Assessing agricultural soil acidification and nutrient management in life cycle assessment
- 678 Downloads
This paper describes part of the first detailed environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) of Australian red meat (beef and sheep meat) production. The study was intended to assist the methodological development of life cycle impact assessment by examining the feasibility of new indicators for natural resource management (NRM) issues relevant to soil management in agricultural LCA. This paper is intended to describe the NRM indicators directly related to agricultural soil chemistry.
Materials and methods
Three nutrient management indicators—nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) balances—were estimated on the basis of 1 kg of hot standard carcass weight (HSCW) for three grazing properties in Australia. We also examined a soil acidification indicator based on the effects of agricultural practices.
Results and discussion
The N balance for the grazing properties varied from a loss of 28 g N/kg HSCW to an accumulation of 170 g N/kg HSCW. For comparison, the N content of cattle is about 24 g/kg liveweight. The main contributors to these changes were the growth of N-fixing pastures (or lack thereof) and the application of fertilisers. The P and the K balances showed similar results, varying from a 3.9-g loss to a 19-g accumulation of P and a 4-g loss to a 95-g accumulation of K per kilogram HSCW. Decisions about pasture management were also reflected in the results of the soil acidification indicator. We also identified that soil erosion at the grazing properties is a significant component of nutrient losses.
The results suggest that reducing the leaching of soil N might be the best way to balance the N budget without causing acidification. The NRM indicators developed can be benchmarked against other production systems as the application of these indicators progresses.
KeywordsLCA Nutrient management Red meat Soil acidification potential
This research was funded by Meat and Livestock Australia.
- CNMSP (2007) Mass nutrient balance calculator instructions. Cornell University, Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program, NYGoogle Scholar
- Dear BS, Cocks PS, Peoples MB, Swan AD, Smith AB (1999) Nitrogen fixation by subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) growing in pure culture and in mixtures with varying densities of lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) or phalaris (Phalaris aquatica L.). Aust J Soil Res 50:1047–1058Google Scholar
- DPI&F (2003) Beefbal, a nutrient balance model for beef cattle feedlots. Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Toowoomba, QueenslandGoogle Scholar
- Helyar K (1976) Nitrogen cycling and soil acidification. J Aust Inst Agric Sci 42:217–221Google Scholar
- Hilder E (1964) The distribution of plant nutrients by sheep at pasture. Proc Aust Soc Anim Prod 5:241–247Google Scholar
- Incitec Pivot (2005a). Nitrogen Factsheet. from http://www.incitec.com/FertFacts.asp accessed Nov 2009
- Incitec Pivot (2005b). Phosphorus Factsheet. from http://www.incitec.com/FertFacts.asp accessed Nov 2009
- Incitec Pivot (2005c). Potassium Factsheet. from http://www.incitec.com/FertFacts.asp accessed Nov 2009
- Lundie S, Feitz AJ, Changsirivathanathamrong A, Jones M, Dennien G, Morian M (2003) Evaluation of the environmental performance of the Australian Dairy Processing Industry using Life Cycle Assessment. Centre for Water and Waste Technology, The University of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
- Lundie S, Peters G, Ashbolt N, Lai E, Livingston D (2006) A sustainability framework for the Australian water industry. Water 33(7):83–88Google Scholar
- McKenzie FR, Jacobs J, Riffkin P, Kearney G, McCaskill M (2003) Long-term effects of multiple applications of nitrogen fertiliser on grazed dryland perennial ryegrass/white clover dairy pastures in south-west Victoria. 1. Nitrogen fixation by white clover. Aust J Agric Res 54:461–469CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- MLA (2010) About the red meat industry. Retrieved July, 2010, from http://www.mla.com.au/About-the-red-meat-industry/Industry-overview accessed Nov 2009
- Moody P (2005). Soil Acidity. Queensland Branch, Australian Society of Soil Science IncorporatedGoogle Scholar
- NLWRA (2001) Australian Agriculture Assessment 2001, Volume 1, Theme report for the National Land and Water Resources Audit. National Land and Water Resources Audit, CanberraGoogle Scholar
- Nutri-tech (2006) Humates. Retrieved 18 October, 2006, from http://www.nutri-tech.com.au/products/humates.htm. Accessed Nov 2008
- Paerl H (2008). Nutrient and other environmental controls of harmful cyanobacterial blooms along the freshwater-marine continuum. Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms: State of the Science Research Needs Series: Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology K. H. Hudnell. 619:217–237Google Scholar
- QDPI&F (2005) BEEFBAL—A Nutrient Mass Balance Model for Beef Cattle Feedlots. Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane, QueenslandGoogle Scholar
- Schoenau J (2005). Impacts of Repeated Manure Additions on Soil Quality. Proc Farm Tech:95–100Google Scholar
- Williams AG, Audsley E, Sandars DL (2006) Determining the environmental burden and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. Main Report. Cranfield University and Defra, BedfordGoogle Scholar