EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Investigation of the two-decade environmental impact of large-scale agricultural cultivation and its impact on climate change in the Lajta-Project

András Polgár1, Karolina Horváth1, Imre Mészáros1, Adrienn Horváth1, András Bidló1, Sándor Faragó2, and Veronika Elekné Fodor1
András Polgár et al.
  • 1Institute of Environmental and Earth Sciences, Faculty of Forestry, University of Sopron, Sopron, Hungary (
  • 2Institute of Wildlife Management and Wildlife Biology, Faculty of Forestry, University of Sopron, Sopron, Sopron, Hungary

Crop production is applied on about half of Hungary’s land area, which amounts to approximately 4.5 million hectares. The agricultural activity has significant environmental impacts.

Our work aims the time series investigation of the impacts of large-scale agricultural cultivation on environment and primarily on climate change in the test area by applying environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) method.

The investigated area of Lajta Project can be found in the triangle formed by the settlements Mosonszolnok, Jánossomorja and Várbalog, in the north-western corner of Hungary, in Győr-Moson-Sopron county. The area has intense agri-environment characteristics, almost entirely lacking of grasslands and meadows.

We were looking for the answer to the question “To what extent does agricultural activity on this area impact the environment and how can it contribute to climate change during a given period?” The selection of the plants included in the analysis was justified by their significant growing area. We analysed the cultivation data of 5 crops: canola, winter barley, winter wheat, green maize and maize. Material flows of arable crop production technologies were defined in time series by the agricultural parcel register data. These covered the size of the area actually cultivated, the operational processes, records on seeds, fertilizer and pesticide use and harvest data by parcels. The examined environmental inventory database contained also the fuel consumption and lubricating oil usage of machine operations, and the water usage of chemical utilization.

In the life cycle modelling of cultivation, we examined 13 years of maize, 20 years of green maize, 20 years of winter barley, 18 years of winter wheat and 15 years of canola data calculated on 1 ha unit using GaBi life cycle analysis software.

In addition, we also calculated by an average cultivation model for all cultivated plants with reference data to 1 ha and 1 year period.

We applied methods and models in our life cycle impact assessment. According to the values of the impact categories, we set up the following increasing environmental ranking of plant cultivation: (1) canola has minimum environmental impacts followed by (2) green maize and (3) maize with slightly higher values, (4) winter barley has 6 times higher values preceded by (5) winter wheat with a slight difference. The previous environmental ranking of the specific cultivated plants’ contribution was also confirmed as regards the overall environmental impact: canola (1.0%) – green maize (4.9%) – maize (7.1%) – winter barley (43.1%) – winter wheat (44.0%).

Environmental impact category indicator results cumulated to total cultivation periods and total crop growing areas (quantitative approach) display the specific environmental footprints by crops. Increasing environmental ranking of environmental impacts resulted from cultivating the sample area is the following: (1) canola – (2) maize – (3) green maize – (4) winter barley – (5) winter wheat. The slight difference resulted in the rankings in quantitative approach according to the rankings of territorial approach on the investigated area is due to the diversity of cultivation time factor and the crop-growing parameter of the specific crops.

Acknowledgement: Our research was supported by the „Lajta-Project”.

How to cite: Polgár, A., Horváth, K., Mészáros, I., Horváth, A., Bidló, A., Faragó, S., and Elekné Fodor, V.: Investigation of the two-decade environmental impact of large-scale agricultural cultivation and its impact on climate change in the Lajta-Project, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4863,, 2021.


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