nadu and increased yield in Madhya Pradesh. Both organic and conventional farmers found the two production factors, low yield and pest control, to be of major concern. However, organic farms in Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand experienced yield increases because most of the farms were in the post-conversion period, while the farms in Tamil Nadu were in the conversion period and experienced yield reduction. The study suggests that the government scheme for compensating yield loss during the conversion period and a price premium may help farmers adopt organic agriculture on a large scale in India. © Copyright Cambridge University Press 2011. Source

Halberg N.,International Center for Research in Organic Food Systems
Canadian Journal of Plant Science

The debate over agricultural sustainability continues due to the challenges of reducing externalities of intensive farming methods and preserving vital natural capital, but many definitions of sustainability are too wide to allow for a prioritized assessment. This paper uses a more narrow definition of agricultural sustainability focusing on the functional integrity of a system to highlight specific aspects of vital importance for the longterm resilience and reproducibility of agricultural systems. Key areas of resource sufficiency are also identified. Based on a review of scientific literature the relative sustainability of organic agriculture is assessed with a focus on environmental impact and resource use in Europe and North America. While there are many examples of organic agriculture with improved performance in terms of soil fertility and preservation of biodiversity, in other aspects - such as resource use per kilogram product - the difference to conventional farming is less important. The paper presents a framework for selection of indicators based on the principles of organic agriculture which may be used to monitor and improve the performance of organic agriculture with respect to functional integrity and resource sufficiency. The differences between comparable organic farms may be used for improving farm practices through a benchmarking process. Source

Petersen B.M.,University of Aarhus | Knudsen M.T.,Copenhagen University | Hermansen J.E.,International Center for Research in Organic Food Systems | Halberg N.,University of Aarhus
Journal of Cleaner Production

Globally, soil carbon sequestration is expected to hold a major potential to mitigate agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. However, the majority of life cycle assessments (LCA) of agricultural products have not included possible changes in soil carbon sequestration. In the present study, a method to estimate carbon sequestration to be included in LCA is suggested and applied to two examples where the inclusion of carbon sequestration is especially relevant: 1) Bioenergy: removal of straw from a Danish soil for energy purposes and 2) Organic versus conventional farming: comparative study of soybean production in China. The suggested approach considers the time of the soil CO2 emissions for the LCA by including the Bern Carbon Cycle Model. Time perspectives of 20, 100 and 200 years are used and a soil depth of 0-100 cm is considered. The application of the suggested method showed that the results were comparable to the IPCC 2006 tier 1 approach in a time perspective of 20 year, where after the suggested methodology showed a continued soil carbon change toward a new steady state. The suggested method estimated a carbon sequestration for the first example when storing straw in the soil instead of using it for bioenergy of 54, 97 and 213 kg C t-1 straw C in a 200, 100 and 20 years perspective, respectively. For the conversion from conventional to organic soybean production, a difference of 32, 60 or 143 kg soil C ha-1 yr-1 in a 200, 100 or 20 years perspective, respectively was found. The study indicated that soil carbon changes included in an LCA can constitute a major contribution to the total greenhouse gas emissions per crop unit for plant products. The suggested approach takes into account the temporal aspects of soil carbon changes by combining the degradation and emissions of CO 2 from the soil and the following decline in the atmosphere. Furthermore, the results from the present study highlights that the choice of the time perspective has a huge impact on the results used for the LCA. For comparability with the calculation of the global warming potential in LCA, it is suggested to use a time perspective of 100 years when using the suggested approach for soil carbon changes in LCA. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Source

Qiao Y.,China Agricultural University | Halberg N.,International Center for Research in Organic Food Systems | Scott S.,University of Waterloo
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

Organic agriculture has the potential to provide improved livelihood opportunities, increased income and social benefits for resource-poor small-scale farmers. It has thus become a popular strategy for economic development and poverty reduction in many areas of the global south. However, there has been limited empirical research regarding the actual benefits of certified organic production, particularly when organic is combined with fair trade certification, and for small-scale farmers who are not engaged in coffee or banana production. Further research is needed to demonstrate experiences of farmers under diverse socioeconomic conditions, organizational contexts and degrees of market access. To address these gaps, two surveys of certified organic and fair trade tea producers in China and Sri Lanka were undertaken to investigate the contributions of organic crops to the household economy. In both cases, organic production required lower investment in terms of external inputs but a higher input of farmers’ labor. The price premium received by farmers for the organic tea compensated for the extra labor input and lower yield, resulting in a net profit. However, given the relatively small plots of tea gardens of each household, organic production could not fully provide for the households’ livelihood. Non-farm income dominated the total income of the households across the study cases, despite the earnings from organic farming. In both sites, market-oriented organic tea projects have created more options for paid work locally, which benefits women of reproductive age. Social benefits of organic farming were also reported. Pursuing fair trade certification on top of organic production facilitated farmer organizing, training and community development. Organic agriculture and fair trade certification offer important prospects to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in other, less favored areas of Asia. These forms of certified production could provide economic and social benefits in instances where farm income is the main source of household income. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 Source

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