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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

August 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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Vermont farmer pairs dairy and canola

Roger Rainville provides the fuel he needs for his 300-acre dairy farm in northern Vermont by growing his own canola and processing it into biodiesel. Since 2005, he has been developing his system with help from University of Vermont and SARE. The system provides a triple return of fuel, animal bedding in the form of canola straw, and cattle feed made from the pressed canola meal. To learn more, read "Leading the Way to Energy Independence," published July 18, 2011, on the SARE website.

Biodiesel produces significantly more fuel than it consumes

According to new research from the University of Idaho, biodiesel production from soybeans produces over five times more energy than the fossil fuel consumed during its production. To learn more, read "Energy Life-Cycle Assessment of Soybean Biodiesel Revisited," published in Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) in June 2011.

The scoop on hazelnut biodiesel

"Hazelnut for Biofuel Production," was published on the WSU Extension website, and updated July 11, 2011. This feature article provides a fairly detailed overview the possibilities and potential of using hazelnuts as a biodiesel feedstock. Biology, production, potential yields, estimated production costs, and environmental and sustainability issues are discussed.


BPA and Simplot test 'smart irrigation'

Major agricultural producer Simplot and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) have teamed up to test an irrigation system that turns on when demand for power is low, thereby helping to distribute power use more evenly over a 24-hour period. The system is automated similarly to a utility smart grid system. To learn more, read "Farm Tests Out Smart-grid-like Irrigation System," published July 17, 2011, in the Seattle PI.


Reducing chemical fertilizer use through bioengineering

Researchers from University of Alberta have developed a plan to phase out the use of chemical fertilizers by developing crop varieties, particularly cereal grains, which produce their own fertilizer, similarly to how legumes naturally fix nitrogen. The research article (subscription or fee for access), "Future Prospects for Cereals That Fix Nitrogen," was published in the July issue of Science. "Plan to End Use of Environmentally Harmful Chemicals on Commercial Crops Developed," published July 21, 2011, in Science Daily, summarizes the research.

Perennial grasses superior to corn for ethanol production

A new study from Colorado State University shows that the production of ethanol from perennial grasses is economically, as well as environmentally, superior to corn. Among other advantages, perennial grass systems can utilize marginal farmland and reduce pressure on food crops. "Colorado State University Research Shows Biofuel Grasses Superior to Corn in Ethanol Production," published on July 25, 2011, on the WSU Extension website, summarizes the research. The original paper, "Impact of Second-Generation Biofuel Agriculture on Greenhouse-Gas Emissions in the Corn-growing Regions of the US," appeared in the June 2011 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (available by subscription or fee only).


Soil and Water Conservation Society Statement on Climate Change

On July 7, 2011, the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) released a Position Statement on Climate Change and Soil and Water Conservation. The statement acknowledges and reviews the role of soil and water conservation practices in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and in the maintenance of stable and resilient worldwide agricultural systems. Science-based short- and long-term strategies for soil and water conservation are recommended.

Agriculture and energy experts brief Congress

The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) sponsored a congressional briefing on July 19to discuss the Farm Bill, with a particular emphasis on the benefits of the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Funding for REAP and other Farm Bill programs are presently at risk. "Ag Energy Experts Brief Congress, Stakeholders on Energy Title Progress," published July 21, 2011, on, summarizes the briefing and provides links to presentation transcripts.

Oregon eliminates energy and agriculture program

In late June, the Oregon State Department of Agriculture eliminated its Energy and Agriculture program, citing budget constraints. The program provided assistance and grant information for farm renewable energy projects. To learn more, read "Oregon Agriculture Department pulls the plug on energy position," published June 29, 2011, in Oregon Live.

New BCAP areas in Oregon and Washington

In a July 26, 2011, press release, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced four new Biomass Crop Assistance Project (BCAP) areas for the purpose of growing camelina, switchgrass, and poplars for conversion to biodiesel and jet fuel. The project areas, which include parts of 24 counties in Oregon and Washington and an additional area in Oklahoma and Kansas, are located near existing biorefineries. To learn more, read "Vilsack Announces Biomass Projects in West," published July 26, 2011, in Capital Press.


New SARE online learning center

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has revamped its website to include a new web-based learning center. The center provides easy navigation to sustainable agriculture related books, videos, online courses, bulletins, fact sheets, grant information, and more.


Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Grants

Proposals for five types of grants are currently being accepted by Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) in the following categories: Research and Education, Professional Development, Production, Professional and Producer, and Graduate Student Grants in Sustainable Agriculture. Deadlines vary, with most proposals due in December 2011.


Collective Biofuels Conference 2011
August 5-7, 2011, Duncan, British Columbia
Cowichan Energy Alternatives and the Cowichan Bio-Diesel Co-Op are proud hosts of the 2011 Collective Biofuels Conference. The CBC brings renewable energy experts, enthusiasts and interested beginners together to discuss all things biofuels, with a focus on biodiesel. This is an evolution of the Collective Biodiesel Conference, which was started in 2006 in Colorado, and was last held in Washington, D.C. This is CBC's first time outside the United States, and it's happening in the spectacular Cowichan Valley! See past speaker topics and presentations on the Collective Biodiesel Conference website.

Oregon BEST FEST '11
September 12, 2011, Portland, Oregon
Register now for Oregon BEST FEST '11, which brings together university researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders engaged in renewable energy and the sustainable built environment for an all-day networking event and research expo in downtown Portland. The program features speakers, research presentations, and interactive workshops focused on creating jobs through informed innovation and filling the gaps in developing new products and services. Save the date now and plan to discover how research, innovation, and collaboration are fueling Oregon's green economy.

Harvesting Clean Energy Conference XI
October 23-25, 2011, Boise, Idaho
Join us in Boise in 2011 for another successful Harvesting Clean Energy conference. We will feature panel discussions designed to answer questions including: How can farmers, ranchers, food processors and rural communities prosper in the new energy economy? Where are your best opportunities in wind power, solar technologies, geothermal, small hydro, biomass or biofuels, upgrading to energy efficient equipment? What financing, technical expertise, and partners are available to help? If you are interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the 2011 Harvesting Clean Energy conference, please contact Dana Colwell: 253-445-4575.

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