Knowledge for better food systems

Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of sugarcane production and processing in Australia.

Renouf M A and Wegener M K (2007) Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of sugarcane production and processing in Australia. Proceedings of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, Vol. 29, 2007
Renouf M A and Wegener M K (2007) Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of sugarcane production and processing in Australia. Proceedings of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, Vol. 29, 2007 This paper reports the results of a detailed life cycle assessment (LCA)sugarcane production and processing in Queensland. The results presented show the life-cycle impact of producing a tonne of raw cane sugar in Queensland, for a range of environmental impact categories: energy input, greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication and water use. Results are presented for three scenarios: the "State average" farming system and two fairly distinct cane growing regions, the Burdekin and the Wet Tropics. These results highlight the significant aspects associated with sugar production in Australia as well as the range in variation present in the industry due to different growing conditions. To put the environmental impact of cane sugar production into perspective, sugarcane is compared with other starch and sugar-bearing crops, sugar beet and corn. Cane sugar is shown to have distinct advantages in relation to energy input, greenhouse gas emissions, and land utilisation, but does not rate as well in relation to other the impacts assessed (eutrophication and water use). Three factors were found to have the strongest influence on the outcome: agricultural yield, nitrogen emissions, and the environmental credits attributed to co-products. The paper provides further insight into the environmental impacts of cane-sugar production in Australia, and suggests opportunities for improving the environmental profile of the cane industry in this country. These include maximising the environmental credits from co-products, optimising nitrogen inputs, mitigating nitrogen losses, and continuing with water efficiency efforts. The findings are presented in very similar form in: Renouf MA, Wegeneer MK and Nielsen LK (2008). An environmental life cycle assessment comparing Australian sugarcane with US corn and UK sugar beet as producers of sugars for fermentation Biomass and Bioenergy, Volume 32, Issue 12 Pages 1144-1155
 

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