Vol.4, No.5B, 12-20 (2013) Agricultural Sciences
Economic and environmental sustainability
assessment of wine grape production scenarios in
Southern Italy
Alfio Strano, Anna Irene De Luca*, Giacomo Falcone, Nathalie Iofrida, Teodora Stillitano,
Giovanni Gulisano
Department of AGRARIA, Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Reggio Calabria, Italy;
*Corresponding Author: anna.deluca@unirc.it
Received 2013
The low resilience of ecosystems imposes a sus-
tainable management of natural resources through
more rational use s, la nd pro tec ti on, en er gy sav ing
and low carbon production technologies. Agri-
culture has a great responsibility in managing
these resources that are the principal inputs of
its processes. Production systems must pay
attention, at the same time, to ec onomic viability
and environmental protection. Since decades,
the international scientific community is facing
the great challenge of assessing the sustain-
ability of agricultural engineering techniques, in
order to help both private and public decision
making, but also to meet consumer’s require-
ments for high quality and low impact products.
To achieve that, widely accepted assessment
instruments, w hose results have to be clear and
understandable to a broad public, and that are
necessary. In this direction, Life Cycle Thinking
(LCT) is gaining consensus as conceptual
model, considering goods and services produc-
tion and consumption all along the whole life
cycle, from planning to disposal. Its methodo-
logical frame- work, the Life Cycle Management
(LCM), offers many standardised tools to assess
impacts of products and processes: Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA), to evaluate environmental
impacts and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) for eco-
nomic ones. Among many impacts categories
LCA also allows to identify the carbon footprint,
that can be quantified in terms of Global Warm-
ing Potential (GWP). This re-search has ana-
lyzed and compared different scenarios of wine
grapes production in Cirò, an important viticul-
tural area located in Calabria region (Southern
Italy). LCA and LCC methodologies have been
useful to assess them from an environmental
and economic standpoint. Results have allowed
the authors to rank training and farming sys-
tems performances.
Keywords: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); Life
Cycle Costing ( LCC); Sus tainable agriculture;
Decision Ma kin g; Glob al Warming; CO2 Equivalents
Anthropic activities are the principal responsible for
the depletion of natural resources, because exploitations
are carried out faster than the ability of ecosystems to
regenerate themselves. The results are global warming,
loss of biodiversity, exhaustion of energy resources, pol-
lution and wastes production that lead, in the long run, to
social and economic consequences too. There is a grow-
ing interest in knowledge acquisition about how to
measure impacts and how to relate them to their causes,
such as carbon footprint for global warming and climate
The assessment of environmental and economic sus-
tainability relating to a product or a process is a high
concern for many stakeholders, e.g. public deciders,
farmers, entrepreneurs and consumers.
According to [1], agriculture and food production are
one of the principal responsible for environmental im-
pacts and natural resources overexploitation. In this
sense, it is preferable to carry out a farm management
which combines carbon capture and emissions reduction
considering several farming phases like grazing and fer-
tilizing, tillage, crops alternation, harvesting and so on
Today more than ever, new methodological approaches
are required for management and decision making to
meet consumers’ needs for high quality and healthy
products, and entrepreneurs’ necessity of economic vi-
ability, using natural resour ces rationally.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/as/
A. Strano et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 12-2 0 13
In this way, Life Cycle Management (LCM) is gaining
great consensus as methodological framework helpful to
decrease footprints, add value to products (i.e. goods or
services) or supply chains and improve th e sustainability
performance of a business or organization.
These tools enable the evaluation of all production
phases, “from cradle to grave”, in order to understand
how to make them more compatible with environment,
economics and society.
The purpose of this study moves from the necessity to
know how to use natural resources in a more rational
way, and how to farm saving energy, protecting land and
reducing carbon footprint.
It is focused on four different productive scenarios in
the viticultural area of Cirò, in Calabria region (Southern
Italy). Grapevine production has been analyzed from
both an economic and environmental standpoint through
Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Life Cycle Assessment
(LCA) methodologies.
Results have allowed to make comparisons and to rank
performances of each scenario for every field of study.
Findings of this study highlighted the possible effective-
ness of the joint use of LCA and LCC, and that they can
be a useful decision making instrument for both public
and private deciders.
The widely accepted definition of sustainable devel-
opment was given by the commonly known Brundtland
Report in 1987 “Our common future”, that described it
as the “development that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the abilit y of future generation s to
meet their own needs” [3].
According to this definition, sustainability is achieved
through the in tegration of three interrelated features such
as social equity, economic viability and environmental
protection. In this sense, global warming and climate
change are a high concern that putted the attention to the
necessity of low carbon human activities, which main
indicator is “carbon footprint [4] that measures human
activities impacts on global climate [5].
A new conceptual model, called Life Cycle Thinking
(LCT), has arisen from the necessity to deepen the
knowledge about all the impacts (i.e. environmental im-
pacts, economic and social ones) that products and ser-
vices generate during every stage of their life cycle,
“from cradle to grave”, or rather, from planning to dis-
posal, taking into account all inputs and outputs of re-
source and energy [6].
Many methodological tools have been developed to
achieve this goal, such as LCA and LCC for environ-
mental and economic sustainability assessment. They
belong to a toolbox named LCM, which is the methodo-
logical framework that can help public deciders, entre-
preneurs and managers addressing their activities in a
more sustainable way. The LCM multidisciplinary ap-
proach have been successfully used in food production
[7,8], a sector that notoriously has a strong environ-
mental impact and often a low profitability.
2.1. Life Cycle Assessment
The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chem-
istry (SETAC) defined LCA as “an objective process to
evaluate the environmental burdens associated to a
product, a process, or an activity by identifying energy
and materials usage and environmental releases, and to
evaluate opportunities to achieve environmental im-
provements” [9].
These improvements can be measured in order to un-
derstand which useful changes should be adopted during
the life cycle of a product (good or service). The Interna-
tional Organization for Standardization (ISO) has pub-
lished international standards ISO 14040-14044 about
principles, framework and requirements for a correct use
of LCA [10,11].
Several categories of impact are taken into account,
and among them, climate change is evaluated in terms of
Global Warming Potential (GWP), i.e. greenhouse gases
emissions in CO2 equivalents, as suggested by the Inter-
governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [12]. It is
well known that carbon dioxide, with others greenhouse
gases, is responsible for global warming; the overall
amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions as-
sociated to a product along its lifecycle is commonly
known as carbon footprint [4], for which LCA provides
requirements for performing transparent and widely ac-
cepted calculations [12,13]. According to [10,14], the
four steps to implement a LCA study are the following:
a) Goal and scope definition. It means defining: field
of application, addressees, functions of the object to be
assessed, functional equivalent for comparing assertions,
system boundaries and procedures of allocation, choice
of environmental impact categories and methodologies
for their interpretation, data requirements and quality,
source, assumptions and limitations, critical review, re-
port format;
b) Life Cycle Inventory (LCI). This second step con-
sists of qualitative and quantitative data collection, cal-
culation of incoming and exiting flows (e.g. energy, ma-
terials and emissions) and validation. LCI is an iterative
process, so a re vi ew of procedures or goals may occur;
c) Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA). It consists
of quantifying potential environmental impacts, through
three sub-steps: selection of impact categories, category
indicators and characterisation models; classification in
impact categories; impact measurement by characterisa-
tion. Optional analysis-normalisation, grouping and
weighting-and evaluation of indicators results reliability
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A. Strano et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 12-2 0
- importance, uncertainty and sensitiv ity - can be useful;
d) Life cycle interpretation of results. It highlights hot
spots and allows formulating conclusions and helpful
recommendations for deciders, which is the reason why
LCA can be a valuable decision support system.
Regarding the application of LCA to food farming,
some examples have been found in literature [15-17]
among which empirical studies on viticulture activities,
such as wine production, including agricultural phases.
2.2. Life Cycle Costing
At its origins, LCC was an instrument of management
accountability to assess investments that did not take into
account environmental costs [18,19]. But as sustainabil-
ity entails managing the integration of different issues
(i.e. environmental issues, economic and social ones),
more specific tools are required to measure and to evalu-
ate both environmental and economic feasibility of
changes and renovations that occur during the life cycle
of a product [20]. An example is the so-called LCA-type
LCC [21] or Environmental LCC, based on the assess-
ment of all kind of costs during life cycle afforded by
every involved actor, including long run externalities.
However, to be effective, LCC has to be developed
jointly with a LCA, taking into accoun t the same product
system, boundaries, and functional unit, in order to ob-
tain a complete assessment of environmental impacts and
production costs. It does not exist a specific standard for
the joint implementation of LCC and LCA, however,
some guidelines can be found in [10,11,22].
According to [23] three conditions have to be defined
before starting a LCC analysis: life cycle phases, inven-
tory elements for each phase, environmental effects con-
nected to different impacts. Applying LCC allows to
achieve two main goals: adapting costs estimation ap-
proaches to relate environmental costs to specific proc-
esses and products, and facilitating the identification of
best practices to prevent pollution and to reduce wastes.
3.1. Regional Context and Site Description
According to the 6th Italian Agriculture Census [24],
vineyard surfaces of Calabria region, in Southern Italy,
amount to 9,075.90 hectares (ha), representing 2.4% of
the national surface and 34.4% less than 2000.
Concerning farms number, a general negative trend of
Italian viticulture is confirmed by regional data: Calabrian
vine growing farms were 34,291 in 2000, and 13,390 in
2010, with a re duct i o n o f 61 % .
In this regional context, the province of Crotone (where
the case study is located) counts a vineyard surface of
3,236 ha, that represents the 32.3% of the regional viti-
cultural area. In this province the general decrease of
surface and farms is attenuated. This is consistent with
the important role played by viticulture in this province
that represents over 70% of the cultiv ated areas with cer-
tificated labels products. In this province, the “Cirò”
production area is very significant because its “Protected
Designations of Origin” (PDO) wines amounts to 80% of
Calabrian production. The research context is located in
the above mentioned area (Figure 1) and extends along
the Ionian cost for about 25 km and inland up to Sila’s
The area includes the municipalities of Cirò, Cirò Ma-
rina and, partly, of Melissa and Crucoli. The orography is
rather varied, with a coastal strip at the sea level and the
terraced hills at about 300 - 350 m above sea level. Pre-
cipitations are mainly distributed in the autumn-winter
season, maximum temperatures occur in August requir-
ing the use of emergency irrigation, and soils texture
varies from sandy loam to medium texture.
Despite wine production represents a historic activity
of great importance within the Cirò area, farms produc-
tion structures are quite obsolete: grapevines are culti-
vated with traditional techniques, with low levels of
mechanization. Most of the vineyards are conducted with
“gobelet” or “espalier” (cordon and Guyot) training sys-
tems, which require high levels of labour generating so
high production costs. Organic viticulture is very devel-
oped and it is characterized by low levels of external
inputs in the production cycle, coherently with the pro-
cedural guidelines of “Cirò” PDO.
Two cropping systems-organic and conventional-and
two training systems-espalier and gobelet-have been
identified and therefore, four production scenarios have
been studied: “organic-espalier” (OE), “conven-
tional-espalier” (CE), “organic-gobelet” (OG) and “con-
ventional-gobelet” (CG). After analyzing the main tech-
nical and economic characteristics, values per area unit
Figure 1. Study area. The Cirò territory in Calabria re-
gion (South Italy).
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A. Strano et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 12-2 0 15
and their relative impacts have been calculated.
3.2. Application of LCA Method to the Case
The first phase of the analysis, according to LCA
guidelines [10,11], has been the identification and defini-
tion of the above mentioned scenarios.
In a second phase, 1 ha of planted surface has been
chosen as a “functional unit”, and then system limits
have been defined considering production phases “from
cradle to gate”, or rather from plantation to wine grapes
harvesting, excluding wine processing, distribution and
Therefore, the considered life cycle goes from vine-
yard plantation to disposal (25 years). The same life cy-
cle has been object of an economic assessment through
the LCC methodology.
Inputs and outputs data related to production have
been directly collected from the field. Data on emissions
have been obtained from secondary sources; these last
data did not correspond exactly to the reality of the ana-
lyzed farms, however errors have been systemic and did
not affect comparison results.
Data have been collected from a group of 24 ordinary
farms with an average surface of about 15 - 20 ha, be-
cause of their significance among others.
Techno-economic data of three growing seasons -
2009, 2010 and 2011 - have been collected and consid-
ered in order to reduce the uncertainty degree connected
to seasonality and subjectiv ity of farms management, but
also to attenuate production fluctuations and other exter-
nal factors that could have influenced plants productivity.
Therefore, for each farm, average values per hectare
have been processed. To identify analytically all inputs
and outputs, both environmental and economic ones, a
specific questionnaire has been arranged.
In addition to general questions about the farm, it has
also included specific questions on inputs quantities and
prices, as well as the obtained yields. For the analyzed
three-year period, the following factors have been con-
sidered: fuel consumption, for each technical operation;
water consumption required for rescue irrigation; modal-
ity of water distribution and related energy consumptions;
quantity, type, period and distribution modality of pesti-
cides; wastes disposal modality.
In order to adopt the LCA method, collected data have
been processed and grouped into macro categories as
shown in Table 1.
Inventory data were processed using SimaPro 7.2
software, Eco-invent V. 2.0 database and Eco-indicator
method to elaborate each scenario. At a latter time, data
have been processed with an additional method, EDIP
2003 (Environmental Design of Industrial Products), in
order to compare the LCA results and to focus the GWP
impact of the four considered scenarios, and so pointing
out the carbon footprint.
3.3. Application of LCC Method to the Case
In order to implement an economic analysis the LCC
method has been used, considering farm labour remu-
neration, land and working capital [25].
In this way, it has been possible to realize an inventory
costs complementary to LCA inventory [18], as estab-
lished in [10].
The same parameters and life cycle described in the
previous paragraph has been considered for LCC imple-
mentation. Each input and output considered in LCA
analysis (i.e. inventory data) has been transformed in
monetary values by multiplying the average quantity (of
the three year period) by the unit price related to the last
year of production.
In order to reach the total cost o f every single process,
all other costs associated to the inputs (e.g. those costs
afforded for labour, disposal, etc.) have been considered.
Furthermore, fixed costs linked to the overall production
process (e.g., shares of insurance, taxes, etc.) have been
considered for each production phase.
Obtained data have been used to perform an invest-
ments analysis, and so assessing the overall life cycle
cost through appropriate financial indices: the Net Pre-
sent Value (NPV) and the Internal Rate of Return (IRR)1.
Table 1. Scheme for LCA data collection.
elements Measurement
unit Description
consumption l/ha/year Fuel consumptions per si ng l e fa rming
consumption m3/ha/ yearWater consumptions per irrigation
operation and pesticid es d is tribution
Fertilisationkg/ha/year Quantities of fertilizers considering
titrations of nutritive elements
treatments kg/ha/year Active principles distributed
Electricity kW/ha/yearE nergy consumption per farming
Wastes kg/ha/year
Wastes per farming cycle in terms of
High-density polyethy lene (HDPE)
disposal (crates, packagi ng materials,
Yield t/ha/year Average of wine grapes produced
1Net Present Value (NPV) expresses the sum total of an investment’s
discounted future cash flows. Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is a rate o
return used to measure and compare the profitability of investments.
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A. Strano et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 12-2 0
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These parameters take into account the economic and
financial trend of investment during the whole life cycle.
A discounting rate of 1.8% has been applied, considering
the low risk and long-lasting nature of agricultural in-
vestments. The average inflation rate has not been con-
sidered, in order to reduce the degree of results uncer-
tainty. All cash flows have been discounted through the
following Eq.1:
PdcPl C
=Discounted Production Cost - decreas-
ing phase (from the 23rd to the 25th year);
(1 )
r= Discounted Useful fo r di sp osal (2 5th year).
The discounted costs were obtained through the fol-
lowing equations (Eq.2 and Eq.3):
 
 
34 25
(1 )
TrPl CPgrPl C
PlCPl DsCPlInCrr
PkPl CPdcPl CUdPl
 
NPV = B0
0 (2)
IRR = B0
0=0 (3)
= Value of actual benefits;
= Value of actual costs;
TH = Time Horizon (25 years);
Pl C = Discounted total Cost of Planting; n = TH = 25 years.
PlDsC = Planting Design Cost; LCA and LCC results have been compared in per-
formances rankings in order to assess the environmental
and economic sustainability of each scen ario.
PlInC = Planting Installation Cost;
TrPl C
= Discounted Training System Cost (from
the 1st to the 3rd year); 4. DISCUSSION OF RESULTS AND
PgrPl C
= Discounted Production Cost - growing
phase (from the 4th to the 7th year);
Results did not enable authors asserting which is, in
absolute, the most sustainable scenario among those as-
sessed, but they allow to make comparisons. Throug h the
implementation of LCA, Eco-indicator 99 method has
allowed modelling inventory data into impacts categories
and then evaluating impacts - as balance of positive and
negative ones.
PkPl C
= Discounted Production Cost-constant
phase (from the 8th to the 22 nd year);
Results (Figure 2) has shown that, in average, the
1,446.86 1,569.55
Land use
Acidification/ Eutrophication
Ecotox ic ity
Ozone layer
Climate change
Resp. ino rg ani cs
Resp. organics
Figure 2. LCA results - Eco-indicator 99 Single score per impacts categories.
Openly accessible at
A. Strano et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 12-2 0 17
most sustainable scenario is “OE” with 1,446.86 Eco-
points, and the worst performing one is “CG” scenario
with 2,008.98 Ecopoints. The gap between them amount
to 38.9%. Regarding life cycle phases, and taking into
account the duration of each one, in all cases the most
affecting ones are the “planting” (the year zero) and the
“constant production” phase (from the 8th to the 22nd
year), imputable to “minerals”, “land use” and “carcino-
gens” categories because of the use of fertilizers, pesti-
cides and machines.
EDIP methodology (Figure 3), that includes global
warming assessment, has shown that the best performing
scenario is “OG” with 106.71 Ecopoints, and the worst
one is “CE” scenario with 140.63 Ecopoints; the gap
between them amount to 31.8%. These impacts are im-
putable to the following categories, ranked from the most
impacting: “Radioactive waste”, “Aquatic eutrophication
EP(N)”, “Aquatic eutrophication EP(P)”, “Human toxic-
ity water”, “Human toxicity soil” and “Bulk waste”.
These categories of impacts refer to the use of chemicals
and machines, especially in “planting” and “farming”
(from the 1st to the 3rd year) phases.
The comparison between obtained environmental re-
sults using Eco-indicator 99 and EDIP highlights that
organic cropping system is the best in both cases.
In Figure 3, Global Warming Potential (kg of CO2
equivalents) has been highlighted, showing that “OG”
scenario produces less emissions (24,317.64 kg of CO2
eq.), while “CG” scenario produces more emissions
(28,875.10 kg of CO2 eq.), 18.7% more than the first one.
Concerning the implementation of LCC methodology
to assess economic performances, Figure 4 shows life
cycle discounted costs: “OE” is the best performing sce-
nario, amounting to 80,257.45 Euro, while the worse one
is the “CG” scenario with an amount of 87,476.18 Euro,
a 9% more than the first one. Financial indicators to
analyze profitability of investments, i.e. NPV and the
IRR, have been calculated for each scenario; they have
shown that “CE” scenario is the most economically ad-
vantageous one, with a NPV of 24,274.27 € and an IRR
of 6.6%, followed by “OE”, “CG” and “OG” scenarios
(Figure 4). The difference between “CE” and “OG” sce-
narios amount to 51.5% in terms of IRR and to 76.9% in
terms of NPV.
It is also necessary specifying that these last results
have taken into consideration European subsidies to
farming, without which only investments for the “CE”
scenario would have been profitable.
The relative gaps (in percentage) between each sce-
nario performances are shown in Graphic 4, allowing a
visualization of both environmental and economical re-
sults. A percentage of 100% has been given to the best
performing scenario, or rather, the most sustainable
among the others.
Greater performance differences between scenarios are
evident, above all, in Eco-indicator 99, in NPV and IRR
values. “CG” and “CE” scenarios are nearly always the
worst performing: this occurs in terms of environmental
damages for all indicators and in terms of discounted
110.35 106.71
140.63 140.25
25,152.99 24,317.64
kg C O
Global warming 100a
Resources (all)
Radioactive waste
Bulk waste
Hazardous waste
Ecotox icity soil chronic
Ecotoxicity water acu t e
Ecotoxicity water chronic
Human toxicity soil
Human toxicity water
Human toxicity air
Aquatic eutrophication EP(P)
Aquatic eutrophication EP(N)
Terrestrial eutrop hication
Ozone form ati on (Human)
Ozone form ati on (Vegetat ion)
Ozone depletion
Global warming 100a Value
Figure 3. LCA results - EDIP 2003 Single score per impacts categories (Pt) and GWP100a Values (kg of CO2 eq).
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A. Strano et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 12-2 0
Concerning NPV and IRR values, there is a great dif-
ference between the best performing scenario, “CE”, and
the others, with a relative gap between the best and the
worst (“OG”) of about a 76.9% in terms of NPV, and
about a 51.5% in terms of IRR.
In spite of the impossibility of an integrated assess-
ment, comparisons in terms of “percentage distance” of
each scenario from the best one (Figure 5) have high-
lighted some valuable information.
LCA results indicate organic growing systems (“OE”
and “OG”) as those best performing in environmental
terms, with very few differences on gaps’ averages. LCC
results have shown that the espalier training systems are
the most economically viable, with a difference between
gaps’ averages of 24.37 percentage points (p.p.) between
“CE” (the best in terms of average results’ LCC) and
“OE” s cenario.
Concluding, on average, “OE” scenario is the most
environmentally performing and the “CE” is the most
economically viable; differences between their average
performance values are similar, corresponding to 21.31
p.p. in terms of environmental performances, and 24.37
p.p. in terms of economic ones.
Results did not allow to assert which is the best sus-
tainable scenario in absolute, because further analysis
should be necessary in order to assess trade-offs between
all concerns, considering also social ones. However,
LCA and LCC methodologies are useful tools for deci-
sion making, as they can help deciders (farmers, politi-
cians and consumers) to understand what they are
choosing within their actions, how to identify hot points
of their operation phases and where interventions on
processes are necessary.
80,257.45 83,737.91 81,423.97
4,60 %3,20 %6,60 %4,00% 0
r (%)
Discounted C ost s
Figure 4. LCC results - NPV and Discounted Costs (€); IRR (%).
arming 100aDiscounte
Figure 5. Comparison of gaps between scenarios.
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A. Strano et al. / Agricultural Sciences 4 (2013) 12-2 0 19
This deepened knowledge about the consequences of
human activities permits to fo cus possible improvements
on sustainability performances, reducing impacts on the
environment and make farming more economically vi-
This work is a part of the “Agreement Framework Program” - Action
3 “Caparra & Siciliani” Research Project ca rried out by the Depart ment
of AGRARIA (Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria) and sup-
ported by the Regional Authority of Calabria (Italy).
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