The humble field pea has recently gained some international credibility through an Environment Product Declaration, and it is the first North American food product to do so.
The designation recognizes Alberta field peas as a product grown in environmentally responsible ways as determined by the International EPD System.
“It basically is a full cradle to grave assessment of the ecological impact and all of the micronutrients, energy inputs, etc., that go into the development of that product,” said Alberta Pulse Growers policy and program specialist Nevin Rosaasen.
“As far as the environment food product declarations go, this was the first food product declaration within North America, of all of the food product declarations to date, using this third party trusted standard.”
To gain the declaration, the EPD system requires information on a product’s nutritional properties, crop inputs, field emissions and farm operations, storage and transportation. Those are used to estimate the non-renewable resources needed to product the product and assess the potential impact on the environment.
Rosaasen said information was gathered from about 10 percent of the APG’s approximately 6,000 members who responded to a survey in 2015.
The APG and Alberta Agriculture worked together on the application.
D’Arcy Hilgartner, APG chair, said the designation enhances the Alberta pea brand and reputation and should strengthen customer and consumer trust in the product both domestically and internationally.
“The Alberta pea EPD indicates international acceptance of the scientific evidence to support the environmental benefits of the crop production of peas,” the APG said.
“There has been a rapid growth in the number food and agriculture companies publishing EPDs in Europe and around the world.”
In fact, there are at least 139 agri-food products with EPD designations, ranching from pasta, olive oil and bread to cheese and apples.
Rosaasen said having an EPD does not bring a price premium to growers but it does raise the Alberta field pea profile. Having the benchmark also allows growers to see areas where they could improve their environmental footprint when growing the crop in the future.
“The largest benefit is to understand how these standards and management are put together,” he said.
Data collected from growers toward the designation included yield, inputs including seed, inoculant, fertilizer, herbicide, fungicide and desiccant, field operations and transportation distances from the farm.
The environmental impacts of potential global warming, acidification, eutrophication and photochemical oxidant creation were then quantified.
In the assessment, the EPD indicated crop inputs and farm operations were the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
However, it also said that “Alberta pea production contributed to lower greenhouse gas emissions than other crops such as wheat, barley and canola because of less nitrogen fertilizer required.
“Less nitrogen fertilizer requirement for pea production reduces nitrous oxide emissions (which is more potent than carbon dioxide), resulting in lower GHG emissions. Improvements in the tillage management system and nutrient management system were identified as potential mitigation strategies for reducing overall environmental impacts of Alberta pea production.”