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Toward a consistent accounting of water as a resource and a vector of pollution in the LCA of agricultural products: Methodological development and application to a perennial cropping system

Payen S.. 2015. Montpellier : Université de Montpellier, 253 p.. Thèse de doctorat -- Science de la terre et de l'eau, Thèse de doctorat -- Science de la terre et de l'eau.

Identifying the environmental hot spots of agriculture is crucial in a context where humanity has to produce more food and pollute less. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a powerful tool to evaluate the environmental impacts of agricultural systems, but is still fraught with shortcomings, notably for the evaluation of impacts of freshwater use and of salinisation of water and soil. The core complexity lies in the double status of water and soil resources in LCA which are both a resource and a compartment. The three questions answered by the thesis were: How to better assess the impacts associated with water and salts fluxes? What model should be developed for a relevant inventory of field water and salts fluxes? Is the developed model operational for an LCA study on a perennial crop? The first question was answered through a literature review on salinisation impacts in LCA. It revealed the main environmental mechanisms of salinisation, the factors involved, and discussed the soil and water status, notably through a consistent definition of the technosphere and ecosphere boundary. To answer the second question, a critical analysis of water inventory and agri-food LCA databases showed their inadequacy for the LCA-based ecodesign of cropping systems: they provide estimates of theoretical water consumed, rely on data and methods presenting limitations, and do not support the calculation of both consumptive and degradative water use impacts. For the LCA-based ecodesign of cropping systems, the inventory of water flows should be based on a model simulating evapotranspiration, deep percolation and runoff accounting for crop specificities, pedo-climatic conditions and agricultural managements. For herbaceous crops, the FAO Aquacrop model constitutes a relevant and operational model, but no dedicated model is available to-date for perennials. To fill this gap, a tailored and simple model, so called E.T., was elaborated for the inventory of field water and salt flows for annual and perennial crops. The model combines daily water and salts balances, accounting for soil, climate, agricultural practices and possible crop water and salinity stresses. A first testing of the E.T. model demonstrated its discriminating power for agricultural practices and its robustness. Its validity domain can be extended and its accuracy increased thanks to the recommendations provided. E.T. was also tested in the LCA of a Mandarin grown in Morocco. For most impact categories, electricity use for irrigation was the main contributor revealing a water-energy nexus. Water use had a major contribution to damages for all areas of protection. Overall, to further improve the assessment of impacts due to water use (including salinization impacts) we recommend using a more mechanistic and hydrological approach. (Résumé d'auteur)

Mots-clés : stress osmotique; pratique culturale; hydrologie; conservation de l'eau; besoin en eau; impact sur l'environnement; analyse du cycle de vie; salinité du sol; irrigation; agriculture intensive; agroécologie; maroc

Thématique : Conservation de la nature et ressources foncières; Chimie et physique du sol; Irrigation; Ressources en eau et leur gestion

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