Energy consumption and climate change are core issues, as is evident from the many initiatives at European, national and regional levels. Farms are currently heavily dependent on fossil fuels, either for direct consumption or for input production, and thus also on fuel costs. At the same time, they are also potential producers (biomass and biogas). The agricultural industry also accounts for 12% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our region. The sector is concerned as a major contributor of methane and nitrous oxide emissions, but it can also act as a carbon sink by trapping carbon in the soil. However, agricultural systems’ energy consumption and GHG emissions vary considerably and depend very much on the types of farms and agricultural practices. The first step towards putting reduction measures in place therefore requires a sound knowledge of the relationship between practices, energy balances and GHG which, given the specific nature of the practices and the pedoclimatic contexts, requires regional benchmarks to be developed.
To meet that need, CRA-W, in consultation with AWAC, DGO3, DGO4 and organisations in charge of management accounting (AWE, DAEA, SPIGVA, OPA Ciney) has developed a tool called DECiDE (Diagnostic Energie-Climat Des Exploitations agricoles wallonnes), which is subsidised by Wallonia’s Air and Climate Office (AWAC). The tool can be used to produce energy and GHG balances for Wallonia’s agricultural systems. The object is to provide an open, transparent tool which is accessible to all via an Internet platform, aimed at farmers and institutions (research/administration/decision-makers), that can be used for (1) comparing one farm with other farms of the same type to show up differences and the practices that give rise to them; (2) advising on reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions; (3) supplying reliable benchmark values; and (4) quantifying the services rendered to society by the agricultural sector (carbon storage, renewable energy sources).
It is hoped that using this tool will enable farmers to identify levers for improving their practices. The tool is currently designed for cattle rearing and arable farms, but is due to be extended to pig and poultry farming.