A comparison of carbon accounting tools for arable crops in the United Kingdom

Carly Whittaker*, Marcelle C. McManus, Pete Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


In light of concerns over climate change and the need for national inventories for greenhouse gas reporting, there has been a recent increase in interest in the 'carbon foot printing' of products. A number of LCA-based carbon reporting tools have been developed in both the agricultural and renewable energy sectors, both of which follow calculation methodologies to account for GHG emissions from arable cropping. A review was performed to compare 11 existing greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting tools produced in order to calculate emissions from arable crops, either for food or bioenergy production in the UK, and a multi-criteria-analysis was performed to test their relative strengths and weaknesses. Tools designed for farm-based accounting achieved a higher 'user-friendliness' score, however bioenergy-based tools performed better in the overall level of information provided in the results, transparency and the comprehensiveness of emission sources included in the calculations. A model dataset for UK feed wheat was used to test the GHG emissions calculated by each tool. The results showed large differences, mainly due to how greenhouse gas emissions from fertiliser manufacture and application are accounted fat Overall, the Cool Farm Tool (Hillier et al., 2011) was identified as the highest ranking tool that is currently available in the public domain. The differences in the results between the tools appear to be due to the goal and scope, the system boundaries and underlying emission factor data. Crown Copyright (C) 2013 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-239
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Early online date30 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • carbon accounting
  • agriculture
  • life cycle analysis
  • greenhouse gas reporting
  • sensitivity
  • emissions


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