Integrated environmental assessment of agriculture in the Czech Republic : the case of dairy cattle

M. Havlikova

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Agricultural activities strongly affect landscapes and also cause a variety of environmental
and health problems in many European countries. Environmental policies to minimise this
negative impacts of agriculture differ between countries. This thesis focuses on
environmental consequences of agricultural activities in the Czech Republic and
possibilities to reduce the associated environmental problems. The causes and solutions of
these air, water and soil pollution problems are complex, and designing sustainable farming
systems requires integration of social, economic, and natural sciences.
The agriculture practices in the Czech Republic have changed dramatically due to political
changes during last decade. These changes ameliorate environmental problems to some
extent through a reduction in the use of fertilizers and livestock numbers. However,
agriculture still poses a threat to the environment and human health. The agricultural
productivity may intensify in the future leading to increased pollution. Now the Czech
Republic is a member of the European Union, Czech farmers have to deal with many new
regulations set by European Commission aiming at reducing environmental problems.
The overall objective of this thesis is to assess the future environmental impact by the
agricultural sector in the Czech Republic. National and European environmental policies
and the interaction between human activities and environmental trends have been
considered. The novel aspect of this thesis is to include process-based emission factors in a
region specific model to quantify both emissions and their potential environmental and
health impacts. Additionally, these results are used in another purposely developed model
to assess the reduction costs involved. To achieve the overall objective three specific
research aims are defined.
The first aim is to analyse different emission estimation methods with respect to their
usefulness for an integrated assessment at the national scale. The second is to evaluate the
potential environmental impact of agricultural emissions at the sub-national level while
considering different agricultural practices and environmental characteristics. The third aim
is to integrate emission estimation methods and impact assessment approaches in a model
to assess the cost-effectiveness of environmental policy measures. This model is applied
in a case study focusing on dairy cattle as one of the most polluting sub-sectors of Czech
agriculture. It is used to analyse the current situation and to explore future trends up to
2020 as affected by (i) different views of hypothetical model users on importance of
environmental impact, (ii) changes in projected animal numbers and management and (iii)
changes in the application of emission reduction measures.
Integrated assessments that analyse environmental problems by agriculture simultaneously,
need complete, detailed and consistent emission estimates that consider possible
interrelations between different pollutants. Three types of emission estimation methods
were analysed: emission factor, regression analyses and process-based methods. Selected
examples of emission estimation methods were reviewed to illustrate the large variety in
methods available. These methods were evaluated based on three steps: (1) Comparison of
emission estimation methods with respect to specific characteristics, (2) Scoring of methods
based on quality and country-specific criteria and the extent to which interrelations between
pollutants are accounted for, and (3) Multi-Criteria Analysis taking into account the relative
importance of the different criteria. The usefulness of this approach was demonstrated by
applying it to a case study focusing on agriculture in the Czech Republic.
The evaluation of emission estimation methods reveals large differences. We conclude that
the following methods best meet our criteria: the IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse
Gas Inventories, methods from the INITIATOR model and the detailed method of the
EMEP/CORINAIR Guidebook. Based on this analysis we suggest that combining parts of
each of the four methods forms a sound basis for a new emission estimation method for
quantifying agricultural emissions of air, water and soil pollution simultaneously.
The potential environmental and health impact of selected agricultural emissions was
evaluated based on a new innovative approach. Emission estimates were combined with a
country-specific set of indicators to assess the environmental impact of dairy cattle in nine
regions defined according to specific environmental characteristics. In this thesis different
characterisation factors available in the literature were compared and evaluated with respect
to usefulness for a study focusing on dairy cattle in the Czech Republic. We conclude that
for our case the most appropriate set of characterisation factors are those from Sepällä et al.
(2006) and EDIP (2003). These factors are based on the most recent data and best available
scientific models and take into account, where possible national and regional differences.
However, a weakness of these combinations may be potential internal inconsistencies
We estimate the contribution of emissions of ammonia (NH3) nitrogen oxides (NOx), nitrate
3), phosphate (PO4
-3), particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), methane (CH4), and nitrous
oxide (N2O) to a number of environmental and health problems. The results show large
regional differences in the current environmental and health impact per unit of agricultural
production in the Czech Republic. The regional acidifying, eutrophying and global
warming impact of dairy cattle is calculated to be up to three times the national average,
depending on the dairy cattle intensity. Aquatic eutrophication is found to be a problem in
regions with relatively high eutrophying emissions per hectare of so-called nitrate
vulnerable zones. Human toxicity problems caused by dairy cattle livestock and manure
management are problematic in regions with a high population density in rural areas.
A linear optimisation model (DAIRY) including Multi-Criteria Analysis was developed to
analyse cost-effectiveness of policy measures to reduce the environmental impact of dairy
cattle in the Czech Republic. The DAIRY model combines process-based and emission
factor approaches to calculate the above-mentioned emissions, and site-dependent
characterisation factors to assess their contribution to acidification, terrestrial and aquatic
eutrophication, global warming and human toxicity. In addition, a so-called overall
environmental impact (OEI) indicator was used to assess the environmental performance of
dairy cattle. The DAIRY model was used to analyse the current situation and to explore
future trends up to 2020, under different environmental and cost constraints.
The analysis of past and future trends of environmental and health impact by dairy cattle
reveals decreasing trends over time, mainly as a result of reduced cattle numbers. In 2005
the OEI was considerably lower than in 1990. In the No Control scenario, which assumes
no emission control, the 2020 environmental impact is 9% lower than in 2005, mainly as a
result of continued reduction in cattle numbers. Technical measures aimed at reducing
ammonia emissions may reduce the 2020 uncontrolled OEI levels by 10%. Implementation
of all technical measures considered would reduce the 2020 OEI levels by 30% at the
national level. In optimised scenarios, the reductions in OEI in 2020 range from 1% to 30%
relative to the No Control scenario, while the costs to achieve this reduction range between
0.2 and 16 MEuro. We show that targets for OEI close to maximum feasible reduction can
be realized at about one-third of the costs of non-optimised scenarios. In such cost-effective
scenarios the model tends to select measures to reduce aquatic eutrophication and climate
change first, which is in contrast to current policies aiming at acidification and terrestrial
eutrophication. Cost-optimal solutions at the national level are not always the cheapest
solutions at the regional level.
The future environmental impact of dairy cattle in the Czech Republic was analysed for two
reference scenarios. The No Control scenario assumes no emission control while the Policy
Scenario aims at cost-effective reduction of the OEI by 20% relative to No Control
scenario. Next, we explored how these calculated trends change as result of different
assumption on (i) different views of hypothetical model users on importance of
environmental impact, (ii) changes in projected animal numbers and management and (iii)
changes in the application of emission reduction measures.
The reference scenarios indicate that the overall environmental impact by dairy cattle is
mainly associated with global warming and aquatic eutrophication while leaching and
housing are the two most contributing processes. The costs to reduce OEI by 20% are 12
MEuro. The most cost-effective combination of measures to achieve this target includes
manure efficiency improvement and improved timing of manure application. The results
suggest that regardless of model users views on the relative importance of different
environmental problems, global warming and aquatic eutrophication are most important.
However, the relative shares of these two in OEI depend on the valuation of the
environmental impact categories. This, in turn, has an impact on the costs of reducing OEI,
because it is cheaper to reduce emissions of nitrate than emissions of greenhouse gases. As
a result costs to reduce 20% OEI range from 7 to 26 MEuro for different sets of valuation
factors. The model result also suggests that dairy cattle kept in slurry-based systems have a
better environmental performance than dairy cattle kept in straw-based systems. In addition,
cattle numbers influence the OEI and the reduction costs more than changes in milk yield.
The costs of reducing OEI by 20% relative to uncontrolled level range between 2 and 16
MEuro for scenarios with different assumptions on animal numbers and manure
management. Taking into account unintended side-effects of reduction measures on the
environment as a criterion for selection of measures, increases the reduction costs
considerably. The changes in applicability of emission reduction measures lead to costs
ranging between 24 and 50 MEuro.
The research approach taken in this thesis is based on a unique combination of methods to
estimate emissions, their potential environmental impact and possible solutions. These
serve as essential building blocks of the DAIRY model. A major strength of the DAIRY
model is that it allows for comprehensive analyses at the sector level and for identification
of cost-effective ways to reduce the overall environmental impact of dairy cattle. As such, it
can serve as example for other countries and sectors.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Leemans, Rik, Promotor
  • Kroeze, Carolien, Co-promotor
Award date18 Nov 2008
Place of Publication[s.l.]
Print ISBNs9789085852131
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • environmental assessment
  • environmental policy
  • agricultural wastes
  • dairy cattle
  • czech republic
  • ammonia emission


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