Chair on Life Cycle and Climate Change of the Universitat Pompeu i Fabra, has been carried out.
This analysis has focused on the agricultural production of fruit trees, while subsequent stages such as fruit distribution, sales, consumption and/or waste management are outside the boundaries of the system under study. Following ISO 14044, the life cycle inventory is the phase of an LCA in which all inputs and outputs associated with a given system throughout its life cycle are collected and quantified. In this study, the inventory is carried out in two stages: the production of the crop protection products and their use in the cultivation of fruit trees.
The production of the biopesticide has a better environmental performance than conventional crop protection products: In terms of climate change impact, the production of 1 kg of the formulation emits 0.9 kg CO2eq, while the manufacture of a conventional fungicide and insecticide emits 12.5 and 13.7 kgCO2eq, respectively. In the case of the fungicide, electricity consumption is the largest contributor (58.6% of the impact), using 43.7 MJ of electricity for the production of the plant protection product, followed by natural gas (34.8%), which consumes 47.6 MJ per kg of product. The same is true for insecticide production, where 50.4 MJ of electricity and 47.7MJ of natural gas are consumed for the production of 1 kg; thus contributing 62% and 32.1% to emissions, respectively. However, in the case of the biopesticide, only 5.15MJ per kg of product is consumed.
From the point of view of energy consumption in production, electricity is also the largest contributor to the human toxicity impact (31%), followed by emulsifier (16%), natural gas consumption (11%) and light fuel oil (7%). In the case of insecticide, similar contributions are found: electricity (35%), emulsifier (16%) and natural gas (10%). In contrast, the emulsifier is the largest contributor to the ecotoxicity impact on freshwater; contributing 71% for both conventional crop protection products.
In summary, life cycle analysis data show that biopesticides have a lower carbon footprint than conventional products (lower GHG emissions expressed as kg CO2/kg of biopesticide). The lower energy consumption in manufacturing is also notable, which not only makes them an alternative with a better environmental impact, but also a more resilient product in the face of industrial-scale energy input prices. Based on these data, it would be possible to extrapolate the GHG emissions savings per unit of product, and from the estimated consumption per hectare and year for the plots (available in the indicators collected), it would be possible to obtain in the coming years the exact figure of kgCo2eq avoided in the different scopes thanks to the use of this product, achieving greater transparency and better positioning of the product.
The analysis of the environmental sustainability of the farms was carried out from two points of view: the effects on climate change, and environmental performance, understood as the synergy of the use of biopreparations with other management strategies that support biodiversity. To this end, 4 pilot plots with stone fruit trees were considered, two under treatment with biopreparations and two controls outside the trial in the vicinity of the Sinyent Experimental Farm.
For the estimation of the impact on climate change, calculations of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks based on inputs, field operations and management system have been carried out using the ACC Tool and with complementary calculations using the Cool Farm Tool.
At farm level, although the use of biopesticides leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, this is a very small amount and would require a more exhaustive and controlled study to be able to clearly demonstrate that the use of biopreparations is a sufficient mitigation strategy when taking into account emissions in the field. In particular, it would be necessary to know the optimal number of treatments in different production systems and crops in order to provide a figure on mitigation per kg of fruit produced. The analysis of the production mode shows that, additionally, the use of these products is compatible with other mitigation and sequestration strategies, notably the use of ecological infrastructures (green roofs, hedges, etc.). Therefore, in the coming years, the adoption of this product would have a positive effect from the point of view of climate change mitigation.
In turn, the ACCT analysis shows great room for improvement in the performance of the farms with regard to climate change mitigation. Firstly, the nitrogen balance of all farms shows a large amount of nitrogen leaching, especially on plot GLO-01. In fact, the amount of mineral fertiliser applied is one of the hot spots of emissions. Reducing its application, through organic fertilisation, would be a substantial improvement. However, the ACCT tool does not take into account whether fertiliser is applied in a time-spread and/or fertigation manner. As a consequence, estimates of GHG emissions dependent on N2O volatilisation may be overestimated. Nitrogen fixation by leguminous plants in cover crops is also imprecise.
From the point of view of environmental performance, the results of the BPT tool show that the plots have a great capacity for improvement in terms of preserving biodiversity. The Sinyent farm trial serves as an example of more technified agronomic management based on integrated production, compatible with the use of biopreparations. In general, practices of interest have been identified, such as the high number of varieties and preservation of rare varieties, the presence of vegetation that maintains a long duration and abundance of flowering. The application of integrated pest management systems. follow-up and monitoring of pests and biodiversity, the use of varietal selection with disease resistance, the management of riparian zones of water bodies, the use of organic matter (shredded pruning remains) as mulch for the alleys to protect them in periods sensitive to erosion, the use of preventive cultural measures for the treatment of pests and diseases and follow-up, the establishment of herbaceous strips on the margins, measures to improve the efficiency of water consumption.
In general, the biopreparations used were found to be compatible with semi-natural habitat management, ecological infrastructure and pest monitoring. This farm and the results can serve as a basis for the technical transfer of the use of biopesticides in the field.
In order to evaluate the effect of the products on the biodiversity of entomofauna, comparing it with other control plots with integrated pest management, a trial was carried out with three formulations obtained from agro-industrial process residues in the cultivation of stone fruit trees (nectarines and flat peaches) in 4 plots located in the towns of Sollana and Polinyà del Xúquer, corresponding to the control plots (without application of treatments) and the pilot plots of AVA-ASAJA's Sinyent Estate. In the plots of the Sinyent estate, the three products were tested, leaving a control area (with integrated pest management), repeated in both plots. Of the two plots in Sollana, one was treated with the products (over the whole area) and the other was left as a control, following integrated management over the whole area. The trial was carried out by the external assistance of the Department of Forest Agrosystems of the Polytechnic University of Valencia.
In peach/nectarine cultivation, it is normal to carry out one treatment in winter, when the tree is at a standstill, and 3 or 4 during the vegetative period until June. In order to be able to evaluate the effect of changing the phytosanitary formulations, sampling should be carried out especially at the times when they are applied. On the other hand, in winter, arthropod populations are very low, most of them being dormant or hibernating. Therefore, sampling was carried out at the time of peak activity of the arthropods, coinciding with the periods of application (when possible), when the effect of the treatment on the arthropods could be seen. Four annual samplings will be carried out between March and October, but no sampling was carried out when the tree is leafless.
During the 3 years of the trial, yellow and blue sticky traps were used as sampling methods and remained in the field for 4 weeks, except for the last one which remained for one week. Aspirations on the leaves of the trees and another aspiration on the spontaneous flora of the plot were also carried out.
The results show that, in general, the factor that seems to influence arthropod biodiversity the most is the environment, rather than the application of the products. This means that biopesticides could not be shown to have a greater impact on useful biodiversity than conventional pesticides, but did not achieve a significant enhancement of arthropod populations.
Nevertheless, the impact on biodiversity of the tested products was assessed with satisfactory results. The differences observed between the theses are small, and only in the canopy aspirations and pollinator richness are large differences observed in favour of the tested product. It can be suspected that the greater abundance of pollinators in the Sinyent plots may be due to the presence of a greater, and more diverse, plant cover in the inter-rows.
Likewise, the richness of arthropods, both in those captured in yellow, blue and aspiration traps, shows no differences between the product and control theses, so that the products do not seem to have a negative effect on biodiversity in any of the functional groups studied. In particular, the products seem to affect the abundance of phytophagous and parasitoid species present, allowing a greater development of their populations. The increase in the number of parasitoids could favour their biological control.
The status of the developed formulations at the socio-economic level was studied through the "Survey of perception of different sectors on opportunities of biopesticides in agriculture" and the collection of key indicators from internal sources of the project partners. The main obstacles to the acceptance and popularisation of biopesticides are to be studied through the "Survey of perception of different sectors on opportunities of biopesticides in agriculture", which aims to reveal the factors that condition the limited diffusion and use of biopesticides.
The monitoring results show the availability of materials and ease of replenishment of stocks, as well as affordable costs, supply and storage times ensure that production can be stable and scalable, without logistical obstacles. Especially in view of the large area of eucalyptus in Spain and the abundance of alperujo (with significant waste management costs), which anticipates the availability of raw materials in the near future. When these costs are converted to costs per ha for one year's treatment needs, the mill cost maintains acceptable ranges. This allows both a commercial profit for the manufacturer and a competitive price for the user. On the other hand, we find as temporary obstacles for the product the need to wait the period until the registration of the product becomes effective.
The projection of this product, already validated from an agronomic point of view for stone fruit trees, is therefore positive. It is estimated that there is a potential of 99,864.7 ha including stone fruit crops across Europe. In the very short term, it is estimated that a base of more than 200 growers and 20 traders can be involved. However, these products have phytosanitary potential beyond stone fruit.
It is important to note that these products do not involve higher treatment costs than current conventional practices, nor do they require additional machinery or precautions. Therefore, there are no obstacles from an equipment point of view. From the point of view of employment generation, the collection requires 20 people, and each 2000 L of formulated product requires one day of employee work. The profiles involved include operators, and chemical and agronomist technicians. In this way, unskilled and skilled labour is encouraged, even without knowing details about the quality of this employment (type of income, seasonality, working conditions) and its social impact across different population segments (youth, women, rural population, other vulnerable population, etc.). However, it is not possible to give a precise estimate from the available external statistics of how many jobs this economic activity can create from the volume of work it is expected to generate, nor whether these jobs would have an impact on the local economy. Overall, the lack of own indicators or concise external statistics on the amount of employment and its characteristics of feminisation and equality, age groups, impact on the local economy and influence on rural development of the biopreparations production sector (or similar chemical industries such as fertiliser production) does not allow us to advance the analysis.
From the point of view of acceptance and perception of users (technicians and farmers), there are opportunities for the next 5 years, but it is important to take into account the obstacles detected in the surveys carried out. Although farmers and technicians are familiar, especially in intensive farming contexts, only 54% of the respondents have used or recommend using these products, but more than 87% of them express a positive assessment.
Usually, the alleged lower effectiveness is the main brake, followed by the lack of information, including the exchange of technical knowledge. Professional transfer, demonstration experiences and technical dissemination should therefore be included in the roadmap for the coming years to ensure the positive impact of these products. In turn, these actions could address one of the main rejection issues: farmers' expectations for shock products, however, within the constraints. All in all, considering the potential for adoption by farmers, the legislative context and the stability of the production chain for these products and the market demand for sustainable products, the socio-economic assessment of biopesticides is positive, and is in line with the needs of the immediate years ahead.