Mitigation of Multiple Environmental Footprints for China's Pig Production Using Different Land Use Strategies

Weitong Long, Hongliang Wang, Yong Hou*, Dave Chadwick, Yifei Ma, Zhenling Cui, Fusuo Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Pig production contributes considerably to land use and greenhouse gas (GHG) and reactive nitrogen (Nr) emissions. Land use strategies were widely proposed, but the spillover effects on biological flow are rarely explored. Here, we simultaneously assessed the carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and cropland footprints of China's pig production at the provincial scale in 2017. The environmental impacts of land use strategies were further evaluated. Results show that one kg live-weight pig production generated an average of 1.9 kg CO2-equiv and 59 g Nr emissions, occupying 3.5 m2 cropland, with large regional variations. A large reduction in GHG (58-64%) and Nr (12-14%) losses and occupied cropland (10-11%) could be achieved simultaneously if combined strategies of intensive crop production, improved feed-protein utilization efficiency, and feeding co-products were implemented. However, adopting a single strategy may have environmental side-effects. Reallocating cropland that pigs used for feed to plant food alternatives would enhance human-edible energy (3-20 times) and protein delivery (1-5 times) and reduce C and N footprints, except for rice and vegetables. Reallocating cropland to beef and milk production would decrease energy and protein supply. Therefore, a proper combination of land use strategies is essential to alleviate land use changes and nutrient emissions without sacrificing food supply.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4440-4451
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


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