Eco-efficiency of organic and integrated kiwifruit production

K. Müller, M. Deurer, B.E. Clothier, A. Holmes
Kiwifruit is one of New ZealandRSQUOs highest earning horticultural export products. Our objectives were (1) to compare the financial and environmental performance of organic and integrated kiwifruit production systems, and (2) to identify a sustainable kiwifruit production system in the Bay of Plenty, the most important kiwifruit growing region in New Zealand, postulating that sustainability encompasses both low environmental impact and profitability. We restricted the assessment of the orchardsRSQUO environmental performance to greenhouse gas emissions and calculated the carbon footprint of the orchard phase. Eco-efficiency defined on an area basis as NZD net profit per kg greenhouse gas emissions (1 NZD = 0.83 USD, 31/10/2013) was our sustainability measure. We conducted a survey of 40 kiwifruit orchards with integrated and BioGro certified organic management systems. The organic orchards were substantially outperforming the integrated kiwifruit orchards in terms of net profit, in spite of similar production costs and lower yields, due to the higher market price. The carbon footprints for the two management systems were comparable. Our analysis revealed fertilizer use and the N-associated emissions as hot spots for greenhouse gas emissions from kiwifruit orchards. Opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions arise in the background system of fertilizer production, packaging, storage and transport, and the optimization of nutrient-use efficiency in the orchard. Taking into account the profitability of the orchards, the eco-efficiency of organic orchards was significantly higher than that of integrated orchards. We demonstrated that the metric of eco-efficiency can enhance product differentiation for customers and can also assist orchardists to find the most sustainable management system. However, the volatility of commodity markets and in particular the unpredictability of thin markets such as organic produce markets and changing consumer preferences remain challenges.
Müller, K., Deurer, M., Clothier, B.E. and Holmes, A. (2016). Eco-efficiency of organic and integrated kiwifruit production. Acta Hortic. 1112, 447-454
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1112.60
Actinidia, carbon footprint, sustainability, profitability, greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle analysis

Acta Horticulturae