Olive growing is an important cultural and traditional system in the Mediterranean region that has considerable environmental impacts. Italy is ranked second in the world in terms of olive production and olive-cultivated area. Apulia is Italy’s largest olive growing region and accounts for 33% of the total Italian surface area planted to olive trees. Organic farming is assumed to have beneficial effects by reducing the environmental impacts of agricultural practices. However, literature shows that this system is not always less harmful to the environment than the conventional one. This study investigates this hypothesis through the comparison of environmental impacts and economic performances between organic and conventional olive systems in Apulia region. It also provides options to optimize the agricultural practices that could contribute to the reduction of the environmental impacts. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was applied to evaluate the environmental impacts, and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) was utilized to assess the economic performance of the studied systems referring to one hectare as functional unit and to a system boundary limited to olive production (cradle-to-farm gate). Results showed a lower environmental impact of agricultural practices in the organic system, mainly due to the higher efficiency in reducing the impact on fossil fuel depletion. Moreover, the organic system resulted to have higher Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return values that indicate its higher profitability as compared to the conventional system. Optimization of fertilization is the first priority to optimize olive growing, particularly in the organic system, since manure fertilization results in higher costs and higher environmental impact on almost all impact categories compared to synthetic foliar fertilization. Good agricultural practices with electrically-driven irrigation system, mechanical weeding and biological pest control, no-tillage or reduced tillage can be considered as further optimization options to mitigate environmental burdens and reduce their costs.
Ente che ha curato la pubblicazione
Ramez Saeid Mohamad, Vincenzo Verrastro, Gianluigi Cardone, Marie Reine Bteich, Mariafara Favia, Michele Moretti, Rocco Roma