Embracing a footprint assessment approach for analyzing desert-based agricultural systems: the case of Medjool dates

Sharon Ravitz Wyngaard, Meidad Kissinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Dates are a traditional and important part of the sustainable arid food system. As their popularity is growing worldwide, along with global climate change, there is an increasing need for a better understanding of the environmental aspects of the date production system. Israel is one of the major sources of the Medjool variety of dates. We use an environmental “footprint family” framework to analyze Medjool date production, and direct and indirect environmental interactions, and identify positive and negative hotspots. The research focuses on the Israeli Arava desert region. We found that producing 1 ton of marketable dates has an average material footprint of 1550 kg, a land footprint of 1 m2, and a water footprint of 2450 m3, which leads to 990 kg of solid waste and a carbon footprint of 4820 kg of CO2eq. The cultivation stage was responsible for most of the footprints, mainly due to the direct and indirect consequences of fertilizer usage and water production and intake. The significant differences between the plantations were traced back to their varying mix of palms’ age and even more to the human factor and the cultivation methods of individual farmers. We suggest that the environmental footprint of dates can be reduced by adopting improved agricultural methods, such as lower-impact fertilizers and renewable energy. This paper is one of the first to embrace a systematic approach to analyzing dates grown in a desert area. These data can bridge the knowledge gap over the unique food system and crop and, therefore, can provide an initial data body for future research, policy-makers, and farmers as means to advance more efficient, less-intensive use of resources while enhancing production in arid areas and support local and global food security.

Original languageEnglish
Article number68
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Agriculture systems
  • Desert food system
  • Footprint family indicators
  • GHG emissions
  • Material flows
  • Medjool dates
  • Sustainable food systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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