April 9th – Down outside of Fresno to give a semi-formal talk for the Sustainable Cotton Project’s Almond Field Day. Touched the basics of agricultural LCA and some carbon footprint results for almond and other major energy crops. See the videos here or here. Thanks to Marcia Gibbs and Jenny MacDonald for making this opportunity available!
There was a lot of interest from growers about the recent media frenzy surrounding almond water use – we discussed the LCA implications and important points about the return on water use for perennial crop production.
Take home: we need to carefully consider what we (the good people of California, the grower, and the fruit and nut consumer) are getting for every gallon of water used – including land use benefits from carbon storage, biomass coproduct production, and biodiversity, and what alternate land uses might be expected in the absence of perennial cropping; where the water is coming from and being used and what is its ultimate fate (return to water cycle in CA vs export); and what are appropriate agricultural products for comparison.
Without examining the complete picture, metrics can be chosen arbitrarily for use as propaganda (for example, almonds use a gallon per nut! Shocking!) and as such do more to obfuscate than to inform. And of course, this is where LCA can step in and save the day.