Cropping systems in northern Italy are intensively managed, but an integrated environmental accounting of these systems has not been published yet. We conducted this study to evaluate cropping systems management in a study area in northern Italy using indicators. The study area is a regional agricultural Park, with cereal and livestock farms, cultivating mostly maize, rice, meadows, and winter cereals. To select the indicators, we identified for the study area the most relevant issues concerning the potential impact of agriculture on the environment: nutrient and pesticide management, use of fossil energy and soil management. Subsequently, we selected indicators from the literature, which could address these issues. We also added indicators describing the economic performance. The data were collected at the field level by periodic face-to-face interviews with seven farm managers over 2 years. Indicators were calculated for all crops cultivated in each field (n = 266). According to the methodology proposed, the best economic performance (gross margin) was obtained by rice, followed by maize, winter cereals, and forage crops. Nitrogen and phosphorus surpluses were high for maize (due to a large use of animal manures), and moderate for rice and permanent meadows (where mineral fertilisers are not usually applied). Maize used high fossil energy inputs; however, the output/input ratio (an indicator of the dependence of food and feed production on non-renewable energy) was elevated, due to high aboveground biomass production. The potential impact due to pesticide use (evaluated with indicators that consider the toxicity and the exposure to active ingredients) was relevant only for rice, moderate for maize and other cereals, and null for forages. Finally, soil management was evaluated for the 2-year crop succession on each field (n = 131): permanent meadows are excellent (due to continuous soil cover and large returns of organic carbon to soil), rice-based successions are unsatisfactory (due to low residues and manure application and continuous cropping), and maize successions are intermediate. This work shows that good quality data can be collected on-farm for economic and environmental accounting at field level. The indicators chosen for the analysis describe a range of issues in the study area, and make it possible to clearly separate and characterise different cropping systems. The procedure for their calculation is transparent and sound, and can be applied for ex-ante, ex-post, and monitoring procedures.

On-farm monitoring of economic and environmental performances of cropping systems: Results of a 2-year study at the field scale in northern Italy / L. Bechini, N. Castoldi. - In: ECOLOGICAL INDICATORS. - ISSN 1470-160X. - 9:6(2009), pp. 1096-1113. [10.1016/j.ecolind.2008.12.008]

On-farm monitoring of economic and environmental performances of cropping systems: Results of a 2-year study at the field scale in northern Italy

L. Bechini
Primo
;
N. Castoldi
Ultimo
2009

Abstract

Cropping systems in northern Italy are intensively managed, but an integrated environmental accounting of these systems has not been published yet. We conducted this study to evaluate cropping systems management in a study area in northern Italy using indicators. The study area is a regional agricultural Park, with cereal and livestock farms, cultivating mostly maize, rice, meadows, and winter cereals. To select the indicators, we identified for the study area the most relevant issues concerning the potential impact of agriculture on the environment: nutrient and pesticide management, use of fossil energy and soil management. Subsequently, we selected indicators from the literature, which could address these issues. We also added indicators describing the economic performance. The data were collected at the field level by periodic face-to-face interviews with seven farm managers over 2 years. Indicators were calculated for all crops cultivated in each field (n = 266). According to the methodology proposed, the best economic performance (gross margin) was obtained by rice, followed by maize, winter cereals, and forage crops. Nitrogen and phosphorus surpluses were high for maize (due to a large use of animal manures), and moderate for rice and permanent meadows (where mineral fertilisers are not usually applied). Maize used high fossil energy inputs; however, the output/input ratio (an indicator of the dependence of food and feed production on non-renewable energy) was elevated, due to high aboveground biomass production. The potential impact due to pesticide use (evaluated with indicators that consider the toxicity and the exposure to active ingredients) was relevant only for rice, moderate for maize and other cereals, and null for forages. Finally, soil management was evaluated for the 2-year crop succession on each field (n = 131): permanent meadows are excellent (due to continuous soil cover and large returns of organic carbon to soil), rice-based successions are unsatisfactory (due to low residues and manure application and continuous cropping), and maize successions are intermediate. This work shows that good quality data can be collected on-farm for economic and environmental accounting at field level. The indicators chosen for the analysis describe a range of issues in the study area, and make it possible to clearly separate and characterise different cropping systems. The procedure for their calculation is transparent and sound, and can be applied for ex-ante, ex-post, and monitoring procedures.
Assessment; Economic costs; Energy; Environmental accounting; Nitrogen; Pesticides; Phosphorus; Soil organic matter
Settore AGR/02 - Agronomia e Coltivazioni Erbacee
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6W87-4VH8Y57-2/2/eeb010376d95f56e7c91657a36f53a6e
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/57389
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