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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

April 2011

Welcome to this edition of EnergyAg Newsbriefs brought to you by the Washington State University Extension Energy Program Library. Please forward this issue to those of your colleagues interested in energy-efficient agricultural practices. Archives of past messages

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BIOFUELS / BIOMASS

Enumclaw farm to host manure digester

Three to four medium-sized dairies in Enumclaw, WA, will pool their manure to supply a biodigester run by Rainier Biogas. In return, the farms will receive bedding, fertilizer, reduced odors, and environmentally sound waste management. Because Rainier Biogas will own the facility, the farms will have no cash outlay, enabling them to reap the advantages of waste processing without accruing debt. For details, read "Rainier Biogas Embarks on Washington Dairy AD Project," published March 24, 2011, in Biomass Power & Thermal.

International biofuels certification system launched

The Roundtable of Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), a multi-stakeholder organization with members from over 40 countries, has developed an international certification program for biomass and biofuel production. To be certified as sustainable, a product must meet stringent social and environmental criteria along its entire supply chain. The program was launched on March 23, 2011, and is currently in its pilot stage. To learn more, visit the RSB website.

Boeing partners with Swiss institution for biomass consortium

Boeing Corporation and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale du Lausanne (EPFL), a Swiss institution of higher education and research, have partnered to create a research initiative for sustainable biofuels. The Sustainable Biomass Consortium will work to align regulation and voluntary standards on an international level, enable independent verification of sustainably produced biofuel, and lower certification costs for producers. The consortium will work closely with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB), also hosted at EPFL. To learn more, read "Boeing and EPFL Partner to Create Sustainable Biomass Consortium," published March 23, 2011, in Biofuels Journal.

BIOCHAR

PNW group unveils biochar sustainability protocol

Biochar, a charcoal-type substance produced by burning organic matter in a low-oxygen environment, has the potential to reduce atmospheric carbon levels by locking in carbon for hundreds to thousands of years in a form which improves soil health and fertility. PNW Biochar, an organization of Pacific Northwest biochar advocates, has developed a biochar sustainability protocol "to set forth a shared vision and direction for the future of this technology among Biochar proponents to prevent unintended consequences that could potentially arise from this process." The protocol is modeled after a similar set of standards put forth for sustainable biodiesel by the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance.

Biochar reactor could ignite a viable biochar industry

In "Getting the Biochar Industry Up to Speed: What Can We Learn From the Pellet Business?," Dr. Jeffrey Whitfield of the International Biochar Initiative discusses the challenge of promoting biochar despite its myriad of beneficial attributes. He proposes that the invention of a "biochar reactor" could create an exponential jump in biochar production and use, just as the invention of the pellet stove did for pellet fuel in the 1980s.

ENERY EFFICIENCY

NDSU educator explains lifecycle analysis

With corporations such as Wal-Mart beginning to rate the carbon footprint of its merchandise, the time is ripe for those in the agricultural sector to conduct a lifecycle analysis of their products. Cole Gustafson of the University of North Dakota discusses the reasoning and methods behind such analyses, and provides an example model based on energy beet production in North Dakota. The two-part article, "How Energy Efficient is Agriculture?" parts I and II, was published March 17, 2011, and March 30, 2011, on the eXtension website.

GRAZING

USDA tool for sustainable grazing

A grazing level modeling tool, under development by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), will allow farmers in the Great Plains area to compare and contrast stocking rates for sheep and cattle. The model, currently in its testing phase, will take weather predictions into account, and provide a result which balances economic and environmental factors. To learn more, read "Livestock Numbers by Weather and Climate," published in the March 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

RESEARCH

Researchers test climate change effects on crops

Researchers from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and others around the world are conducting experiments to simulate agriculture in a future climate. "Where will ‘Amber Waves of Grain’ Grow in a Climate Changed World?", published March 29, 2011, in the New York Times, provides interviews and insight into the crop research experiments being conducted globally.

UN cites importance of eco-farming for global food security and environmental health

Weather fluctuations and an increased demand for biofuels have resulted in an increase in food prices and a reduction in global food security, according to two UN reports. To stabilize food security, the reports recommend the adoption of ecological farming practices combined with a coordinated international effort to encourage agricultural reform. "UN Reports Urge More Sustainable Approach to Agriculture," published March 21, 2011, in Bridges Trade BioRes, provides a discussion and analysis of the two reports.

Ethanol production suffers when corn is over-fertilized

New research reveals that too much fertilizer accelerates the production of lignin, a fibrous substance which must be broken down before ethanol can be produced from corn leaves and stalks. While extra fertilizer may boost grain yields, the trade-off of lower yields of ethanol mean that reduced fertilizer use may be an attractive option for dual-purpose corn farmers. Details can be found in "Biochemical Suitability of Crop Residues for Cellulosic Ethanol: Disincentives to Nitrogen Fertilization in Corn Agriculture" (subscription or purchase required), published in volume 45, issue 5, of Environmental Science and Technology. A description of the research is available on the Michigan State University website.

RESOURCES

Anaerobic Digesters: Farm Opportunities and Pathways, published in 2010 by The Minnesota Project, provides valuable information to farmers exploring the ifs, hows, and whys of anaerobic digester acquisition. Contents include an overview of anaerobic digesters, uses and benefits, revenue possibilities, and feasibility considerations.

Organic Farming Systems conference materials now available online

Webinars recorded at the USDA 2011 Organic Farming Systems conference are available online for free viewing. A list of the recorded sessions, along with links to their respective videos on YouTube, is available on the eXtension website.

Nitrogen Footprint Calculator

The Nitrogen Footprint Calculator, created by James N. Galloway for the International Nitrogen Initiative, is a tool for measuring the amount of nitrogen generated by one’s food consumption, housing, transportation, and other lifestyle choices. The calculator serves as an educational tool to raise awareness of the problem of nitrogen pollution, and also provides recommendations for lowering one’s nitrogen footprint.

Food for Thought Conference

April 14-16, 2011, Portland, Oregon

Food for Thought 2011 will feature presentations and discussions by leading thinkers, scientists, and policymakers on the topics of food production, sustainability, and social justice. The keynote address will be presented by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Note: This event is currently sold out.

Rural Renewables Program

April 21, 2011, Ellensburg, WA

Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development and the Washington Department of Commerce are working together to assist rural communities in Washington with renewable energy development. We're launching this program with a free workshop and grant writing support for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses developing small-scale, on-site renewable energy projects. FREE WORKSHOP & GRANT WRITING SUPPORT! Learn everything you need to know to put together a winning application to USDA's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

Sixth AgSTAR National Conference

May 11-12, 2011, Boise, Idaho

Registration is now open for the Sixth AgSTAR National Conference, taking place in Boise, Idaho! The conference will include technical presentations on a variety of topics related to anaerobic digestion, expanded networking events, and an exhibit hall. We are also planning a tour of a local dairy farm anaerobic digestion system that will take place on Tuesday, May 10th.

Farm Energy webinar

Wednesday, May 11, 8:00-9:00 AM PST

The Farm Energy Webinar, presented by the Iowa State University Farm Energy Initiative, will offer "tips on conserving tractor fuel, energy efficient farm lighting, and more."

Food Policy from Neighborhood to Nation
May 19-21, 2011, Portland, Oregon

This is going be the most comprehensive national conference on local and state food policy in the US! Building on CFSC's 2009 Food Policy Council national gathering, this conference will bring together people from across North America who are working to influence local and state food, agriculture, or nutrition policy.


Want to Contribute? If you have information on events, publications, or other ag-related topics that you would like mentioned in an upcoming issue of EnergyAg Newsbriefs, please contact Talia Mathews at mathewst@energy.wsu.edu.