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Eco-friendly farming: Study finds fresh potato cultivation produces much less greenhouse gas emissions than cereal production

In a world where sustainability increasingly intersects with our daily lives, the potato holds a unique position not just in Germany but globally. Potatoes and potato products firmly anchor themselves in diets worldwide, ranking fourth in global production volumes behind maize, rice, and wheat. The societal and political discussions around sustainable food production are gaining momentum, and within this context, the potato industry has not remained behind, according to a news release issued by the German Potato Trade Association (DKHV) earlier today.

Addressing the crucial issue of sustainability, the Union of the German Potato Industry (UNIKA) and the DKHV have commissioned a significant literature review focused on the carbon footprint associated with potato cultivation and processing. This research, spearheaded by Professor Dr. Elke Pawelzik and Dr. Marcel Naumann from Georg-August University of Göttingen, aims to contextualize the industry’s current carbon emissions and identify potential areas for reduction.

Dr. Sebastean Schwarz, managing director of UNIKA/DKHV, highlights the intent behind this initiative: “It’s crucial for us to understand our current position regarding CO2 emissions and also to pinpoint where we can potentially decrease them.”

The study meticulously analyzed numerous publications, primarily incorporating studies that employed a systematic Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach with a cradle-to-gate system boundary. Dr. Naumann acknowledges the challenges presented by varying research methodologies, noting, “The diversity of publications made comparisons difficult; however, our evaluations indicate that the cultivation of fresh potatoes results in about 50% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to the cereal types studied. This holds true even when comparing fresh potatoes to processed potato products, as each additional processing step impacts the CO2 balance.”

The literature review also identified potential measures to further reduce CO2 emissions during potato cultivation, such as targeted and reduced use of nitrogen fertilizers. However, the researchers caution that the CO2 footprint depends on numerous variables, including cultivation conditions, making it challenging to derive a uniform strategy for emission reduction.

This research contributes significantly to deepening the understanding of the complex interrelations between potato production and environmental impacts, shedding light on both challenges and pathways forward in the pursuit of sustainability within the potato industry.

Source: German Potato Trade Association (DKHV)
Contact for further information:
Jutta Becker-Ritterspach
Consultant for Communication, Planning and Conception, DKHV
Cover image: Credit Catkin from Pixabay

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