Of all human activities, agriculture has one of the highest environmental impacts, particularly related to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, energy use and land use change. Soybean and maize are two of the most commercialized agricultural commodities worldwide. Argentina contributes significantly to this trade, being the third major producer of soybeans, the first exporter of soymeal and soybean oil, and the third exporter of maize. Despite the economic importance of these crops and the products derived, there are very few studies regarding GHG emissions, energy use and efficiencies associated to Argentinean soybean and maize production. Therefore, the aim of this work is to determine the carbon and energy footprint, as well as the carbon and energy efficiencies, of soybeans and maize produced in Argentina, by analyzing 18 agronomic zones covering an agricultural area of 1.53millionkm2. Our results show that, for both crops, the GHG and energy efficiencies at the Pampean region were significantly higher than those at the extra-Pampean region. The national average for production of soybeans in Argentina results in 6.06ton/ton CO2-eq emitted to the atmosphere, while 0.887ton of soybean were produced per GJ of energy used; and for maize 5.01ton/ton CO2-eq emitted to the atmosphere and 0.740ton of maize were produced per each GJ of energy used. We found that the large differences on yields, GHGs and energy efficiencies between agronomic regions for soybean and maize crop production are mainly driven by climate, particularly mean annual precipitation. This study contributes for the first time to understand the carbon and energy footprint of soybean and maize production throughout several agronomic zones in Argentina. The significant differences found in the productive efficiencies questions on the environmental viability of expanding the agricultural frontier to less suitable lands for crop production.
Science of the Total Environment – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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