Freshwater ecotoxicity assessment of pesticide use in crop production: Testing the influence of modeling choices

Nancy Peña*, Marie T. Knudsen, Peter Fantke, Assumpcio Anton, John E. Hermansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

173 Downloads (Pure)


Pesticides help to control weeds, pests, and diseases contributing, therefore, to food availability. However, pesticide fractions not reaching the intended target may have adverse effects on the environment and the field ecosystems. Modeling pesticide emissions and the link with characterizing associated impacts is currently one of the main challenges in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of agricultural systems. To address this challenge, this study takes advantage of the latest recommendations for pesticide emission inventory and impact assessment and frames a suitable interface for those LCA stages and the related mass distribution of pesticide avoiding a temporal overlapping. Here, freshwater ecotoxicity impacts of the production of feed crops (maize, grass, winter wheat, spring barley, rapeseed, and peas) in Denmark were evaluated during a 3-year period, testing the effects of inventory modeling and the recent updates of the characterization method (USEtox). Potential freshwater ecotoxicity impacts were calculated in two functional units reflecting crop impact profiles per ha and extent of cultivation, respectively. Ecotoxicity impacts decreased over the period, mainly because of the reduction of insecticides use (e.g., cypermethrin). Three different emission modeling scenarios were tested; they differ on the underlining assumptions and data requirements. The main aspects influencing impact results are the interface between inventory estimates and impact assessment, and the consideration of intermedia processes, such as crop growth development and pesticide application method. Impact scores for AS2 were higher than RS and AS1, but the differences in the crops ranking was less apparent. On the other hand, the influence on the estimation of impacts for individual AIs was considerable and statistical differences were found in the impact results modeled in scenarios RS and AS2. Thereby indicating the effect of inventory models on ecotoxicity impact assessment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Pages (from-to)1332-1341
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Pesticide emission factors
  • Inventory modeling
  • Ecotoxicity characterization
  • Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA)
  • Feed crops
  • Agriculture


Dive into the research topics of 'Freshwater ecotoxicity assessment of pesticide use in crop production: Testing the influence of modeling choices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this