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Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 983;

Life Cycle Assessment of a Highly Diverse Vegetable Multi-Cropping System in Fengqiu County, China

College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University College Cork, Distillery Fields, North Mall, T23 N73K Cork, Ireland
International Ecosystem Management Partnership, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100102, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 January 2018 / Revised: 21 March 2018 / Accepted: 26 March 2018 / Published: 27 March 2018
PDF [5998 KB, uploaded 3 May 2018]


Agricultural biodiversity usually leads to greater sustainability in production practices. To understand the environmental implications of the development of village-level multi-cropping in rural China, we compared the environmental impact of a highly diverse vegetable multi-cropping system to a conventional wheat/maize rotation system based on the method of life cycle assessment (LCA). Using household level cultivation data, this study examined the gate-to-gate environmental impacts of on-site cultivation practices relating to the production of 10,000 nutrient equivalent units. Results show that vegetable multi-cropping resulted in decreased average land requirement, and diesel, water and electricity usage by 69.8%, 62.2%, 71.7%, and 63.4%, respectively, while average nitrogen (Total N), phosphorus (P2O5), and potassium (K2O) usage in vegetable multi-cropping systems decreased by 16.3%, 42.1%, and 75.8%, respectively. Additional corresponding effects led to a decrease in the total global warming, eutrophication, and acidification potentials from external inputs by 21.6%, 16.7%, and 16.2% of the entire system, respectively. Moreover, the midpoint human toxicity potential from pesticide usage of the vegetable multi-cropping system was lower than that of the conventional system. However, the midpoint eco-toxicity potential from pesticide usage was higher due to certain highly toxic substances, and both human and eco-toxicity potentials from heavy metals were all higher by a few orders of magnitudes. Thus, to mitigate these detrimental consequences, some related measures are proposed for sustainable practices in the future implementation of multi-cropping systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: life cycle assessment; multi-cropping; nutrient equivalent; biodiversity; sustainable development life cycle assessment; multi-cropping; nutrient equivalent; biodiversity; sustainable development

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Li, L.; Wu, W.; Giller, P.; O’Halloran, J.; Liang, L.; Peng, P.; Zhao, G. Life Cycle Assessment of a Highly Diverse Vegetable Multi-Cropping System in Fengqiu County, China. Sustainability 2018, 10, 983.

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