Challenges and ways forward in pesticide emission and toxicity characterization modeling for tropical conditions

Céline Gentil*, Peter Fantke, Charles Mottes, Claudine Basset-Mens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In tropical cropping systems, pesticides are extensively used to fight pests and ensure high crop yields. However, pesticide use also leads to environmental and health impacts. While pesticide emissions and impacts are influenced by farm management practices and environmental conditions, available Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) emission models and Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) toxicity characterization models are generally designed based on temperate conditions. There is, hence, a need for adapting LCI and LCIA models for evaluating pesticides under tropical conditions. To address this need, we aim to identify the characteristics that determine pesticide emissions and related impacts under tropical conditions, and to assess to what extent LCI and LCIA models need to be adapted to better account for these conditions.
We investigated the state-of-knowledge with respect to characteristics that drive pesticide emission patterns, environmental fate, human and ecological exposures, and toxicological effects under tropical conditions. We then discuss the applicability of existing LCI and LCIA models to tropical regions as input for deriving specific recommendations for future modeling refinements.
Our results indicate that many pesticide-related environmental processes, such as degradation and volatilization, show higher kinetic rates under tropical conditions mainly due to higher temperatures, sunlight radiation, and microbial activity. Heavy and frequent rainfalls enhance leaching and runoff. Specific soil characteristics (e.g., low pH), crops, and cropping systems (e.g., mulching) are important drivers of distinct pesticide emission patterns under tropical conditions. Adapting LCI models to tropical conditions implies incorporating specific features of tropical cropping systems (e.g., intercropping, ground cover management), specific drift curves for tropical pesticide application techniques, and better addressing leaching processes. The validity domain of the discussed LCI and LCIA models could be systematically extended to tropical regions by considering tropical soil types, climate conditions, and crops, and adding active substances applied specifically under tropical conditions, including the consideration of late applications of pesticides before harvest and their effect on crop residues and subsequent human intake.
Current LCI and LCIA models are not fully suitable for evaluating pesticide emissions and impacts for crops cultivated in tropical regions. Models should be adapted and parameterized to better account for various characteristics influencing emission and impact patterns under tropical conditions using best available data and knowledge. Further research is urgently required to improve our knowledge and data with respect to understanding and evaluating pesticide emission and impact processes under tropical conditions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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