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Inclusion of the variability of diffuse pollutions in LCA for agriculture: The case of slurry application techniques

Langevin B., Basset-Mens C., Lardon L.. 2010. Journal of Cleaner Production, 18 : p. 747-755.

LCAs (life cycle assessments) are often based on average data to produce a generic evaluation of a good or service. However, ignoring variability and induced uncertainty of LCA results reduces their significance, especially when dealing with agricultural processes that present high natural fluctuations. The objective of the study was to explore the robustness of LCA results when accounting for variable emissions data, illustrated by the case of slurry application techniques. Four application techniques were compared: band spreading, broadcast spreading, harrowing after surface application and direct injection. On the basis of the normalisation results, acidification, eutrophication and global warming potentials were selected. To estimate field nitrogen emissions, an original approach was developed based on relative nitrogen loss factors for each technique from a literature review. The calculated field emissions from different soil and climate conditions were considered equally probable and were propagated into a range of LCA result using the Monte Carlo method. Injection and harrowing both showed reduced acidification and eutrophication potentials compared to band spreading and broadcast spreading but had larger global warming potentials, which could be particularly important with injection. Harrowing consequently appeared as the best compromise. Despite the large range of LCA results, robust conclusions could be drawn. To achieve a more refined comparison between the techniques, the use of processbased models in contrasted situations is suggested. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : impact sur l'environnement; lisier

Thématique : Méthodes de recherche; Elevage - Considérations générales; Pollution

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