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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

April 2013

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

While every URL in EnergyAg Newsbriefs is checked for accuracy prior to distribution, URLs may change, and servers may temporarily fail to connect to working URLs.


NCAT seeks talent

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is currently accepting applications for four positions: Outreach Coordinator, Poultry Specialist, Horticulture Specialist, and Agronomy /Cropping Systems Specialist. The positions are located in Mississippi and Montana. To learn more, see the NCAT Employment Opportunities page. Applications are due by April 8.


Switchgrass pellets for home heating

Measuring the Potential of Switchgrass Pellets” was published in the March 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. This article summarizes research on the potential of switchgrass pellets as a replacement for fuel oil. Researchers found that switchgrass pellets compare favorably with fuel oil for residential heating, in that their use would reduce greenhouse gases while also reducing costs.

"Anaerobic Digestion on Swine Operations: Assessing Current Barriers and Future Opportunities" is a 40-page, January 2013, report from the Energy Center of Wisconsin; it was written by Joe Kramer, Energy Center of Wisconsin, and Amanda Bilek, Great Plains Institute. The barriers to biogas production on pig farms seem formidable, but, as the authors point out in this four-state study, the potential benefits are great. The report includes an Executive Summary (document-pages 5–7).


Dairy farm receives energy overhaul

Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese of Gooding, Idaho, was able to reduce its propane costs by 90 percent with a comprehensive energy overhaul including a solar-thermal heating system, electric back-up boilers, heat pumps, and variable frequency drive milk pumps. The award-winning project was accomplished with the help of energy consultant Site Based Energy, who designed the project and helped the farm obtain tax incentives, credits, and grants. To learn more, read “Idaho Dairy Reduces Energy Costs by 90 Percent and Improves Efficiency,” published March 21, 2013, in Ag Weekly.


Northwest farmers switch to local feed

Feed Costs Prompt Organic Poultry, Diary Operations to Look Closer to Home,” published March 11, 2013, in Capital Press, describes how and why Andy Wilcox of Wilcox Farms and Andrew Dykstra of Dykstra Farms made the switch from imported feed to locally produced feed for their chickens and cows, respectively. Among the benefits of going local were cost savings, support of regional growers, and a lower carbon footprint.


USDA funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects

The USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is seeking applications to provide agricultural producers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Deadlines range from April 30 to July 15, 2013. For details, see the March 29, 2013, news release.


USDA and DuPont to promote sustainable harvesting of bio-based feedstocks

On March 29, 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new federal-private collaboration with DuPont to safeguard natural resources on private lands used to supply bio-based feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production. For details, see the USDA news release.


No-till wins in northern Great Plains

An article published in the March 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, “Cultural Practices to Maintain Soil Quality and Address Climate Change,” describes USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research on tillage, crop rotation, irrigation, and grazing practices and their effects on crop yield and greenhouse gas emissions. The research, which took place in Montana and the Dakotas, reveals the benefits of low- and no-till practices, crop rotation, and livestock grazing for both irrigated and non-irrigated cropping systems.

Food, Fuel, and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future is a 24-page issue paper published by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) in March 2013. This publication assesses worldwide food production capacity and nutrient requirements over the next 40 years; examines the impact of biomass crops for energy production; and stresses the importance of efficient land use to conserve soil and nutrients. The authors emphasize that research and development in multiple areas, including genetics and soil and crop management, are necessary if land degradation and nutrient shortages are to be avoided.


Spring oilseed suppliers list from WSU

The WSU Crop and Soil Sciences department has compiled a list of Pacific Northwest oilseed suppliers for spring and fall planting. Note that the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) sales closing date for spring oilseed crops in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington is August 31; for more information, see the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) 2013 Commodity Insurance Fact Sheet for Canola.

Updated RELCOST Financial template available

A new version of the RELCOST Financial template was released by the U.S. Department of Energy Northwest Clean Energy Application Center in February 2013. The template, originally developed by the Washington State University Energy Program in 2009, is used to evaluate the financial viability of energy projects. A comprehensive user’s manual is also available.


New Generation Energy: Sustainable Power for your Farm or Homestead (Webinar series)
Fridays, 9:00 – 9:45 AM PST, March 29 – 19, 2013 (archive available for past webinars)
March 29: Dreaming of Local Lemons – Solar Energy Virtual Tour (archive)
April 5: Powering Your Farm off the Grid – Virtual Tour
April 12: Compost Power!
April 19: Ask an Installer: Wind, Solar and Geothermal

Global Food Systems Forum
Webcast: April 9, 2013
The University of California, through its Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will convene some of the world's leading experts at the Global Food Systems Forum to address how to sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025. The discussion will bring together people from a dynamic range of disciplines, including farmers, researchers, policymakers, economists, environmentalists and geopolitical experts. The general public can view the event live by webcast.

Power of Our Regional Food Economy Conference 2013
April 19, 2013, Spokane, Washington
Spokane’s Power of Our Regional Food Economy: 2013 Conference is a one-of-a-kind invitation for businesses and community members to play an active role in improving the wealth and health of our community. A strong regional food system is a core element of a strong regional economy. This day-long collaboration will illustrate the business case for the development of a road map for area professionals interested in growing their bottom line, while at the same time fostering our regional food economy—a true systems approach to the food sector.

Researcher and Farmer Innovation to Increase Nitrogen Cycling on Organic Farms
Webinar, April 23, 2013, 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM PST
The webinar will cover the design and results of an OREI project to assess the variation in how farmers manage nitrogen differently in organic processing tomato production in California, and to learn how their management affects N cycling, soil organic matter, microbial communities, plant root genes for nitrogen assimilation, and yield. We will put these results in the context of nitrogen cycling and availability in organic systems in general and some strategies to increase nitrogen cycling and yields without minimal nitrogen losses. The intended audience is researchers, extension workers and farmers.

Planning for Agriculture in the Puget Sound Region
April 26, 2013, Seattle, Washington
Join local elected officials, planners, and food system advocates at a conference on planning for the future of local farms and food in the Puget Sound region. We'll explore the wide range of planning and policy tools we can use to support and strengthen our region's local farms and food system.  Leaders from throughout the U.S. will present what has worked in their communities and we'll have the opportunity to discuss food and farm initiatives with our local counterparts.

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