A biologist names the most harmless vegetable crop for global warming

A biologist from RUDN University with Egyptian colleagues studied in detail the energy consumption of farms where vegetables are grown. The authors studied all the parameters that directly or indirectly contribute to global warming and named the safest culture from this point of view. The results are published in the journal Agronomy.

Newswise — Growing world population increasingly necessitates increasing the volume of agriculture. Farmers increase production – they plow more, fertilize, process. At the same time, each stage of the technological process leaves its mark on the environment. These include greenhouse gas emissions, electricity consumption and toxic waste. In the end, all these indicators add up and add up their negative contribution to global climate change. A biologist from RUDN University together with Egyptian colleagues analyzed the production of the main fruit crops according to all these indicators and named the safest vegetable in terms of environmental impact.

“Global climate change is becoming the most serious problem in the modern world. Agricultural activity is considered to be one of the main sources of greenhouse gases. Fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, manure and irrigation water are the main sources of greenhouse gases in agriculture. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand how energy is consumed and greenhouse gases are emitted during crop production,” said Meisam Zargar, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Agrobiotechnology at RUDN University.

Biologists explored an area in the arid zone of Sohag Governorate in southern Egypt. It is an agrarian region in which almost all the inhabitants are engaged in agriculture. The most popular crops grown here are potatoes, onions and tomatoes. RUDN biologists have collected the most comprehensive data on farms in the region. The authors took into account the processing system, fertilizers, use of chemicals, technology and other parameters. The biologists then calculated the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and the energy consumed.

According to the data obtained, growing potatoes requires the most energy. More than 110 gigajoules per hectare compared to 76 and 96 gigajoules for onions and tomatoes, respectively. However, potato production turned out to be the most harmless in terms of greenhouse gas emissions – “only” 76 kg of carbon dioxide. For tomato and onion, this figure is 10-12 times higher – 940 and 834 kg of carbon dioxide. The main source of greenhouse gases on agricultural land is emissions from machinery used to irrigate and cultivate fields. In second place come inorganic fertilizers and manure. According to the sum of all indicators, potato production leaves the weakest mark on the environment. Among the general recommendations made by the authors are reducing the use of chemicals and equipment and optimizing watering.

“Most of the energy comes from inorganic fertilizers. Reducing the consumption of fuel, chemical fertilizers and irrigation water are the most important means of improvement. It is also essential to control pests in such a way as to reduce the use of chemicals. Transitioning to modern irrigation methods instead of traditional ones will reduce water losses and increase water use efficiency,” Meisam Zargar, PhD, Associate Professor in the Agro-Biotechnology Department of the RUDN University.

Teresa H. Sadler