International researchers have shown that potatoes are good for the environment, with a paper published indicating that potato production is more environmentally sustainable than pasta and rice.
The paper, conducted by researchers from Cranfield University in Bedfordshire, England and published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, considered both greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption when growing the three food types, with potatoes proving to have the least negative impact on the environment.
“The researchers analysed a large amount of data from many sources to produce an accurate estimate on the environmental impact of growing potatoes, pasta and rice, based on their greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Shaun Lindhe.
“Potatoes were shown to have the lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions when compared to both pasta and rice. Potatoes were also shown to have significantly lower levels of overall water usage than rice.”
“Although overall water consumption between potatoes and pasta was similar, the blue water scarcity footprint, which measures the relative environmental impact of water usage, was better for potatoes in terms of water use sustainability compared to pasta by a factor of three.”
“These findings are significant as they show that dietary trends towards lower potato consumption in favour of other foods such as pasta and rice in the United Kingdom, where the study was conducted, have led to a more significant environmental impact, particularly on water use.”
“Dietary choices within food groups can have a significant impact on an individual’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption. In terms of this food group, potatoes have been shown to be the most environmentally sustainable option.”
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing more than 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers.
Despite the encouraging findings, the researchers believed that there was still scope for growers to improve the environmental sustainability of their potato growing operations through new technologies that increase efficiency and productivity.
“While potatoes were found to have the least negative impact on the environment when compared to pasta and rice, growers can still work to improve the environmental sustainability of their growing operations through good fertiliser management and efficient use of machinery,” said Mr Lindhe.