accounting for water, as both an input and output, which cannot be done with great precision. Fortunately, great precision is probably not necessary in this case. Labor and capital inputs, such as machinery, and fuel or electric power for operating the machinery, are not considered explicitly in this paper. However, it should be borne in mind that a considerable fraction of aggregate industrial output is actually capital (and operating) input to other sectors.

Our immediate intention is to classify outputs as either economic commodities or missing mass. In subsequent work, the ''missing mass" will be further classified based on the level of waste treatment and final disposal medium (air, water, or soil). This means we need to be quite careful in accounting for the consumption of oxygen (from air) in oxidation processes and for the consumption or production of water in hydration, dehydration, dilution, dissolution, and so on. We selected 1988 as the year of reference for this study because it was the last year for which we had reasonably good international data at the time we began the work. Unfortunately, 1988 was a very atypical year for U.S. agriculture, as we note below.


Inputs to the agriculture sector consist of sunlight, water, carbon dioxide from the air, nitrogen fixation also from the air, topsoil, and some chemicals (e.g., fertilizers and pesticides). Commodity outputs are harvested crops. (Dairy products and meat are considered separately in the next section.) Missing mass, in the aggregate, consists mainly of crop wastes, runoff, evapotranspiration, and oxygen, a by-product of photosynthesis. Other losses include soil erosion, nitrogen (and phosphorus) carried away by water sources, and gaseous emissions.

The production process in agriculture (and also forestry, considered below) can be estimated crudely from the following basic equation of photosynthesis:

CO2 + H2O + photon ⇒ CH2O + O2.

Plants fix carbon in daylight and release part of it (about half) at night. Water carries nutrients and metabolic products and provides evaporative cooling. There is a rough average proportionality between carbon fixation rate (gross photosynthesis) and evapotranspiration, but there is no fixed relationship between water content and metabolic process; some plant parts are very high in water content, others much less so. In general it seems reasonable to assume that raw biomass contains 50 percent water by weight on average, whereas refined or processed food or feed commodities are considerably drier. In cases where actual data are lacking, we assume 25 percent water content for processed "dry" commodities. Unfortunately, official statistics are not informative on this point.

Raw products of U.S. agriculture include truck crops (fruits, vegetables), tree crops, and field crops (grain, oilseed, hay and alfalfa, sugar beets, sugar cane,

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement