Microeconomic and environmental sustainability of Portuguese greenhouse horticulture: a critical assessment

J.M. Costa, M. Reis, J.A. Passarinho, M.E. Ferreira, D.P.F. Almeida
Estimated total greenhouse production area in Portugal is 3,000 ha. The potential for expansion of the sector exists, but it must minimize undesirable environmental impacts, while taking advantage of related economic benefits. In 2013, greenhouse production represented only 6% of the total commercial vegetable production area but it accounted for about 16% of total production. Moreover, total production value per greenhouse farm is about 91,200 euro, almost twice that of open-air production. However, the sector misses a detailed quantitative analysis of sustainability, considering its environmental impact, resource use efficiency and economic performance. In this study we provide a preliminary comprehensive analysis of the major inputs and outputs of greenhouse horticulture, focusing on the tomato crop. A simplified life cycle analysis was implemented. Irrigation water needs by the tomato crop vary between 20 and 39 L kg-1 (fresh weight), whereas the estimated output in terms of plastic film residues (covering films), is about 2,060 t per year. In addition, an amount of 56,000 to 70,000 t is calculated for organic residues. The quantity and quality of the produced effluents remain uncharacterized, but drainage (20 to 40% of irrigation in soilless systems) will be the main contributor. Stricter EU legislation and more demanding consumers impose a more efficient greenhouse management to minimize pollution risks. Greenhouse cultivation in Portugal is productive and profitable and it has room for expansion, but input use efficiencies need improvement to reduce its environmental impact and increase sustainability of this sector.
Costa, J.M., Reis, M., Passarinho, J.A., Ferreira, M.E. and Almeida, D.P.F. 2017. Microeconomic and environmental sustainability of Portuguese greenhouse horticulture: a critical assessment. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 1170:1117-1124
Mediterranean horticulture, tomato, environment, legislation, LCA

Acta Horticulturae