SLU news

Hard to calculate carbon footprint of different production systems

Published: 07 September 2011

Organic roughage production has low greenhouse gas emissions, lower than for conventional roughage. But besides this, it is difficult to find clear differences between organic and conventional production.

According to a study conducted by SIK – the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology designed to analyze greenhouse gas emissions from organic agricultural products, a high proportion of high quality roughage in the feeding of ruminants has benefits not only for the climate but also for other environmental effects such as nitrogen leaching.

The large number of studies on milk production as a whole, however, shows that the emission of greenhouse gases is the same per kg milk regardless of whether the production is organic or conventional.

An important conclusion of the study is that estimates of emissions from various production systems are affected by large uncertainties, making it difficult to generally comment on the differences between organic and conventional production. The difficulties include, for example, that the models for calculating the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide are uncertain, and that the variation between farms is great. Climate footprint of crop production to a large extent due to crop yield and nitrogen fertilization strategies.