Expansion of the Land Suitability Rating System Model for Pulse Crops to Enable LCA of Alternative Agricultural Land Use Scenarios in Canada

Main Presenter: Nicole Bamber 

Co-Authors: Pierre-Yves Gasser Mitchell Krafczek Tim Martin Nathan Pelletier

Food systems are responsible for significant anthropogenic terrestrial land use [1], nitrogen pollution [2] and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions [3]. This leaves little room for expansion of the current methods and distribution of food production. It is therefore imperative to improve the environmental sustainability, and production efficiency of food systems. In Canada, field crops make up a significant portion of the agricultural sector, accounting for more than half the agricultural land use [4]. There is room for improvement in the current allocations of Canadian agricultural lands to grow different field crops, due to variability in yields and environmental impacts. Pulses are nitrogen-fixing legume crops which may serve to improve the environmental sustainability of the Canadian food system. Therefore, the benefits of increasing land use for pulse cultivation should be assessed using LCA scenario modelling. However, different crop types cannot simply be substituted in all agricultural soils because different areas are better suited to specific types of crops due to climate, soil, and landscape factors [5]. These factors must be considered when designing alternative patterns of agricultural land use, and life cycle assessments (LCA) to assess their sustainability. On this basis, the Land Suitability Rating System (LSRS) was developed for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) [5]. This model ranks the suitability of agricultural lands for specific crops based on the agronomic requirements of the crops. However, the LSRS does not currently include a pulse model.

The purpose of this study is to expand the LSRS to include factors for pulses, which can be used to conduct LCAs of agricultural land use scenarios in Canada that include expansion of the current pulse-growing regions. Data on the agronomic requirements of pulse crops (dry peas, dry beans, faba beans, and chickpeas) were collected from an expert stakeholder panel made up of members from provincial pulse growers’ associations, government, and academia. Based on this information, the LSRS model was expanded to include pulse-specific rating systems. These can be used to assess the feasibility of LCA scenarios in which pulses are grown in regions of Canada where other crops are currently grown, in order to assess the environmental impacts of these scenarios. The updated LSRS model will also be made publicly available by AAFC in order to facilitate further research on the suitability of agricultural lands for pulses, which can be used for a variety of sustainability, policy, and education
purposes.

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