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Environmental impacts management of grain and sweet maize through life cycle assessment in São Paulo, Brazil

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Maize is the second most produced food commodity in the world. Brazil is the world’s third largest producer of maize, and the state of São Paulo is one of the major maize producers in Brazil. This study uses life cycle assessment to quantify and compare the environmental impacts to produce one ton of grain and sweet maize in the southwest of São Paulo state, from cradle-to-storage at seaport boundaries. The life cycle inventory was elaborated for the 2016–2017 harvest season. Environmental impacts were assessed using the CML 2015 impact assessment method. Three other methods were tested in sensitivity analysis. Results showed impacts of 203 kg CO2 eq. for global warming, 0.55 kg SO2 eq. for acidification, 0.53 kg PO4 eq. for eutrophication, 1197 MJ for abiotic depletion, and 962 kg DCB eq. for freshwater ecotoxicity, per ton of grain maize. A comparison of grain with sweet maize showed that the latter had lower environmental impacts if consumed at São Paulo megacity. Improvements are necessary for the systems and can be achieved by minimizing or substituting the most impactful flows (i.e., hotspots), which were fertilizers (for global warming and eutrophication), pesticides (for freshwater ecotoxicity), and transport activities (for abiotic depletion and acidification). Sensitivity analysis showed that a reduction of 20% in the transport process affected most the results. Transport activities can thus be an important opportunity to improve the environmental impacts of these systems and are also an incentive for producers to explore local market.

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The data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files. Others generated data analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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The authors wish to thank all who assisted in conducting this work.


Authors thank for the financial support: CNPQ financial number 302722/2019-0; São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP—Grant Number 2019/03287-5); and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior—Brasil (CAPES) Finance Code 001.

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GG contributed to conceptualization, methodology, formal analysis, investigation, data curation, writing—original draft, visualization, and project administration; GFA contributed to conceptualization, methodology, writing—review and editing, and supervision; MJFA contributed to methodology, formal analysis, investigation, and writing—original draft; LSG contributed to methodology, formal analysis, investigation, and writing—original draft; MTK performed validation and writing—review and editing; SND contributed to methodology, validation, and writing—review and editing; DALS contributed to methodology, validation, resources, writing—review and editing, and supervision.

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Correspondence to G. Giusti.

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The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

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Editorial responsibility: Babatunde Femi Bakare.

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Giusti, G., Almeida, G.F., Apresentação, M.J.F. et al. Environmental impacts management of grain and sweet maize through life cycle assessment in São Paulo, Brazil. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. 20, 6559–6574 (2023).

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