Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Comparative environmental impact assessments of green food certified cucumber and conventional cucumber cultivation in China

  • Fang Wang (a1), Yuexian Liu (a1), Xihui Ouyang (a2), Jianqiang Hao (a2) and Xiaosong Yang (a1)...

The need to ensure food safety has been recognized in China and the ‘Green Food’ system is used to restrict the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in its certified products. There has been limited study of the environmental impacts associated with the production of green food certified (GFC) products in China. In this study, life cycle assessment was used to evaluate environmental impacts of GFC cucumber cultivated under a greenhouse system in the suburbs of Beijing relative to conventional cultivation (CON), with the aim of identifying the key areas of potential environmental burden in cucumber cultivation. Eight environmental impact categories are considered, including global warming potential, energy depletion (ED), water depletion, acidification potential, aquatic eutrophication (AEU), human toxicity (HT), aquatic eco-toxicity (AET) and soil eco-toxicity (SET). Results showed that the environmental index of the GFC cucumber system was higher than that of the CON cucumber system. SET, EU and ED were identified as the main potential environmental impacts in cucumber systems, largely caused by fertilizer use on the farm. The potentials of HT and AET in GFC cucumber were lower than those in the CON system, mainly due to the reduced use of chemical pesticides. The agricultural input of plastics was the main contributor to energy depletion in both cucumber cultivation systems. Potential approaches to mitigate the environmental impacts of cucumber cultivation include increasing the fertilizer use efficiency, avoiding use of animal manure with high heavy metal content and recycling of plastics under the GFC cultivation system.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author:
Hide All
AtafarZ., MesdaghiniaA., and NouriJ. 2010. Effect of fertilizer application on soil heavy metal concentration. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 160:8389.
BaiL.Y., ZhengX.B., LiL.F., PenC., and LiS.H. 2010. Effects of land use on heavy metal accumulation in soils and source analysis. Scientia Agriculture Sinica 43(1):96104.
BaumannH. and TillmanA.M. 2004. The Hitch Hiker's guide to LCA. In: An Orientation in Life Cycle Assessment Methodology and Application. Studentlitteratur, Lund, 543 p. ISBN 9144023642.
BiswasW.K., GrahamJ., KerryK., and JohnM.B. 2010. Global warming contributions from wheat, sheep meat and wool production in Victoria, Australia—a life cycle assessment. Journal of Cleaner Production 18(14):13861392.
CelluraM., LongoS. and MistrettaM. 2012. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of protected crops: An Italian case study. Journal of Cleaner Production 28, 5662.
ChenL.H., NiW.Z., LiX.L., and SunJ.B. 2009. Investigation of heavy metal concentrations in commercial fertilizers commonly-used. Journal of Zhejiang Sci-Tech University 26(2): 2630.
Chinese Green Food Development Center, CGFDC 2015. The status of Green food certified products development in China. Available at Web site
DuanN. 2007. Fertilizer Enterprise Cleaner Production Audit Guidelines. Xinhua Press, Beijing, p. 3340.
EricksonJ.E., CisarJ.L., VolinJ.C., and SnyderG.H. 2001. Comparing nitrogen runoff and leaching between newly established St. Augustinegrass Turf and an alternative residential landscape. Crop Science 41:18891895.
FinnvedenG. and PottingJ. 1999. Eutrophication as an impact category. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 4(6):311.
FlessaH., RuserR., DorschP., KampT., JimenezM.A., MunchJ.C., and BeeseF. 2002. Integrated evaluation of GHG emissions (CO2, CH4, and N2O) from two farming systems in southern Germany. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 91, 175189.
GallowayJ.N., SchlesingerW.H., LevyH.I., MichaelsA., and SchnoorJ.L. 1995. Nitrogen fixation: Anthropogenic enhancement environmental response. Glob. Bio-geochem. Cycles 9:235252.
GuinéeJ.B., GorréeM., HeijungsR., HuppesG., KleijnR., de KoningA., WegenerSleeswijkA., SuhS., Udo des HeasH., BruijnH., DuinR.V., and HuijbregtsM.A.J. 2002. Handbook on the Life Cycle Assessment. Operational Guide to the IsoStandards. Book Series: Eco-efficiency in Industry and Science, Vol. 7. KluwerAcademic Publishers, Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
GündogmusE. 2006. Energy use on organic farming: A comparative analysis on organic versus conventional apricot production on small holdings in Turkey. Energy Conversion and Management 47(18–19), 33513359.
HauschildM. and WenzelH. 1998. Environmental assessment of products. In: M. Hauschild and H. Wenzel (eds). Scientific Background. Vol. 2. Chapman and Hall, London, p. 565.
HeX.Q., QiaoY.H., LiuY.X., DendlerL., YinC., and MartinF. 2016. Environmental Impact Assessment of Organic and Conventional Tomato Production in Urban Greenhouses of Beijing City, China. Journal of Cleaner Production, In Press.
HoeppnerJ.W., EntzM.H., McConkeyB.G., ZentnerR.P., and NagyC.N. 2006. Energy use and efficiency in two Canadian organic and conventional crop production systems. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 21, 6067.
HuangZ.P., XuB., ZhangK.Q., and YangX.C. 2007. Accumulation of heavy metals in the f our years ‘continual swine manure-applied greenhouse soils. Transactions of the CSAE 23(11):239244. (in Chinese with English abstract)
HuijbregtsM.A.J. 2008. Normalisation in product life cycle assessment: An LCA of the global and European economic systems in the year 2000. Science of the Total Environment 390:227240.
HuijbregtsM.A.J., ThissenU., GuineeJ.B., JagerT., KalfD., Van de MeentD., RagasA.M.J., WegenerS.A., and ReijndersL. 2000. Priority assessment of toxic substances in life cycle assessment. Part I: Calculation of toxicity potentials for 181 substances with the nested multi-media fate, exposure and effects model USESLCA. Chemosphere 41:541573.
JagerD.T. and VisserC.J.M. 1994. Uniform System for the Evaluation of Substances (USES). Version 1.0. Ministry of Housing, The Hague.
KaltsasA.M., MamolosA.P., TsatsarelisC.A., NanosG.D., and KalburtjiK.L. 2007. Energy budget in organic and conventional olive groves. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 122(2):243251.
KnudsenM.T., Yu-HuiQ., YanL., and HalbergN. 2010. Environmental assessment of organic soybean (Glycine max.) imported from China to Denmark: A case study. Journal of Cleaner Production 18:14311439.
IPCC 2014. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
LiangL. 2009. Environmental Impact Assessment of Circular Agriculture Based on Life Cycle Assessment: Methods and Case Studies. China Agricultural University Press, Beijing, p. 1639.
LiuY., LangerV., Høgh-JensenH., and EgelyngH. 2010. Energy use in organic, green and conventional pear producing systems– Cases from China. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 34(6):630646.
LuW. 2005. Trade and Environment Dimensions in the Food and Food Processing Industries in Asia and the Pacific, A Country Case Study of China. Department of Agricultural Economics, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou.
LuS.C., ChenQ., ZhangF.S., and JiaW.Z. 2008. Analysis of nitrogen input and soil nitrogen load in orchards of Hebei province. Plant Nutrition and Fertilizer Science 14(5):858865.
MarigniM., RossierD., CrettazP., and JollietO. 2002. Life cycle impact assessment of pesticides on human health and ecosystems. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 93:379392.
McPharlinI.R., AylmoreP.M., and JefferyR.C. 1995. Nitrogen requirements of lettuce under sprinkler irrigation and trickle fertigation on a Spear wood sand. Journal of Plant Nutrition 18:219241.
Milà i CanalsL., BurnipG.M., and CowellS.J. 2006. Evaluation of the environmental impacts of apple production using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): Case study inNew Zealand. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 114:226238.
Ministry of Agriculture 2013. Green Food-Fertilizer application guideline. (NY/T 394-2013), China Standards Press, Beijing.
OlesenJ.E., ScheldeK., WeiskeA., WeisbjergM.R., AsmanW.A.H., and DjurhuusJ. 2006. Modelling greenhouse gas emissions from European conventional and organic dairy farms. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 112:200220.
PanX., ChenL.K., BuY.Q., et al. 2012. Effects of livestock manure on distribution of heavy metals and antibiotics in soil profiles of typical vegetable fields and orchards. Journal of Ecology and Rural Environment 28(5):518525.
PaullJ. 2008. The greening of China's food-Green Food, Organic Food, and Eco-labelling. Sustainable Consumption and Alternative Agri-Food Systems Conference. Liege University, Arlon, Belgium, p. 114.
PimentelD., BerardiG., and FaseS. 1983. Energy efficiency of farming systems: Organic and conventional agriculture. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 9(4):359372.
PowerJ.F. and SchepersJ.S. 1989. Nitrate contamination of groundwater in North America. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 26(3–4):165187.
RuS.H., ZhangG.Y., SunS.Y., WangL., and GengN. 2006. Characteristics and regularity of heavy metals Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd accumulation in different vegetables [J]. Acta Agriculturae Boreali-Sinica, 14691473.
SandersR. 2006. Organic agriculture in China: Do property rights matter? Journal of Comtemporary China 15(46):113132.
ScottS., SiZ., SchumilasT., and ChenA. 2014. Contradictions in state- and civil society-driven developments in China's ecological agriculture sector. Food Policy 45:158166.
The National Agricultural Technology Extension Service Center 1999. China organic fertilizer nutrients [M]. Agricultural Press, Beijing, China. p. 24200.
TorrellasM., AntónA., LópezJ.C., BaezaE.J., ParraJ.P., MunozP., and MonteroJ.I. 2012. LCA of a tomato crop in a multi-tunnel greenhouse in Almeria. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 17:863875.
Van CalkerK.J., BerentsenP.B.M., de BoerI.M.J., GiesenG.W.J., and HuirneR.B.M. 2004. An LP-model to analyze economic and ecological sustainability on Dutch dairy farms: Model presentation and application for experimental farm “de Marke”. Agricultural Systems 82:139160.
WangM. and LiS.T. 2014. Heavy metals in fertilizers and effect of the fertilization on heavy metal accumulation in soils and crops. Plant Nutrition and Fertilizer Science (2):466480.
WangM.X., WuW.L., LiuW.N., and BaoY.H. 2007. Life cycle assessment of the winter wheat-summer maize production system on the North China Plain. International Journal of Sustainable World 14:400407.
YanF., ZouZ.R., DongJ., LiJ., ZhangZ.X., and WangY. 2009. Effects of different fertilization treatment on yield and quality of cucumber in plastics greenhouse. Acta Agriculture Boreali-occidentalis Sinica 18(5):272275, 289.
YangJ.S. 2006. Economic Studies on the Production and Consumption of Safe Vegetables. China Agricultural Press, Beijing (in Chinese, An Quan Shu Cai Sheng Chan Yu Xiao Fei De Jing Ji Xue Yang Jiu).
YuX. 2012. Productivity, efficiency and structural problems in Chinese dairy farmers. China Agriculture Economic Review 4(2):168175.
YuJ.X., LiuY.F., ZhongX.L., and YaoJ. 2009. Evaluation method of eutrophication in Poyang Lake and its leading factors. Acta Agriculture Jiangxi 21(4):25128.
YuX.H., GaoZ.F., and ZengY.C. 2014. Willing to pay for the “Green Food” in China. Food Policy 45:8087.
ZhangW.L., TianZ.X., ZhangN., and LiX.Q. 1995. Investigation of nitrate pollution in ground water due to nitrogen fertilization in agricultural in North China. Plant Nutrition and Fertilizer Science 1(2):8087.
ZhangW.L., TianZ.X., ZhangN., and LiX.Q. 1996. Nitrate pollution of groundwater in northern China. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 59:223.
ZhangY.S., LuanS.J., ChenL.L., and ShaoM. 2011. Estimating the volatilization of ammonia from synthetic nitrogenous fertilizers used in China. Journal of Environmental Management 92(2011):480493.
ZhangL.D., GaoL.H., ZhangL.X., WangS.Z., SuiX.L., and ZhangZ.X. 2012. Alternate furrow irrigation and nitrogen level effects on migration of water and nitrate-nitrogen in soil and root growth of cucumber in solar-greenhouse. Scientia Horticulture 138:4349.
ZouG.Y., YangZ.Y., TaoA.Z., and WangM.J. 2004. Study on nutrient uptake by different vegetable crops with high input of organic fertilizer. Southwest China Journal of Agricultural Sciences 17:227229.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
  • ISSN: 1742-1705
  • EISSN: 1742-1713
  • URL: /core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 8 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 58 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 29th May 2017 - 22nd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.