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Impact of organic pig production systems on CO2 emission, C sequestration and nitrate pollution

Halberg, Niels; Hermansen, John E.; Kristensen, Ib Sillebak; Eriksen, Jørgen; Tvedegaard, Niels and Petersen, Bjørn Molt (2010) Impact of organic pig production systems on CO2 emission, C sequestration and nitrate pollution. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 30 (4), pp. 721-731.

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Organic rules for grazing and access to outdoor area in pig production may be met in different ways, which express compromises between considerations for animal welfare, feed self-reliance and negative environmental impact such as greeehouse gas emissions and nitrate pollution. This article compares environmental impact of the main organic pig systems in Denmark. Normally sows are kept in huts on grassland and finishing pigs are being raised in stables with access to an outdoor run. One alternative practised is rearing also the fattening pigs on grassland all year round. The third method investigated was a one-unit pen system mainly consisting of a deep litter area under a climate tent and with restricted access to a grazing area. Using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology, the emissions of greenhouse gasses of the all free range system was estimated to be 3.3 kg CO2-equivalents kg-1 liveweight pig, which was significantly higher than the indoor fattening system and the tent system yeilding 2.9 and 2.8 kg CO2-eq. kg-1 pig respectively. This was 7-22% higher compared with Danish conventional pig production but, due to the integration of grass-clover in the organic crop rotations these had an estimated net soil carbon sequestration. When carbon sequestration was included in the LCA then the organic systems had lower green house gas emissions compared with the conventional pig production. Eutrophication in nitrate equivalents per kg pig was 21-65% higher in the organic pig systems and acidification was 35-45% higher per kg organic pig compared with the conventional system. We conclude that even though the all free range system theoretically has agro-ecological advantages over the indoor fattening system and the tent system due to a larger grass-clover area this potential is difficult to implement in practice due to problems with leaching on sandy soil. Only if forage can contribute a larger proportion of the pigfeed-uptake may the free range system be economically and environmentally competitive. Improvement of nitrogen cycling and efficiency is the most important factor for reducing the overall environmental load from organic pig meat. Presently a system with pig fattening in stables and concrete covered outdoor runs seems to be the best solution from an environmental point of view.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Agroecology, Life cycle assessment, Nutrient losses, Organic, Pig production
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Pigs
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF II (2000-2005) > II. 9 (PIGSYS) New systems in organic pig production
Denmark > AU - Aarhus University > AU, DJF - Faculty of Agricultural Sciences
Denmark > ICROFS - International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems
Deposited By: Hansen, Grethe
ID Code:16754
Deposited On:11 Feb 2010 09:01
Last Modified:11 Apr 2013 13:14
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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