Assessing the environmental profile of orange production in Brazil
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Background, aim, and scope
Brazil is the world’s largest orange producing country, with a total planted area of more than 820,000 hectares. The bulk of the oranges produced in Brazil (70%) is processed into frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) by large processing companies. Exports represent around 97% of the total FCOJ produced, making Brazil the largest world producer and exporter of FCOJ. The Brazilian citrus sector accounts for half of the world’s supply of orange juice and for 80% of the juice traded on the international market. The goal of this study is to characterize the Brazilian orange producers in terms of farm size, cultivated varieties, watering system and tillage practices. In addition, the study presents some aspects of the LCI of oranges grown specifically for the production of FCOJ in the two major orange-growing areas in Brazil (the Northern and Southern regions of the State of São Paulo) during reference crop year 2002/03 in order to generate detailed production inventory data and identify the potential environmental impacts of tillage, both of which are key to enable the formulation of sustainability parameters for the production of FCOJ in Brazil.
This study was performed in compliance with the guidelines and requirements of the ISO 14040 standard series. All information and data considered and evaluated in this study (the use of water, energy, fertilizers, pesticides and soil correctors) were gathered through in-depth questionnaires either filled in directly by the farm manager or completed by the farm manager and sent in by mail. The data cover a total of 367,200 metric tons of oranges produced by 4 million plants in commercial production from a total evaluated area that accounts for 19.5% of the overall production of oranges in the State of São Paulo. The two major orange-producing areas in Brazil located respectively in the Northern and Southern regions of the State of São Paulo were evaluated. Only the inputs and outputs associated with tillage practices and technology were considered in this paper. The environmental aspects of the production of fertilizers and pesticides were not included within the boundaries. The functional unit selected for this study was 1,000 kg of oranges for FCOJ. Farm-specific data have been combined with agricultural production data to construct an orange cultivation model.
The orange varieties for the production of FCOJ evaluated in this study were Pêra, Valência and Natal. The farms investigated had a cultivated area varying from 22 to 7,000 ha, with a plant density ranging from 170 to 500 plants/ha and an average yield of 30,500 kg/ha for mature trees. Depending on the region, the production of 1,000 kg of oranges requires approx. 120 to 4,400 MJ of energy; 0.3 to 36 kg of diesel; 1,100 to 54,500 kg of water for irrigation; 0.3 to 65 kg of fertilizers (NPK); 0.1 to 13.5 kg of pesticides; 8 to 650 kg of soil correctors. The distribution of some inputs across the farms located in the two main Brazilian orange-producing regions is presented, in addition to the total weighted average.
In addition to the variations among the regions evaluated, it was generally observed that there were very considerable differences in order of magnitude between the data collected from farms located in the same region. Although the inputs are directly related to the specific characteristics of each farm and the climatic and topographic conditions of its location, this study has identified some farms that are in a good position to reduce the amounts of some inputs and enhance their environmental and economical performance.
Taking into account the aspects evaluated in this study, only 21% of the orange growers showed good performance, i.e., consumption of pesticides, fertilizers and soil correction compounds equal to or lower than the weighted averages, except for “land use”, which was above the average for the majority of these farms. This study provided important results that allow for a better understanding of the agricultural practices involved and the potential environmental impacts of this product.
Recommendation and perspective
The authors would like to suggest that the five best-performing farms average values be set as the maximum allowable level and point of departure for the discussion on the good environmental performance of Brazilian FCOJ. Besides the total inputs, the role of good agricultural practices to achieve good yields and, at the same time, improve the sustainability of orange growing should also be taken into consideration. Future updates of this study will show the evolution of natural resource management as a result of improved land use, new agricultural practices, reduced use of fertilizers and agrochemicals.
KeywordsAgricultural practices Brazil Frozen concentrated orange juice (FCOJ) LCI Orange Sustainability
The authors are grateful to FINEP (Research and Projects Financing), CNPq (National Board of Technologic and Scientific Development) and MCT (Brazilian Science and Technology Ministry) for the financial support and the fellowships granted. The authors would also like to thank all the people who contributed to this study by answering the questionnaire or for their useful comments during the development of this project.
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