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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

November 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

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.


The Center for Rural Affairs seeks input from people who have experience with wind turbine development, have been contacted by a wind energy developer, or are currently hosting a wind turbine. Input will be used to help formulate a wind development best practices toolkit.


Primer on algal biofuel

"Algae for Biofuel Production," updated October 10, 2011, on the Extension website, is a primer on the biology, production, use, and economics of algae-derived biofuel. Basic descriptions of the most common types of algal biofuel systems are described and illustrated. The article concludes that algal biofuel, although currently cost prohibitive to produce on a large scale, has potential if measures are taken to lower the cost of production.

Idaho State researchers investigate manure-to-fuel methods

"Universities Seek Power from Manure," published September 29, 2011, in Capital Press, describes research being conducted by the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) at Idaho State University. Among other findings, CAES researchers discovered that the manure biodigestion process can take place with organisms already present in manure; no introduction of external enzymes or bacteria is necessary. The project has received funding from the Idaho Dairyman’s Association; quotes from interviews with both parties are included in the article.

USDA funding for anaerobic digester projects

On October 26, 2011, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced USDA funding for anaerobic digester projects in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Iowa, Florida, Oregon, Ohio, and Vermont. The funding will be provided through the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program, and will finance up to 25% of project costs. To learn more and see a partial list of projects, see the USDA press release.


Targeted grazing for weed and pest control

Sheep Grazing to Manage Crop Residues, Insects and Weeds in Northern Plains Grain and Alfalfa Systems is a fact sheet published in October 2011 by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). This publication describes field tests conducted by SARE which show the effectiveness of using targeted sheep grazing in place of herbicides, pesticides, and/or mechanical cultivation for the control of weeds and pests. Although the field trials were specific to semi-arid regions, this fact sheet may be of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about the use of livestock for pest and weed control.


No-till farming for energy savings, soil stability, and carbon storage

"No-Till Farming: The Role of Agriculture in Absorbing and Storing CO2" provides a video and narrative account of Easter Washington farmer John Aeschliman’s experience with no-till farming. Aeschliman’s system, which includes a multi-crop rotation grown entirely without tillage or irrigation, has helped to increase the carbon in his soil and stop erosion. The article goes on to discuss the benefits of no-till farming, especially in regards to its positive impact on atmospheric carbon levels. This article, which is undated, appeared on the Climate Solutions website in October 2011.


Study suggests producing food for 9 billion is possible with certain measures

A research article appearing in the October 20, 2011, issue of Nature finds that feeding the world’s projected population in 2050 in an environmentally sound manner is possible if five key steps are followed: halting farmland expansion in tropical areas; increasing yields on underperforming lands; using strategic agricultural inputs; shifting our diet to meet supply; and reducing food waste. The full article, "Solutions for a Cultivated Planet," is available by fee or subscription only. A discussion of the research, "Study Suggests How to Produce Food for 2050’s Population of 9 Billion," can be found on the Sustainable Plant website.

ORNL makes strides toward a bioenergy ecosystem

"A Bioenergy Ecosystem," published October 2011 in Oak Ridge National Laboratory Review, describes Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) efforts in the area of bioenergy research and development. Along with its partners in industry and business, ORNL has made efforts to create biofuel feedstock alternatives which don’t displace food crops or adversely affect the environment, and has taken steps to ensure that the resulting products are economically viable.


NRC report: Biofuel mandates both ineffectual and improbable

A 2011 report from the National Research Council, Renewable Fuel Standard: Potential Economic and Environmental Effects of U.S. Biofuel Policy (prepublication copy), assesses the benefits and concerns associated with Renewable Fuel Standard compliance. The report concludes that the standard’s mandated consumption of 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels by 2022 is unlikely to be met without technological breakthroughs which considerably improve yields and reduce costs. Additionally, researchers found that, even if achieved, the standard may be ineffectual at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Benton County Fairgrounds acquire solar barn

A new solar barn at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Oregon was recently completed using Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds from the Oregon Department of Energy which created jobs for local contractors and engineers. The 306 solar modules which cover the barn’s roof will generate 82,700 kW hours of solar energy, about a quarter of the energy used by the fairgrounds. To learn more, read "A Barn Raising for the 21st Century," published October 14, 2011, at


BIOAg Program: Request for Proposals

Note: This proposal is for projects led by WSU faculty members only, and is offered through the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR). Letters of intent are due November 18, 2011.

As part of the legislative funding for BIOAg, a competitive grants program was created to stimulate research, extension, and education investments by WSU scientists. The goal of this grant program is to engage a broad, interdisciplinary spectrum of WSU faculty in projects that further the development, understanding, and use of biologically intensive and/or organic principles, practices, and technologies to improve the sustainability of agriculture and food systems in Washington State.


2011 Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference
November 11-13, 2011, Yakima, WA

This year’s conference is bigger than ever with four Friday symposia and 30 workshops over the course of the weekend. Friday features a full-day WSU symposium on organic dryland agriculture, a microdairy class and field trip to Tieton, plus a morning research and afternoon policy symposia. Workshops address the theme of "Designing Resilient Farms for a Changing Planet" and cover topics such as Farming with a Family, Ecological Weed Management, Draft Horse Power, Raising Fruit Sustainably, Soil Nutrient Cycling and Farm to Cafeteria Opportunities. Our keynote speaker is Miguel Altieri, Agroecology Professor at UC Berkeley.

Acres USA Conference
December 8-10, 2011, Columbus, Ohio

The annual Acres U.S.A. conference sets the standards for innovation and learning. It is where you find farmers and consultants from every side of eco-farming who come together to share their experience and expertise. Attend the non-stop event, learn the latest in cutting-edge technology and methods, and return home ready to make your farming operation the best it can be.

Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Course
December 9, 2011, Mount Vernon, WA
Sponsors: Western SARE, Xerces Society, NRCS

This course is tailored to the needs of NRCS, SWCD, Cooperative Extension, and state department of agriculture employees as well as crop consultants, natural resource specialists, non-governmental conservation organization staff, and producers of bee-pollinated crops, and will include both classroom and field training components. Introductory topics include the principles of pollinator biology, the economics of insect pollination, basic bee field identification, and evaluating pollinator habitat. Advanced modules will cover land management practices for pollinator protection, pollinator habitat restoration, incorporating pollinator conservation into federal conservation programs, selection of plants for pollinator enhancement sites, management of natural landscapes, and financial and technical resources to support these efforts. Throughout the short course these training modules are illustrated by case studies of pollinator conservation efforts across the country.

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