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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

August 2012

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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100% homegrown camelina power

"Grower: Homemade Fuel Offers Benefits," published June 21 in Capital Press, describes Steve Camp’s experience growing and processing camelina at a farm in LaCrosse, Washington. Camp uses about 6% of his acreage for camelina, and makes enough biodiesel to fuel 100% of his diesel-powered equipment and trucks. His estimated cost of production is $2.35 per gallon.

Energetic solution to poultry pollution woes

"The Poultry Litter Landscape" was written by Luke Geiver, Associate Editor, Biomass Power & Thermal; it was published in the June 2012 issue of that same journal. Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil from agriculture are due to be reduced to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This article concentrates on the waste from poultry which may be resolved by energy-producing anaerobic digestion.


Penn State explores sustainable dairy with real crops and electronic cows

The Sustainable Dairy Cropping Systems research project is an ongoing experiment, designed by researchers and students at Pennsylvania State University, which incorporates 12 acres of feed, forage, and energy crops with a computer-modeled herd of dairy cows. The project simulates a 240 acre dairy farm with 65 cows, with the goal of refining farm management practices to minimize off-farm inputs and maximize environmental sustainability.  To learn more, read "Interdisciplinary Research Looks at Whole-farm Sustainability," posted July 6, 2012, at Penn State Live.


EESI urges renewal of Farm Bill energy incentives

An issue brief by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Renewable Biomass Can Help Reduce U.S. Petroleum Dependence: Farm Bill Energy Programs Are Key, was released in July 2012. The document explains the importance of renewable biomass development for energy security, economic growth, and environmental sustainability, and strongly recommends the extension of 2008 Farm Bill farm energy incentives, which have resulted in a lot of private investment and are just beginning to make a difference.

House eliminates farm energy funding from Farm Bill

On July 12, 2012, the House Committee on Agriculture eliminated from the Farm Bill mandatory funding for farm energy programs, including REAP, BCAP, and others.  Some lawmakers attempted to bring the mandatory funding back, but were unsuccessful. For details, see "House Ag Committee Farm Bill Eliminates Funding For Farm Energy," published July 16, 2012, at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Farm Bill delayed; one-year extension a possibility

Rather than vote on Farm Bill 5-year legislation, the House of Representatives are instead working on a one-year extension which may only provide drought disaster relief. As of July 27, 2012, an extension of energy and conservation programs was excluded. For details, see the July 26, 2012 New York Times article, "Major Bill Delayed, House Works on Short-Term Farm Measure," or "House Cuts Conservation Programs for Farm Bill Extension," published July 27, 2012 on the Farm Futures website.


Soil and air fare better with no-till rotation

An 11-year study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that the use of no-till summer cover crops in rotation with winter wheat resulted in reduced wind erosion when compared with the more traditional winter wheat/summer fallow system used in the inland Pacific Northwest. The tillage-free crop rotation system eliminated the requirement for up to eight tiller passes, and resulted in better air quality and a greater retention of water and crop surface residue. For information, read "Improving Air Quality with No-Till Cropping," published July 5, 2012, on the ARS website.

The energy cost of Iowa soybeans and corn

A new publication by Iowa State University Extension, "Energy Consumption for Row Crop Production," was released in June 2012. This concise, 2-page document illustrates the energy expenditures involved in the production of soybeans and corn in Iowa. Three categories of energy use are included: field operations, fertilizer and pesticide application, and artificial drying. 

Mesquite for fuel, honey?

Researchers from Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Service tested the economic feasibility of taking honey mesquite, a potential woody biomass crop which grows wild in the south central U.S., to the processed stage. Researchers determined that the cost to harvest, store, and deliver the material is likely not prohibitive, given a certain density threshold. A description of the research, "AgriLife Research Study Estimates Costs of Mesquite Biomass Delivery for Bioenergy Use," was published in AgriLife Today on June 25, 2012. The research was published May 22, 2012, in BioEnergy Research (subscription or fee required for download).


A new version of the USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass was released on July 17, 2012. New features include mapped locations for farmers markets, food hubs, and meat processing facilities; new case studies; and a new and improved map search function. A USDA press release describes the enhancements.


Program Solicitation: Small Business Innovation Research Program, Phase I

Closing Date: September 6, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soliciting applications for the Small Business Innovation Research Program, Phase I. Science-based small businesses are invited to submit research applications for projects in one of ten categories: Forests and Related Resources; Plant Production and Protection - Biology; Animal Production and Protection; Air, Water and Soils; Food Science and Nutrition; Rural and Community Development;  Aquaculture; Biofuels and Biobased Products; Small and Mid-Size Farms; and Plant Production and Protection - Engineering. Special consideration will be given to applicants who incorporate the government-wide research priorities of Manufacturing Technology, Energy Efficiency, and Alternative and Renewable Energy.


Farm Walk: Improving the Sustainability of Large-Scale Fruit Production
August 6, 2012, Quincy, Washington
Tilth Producers of Washington & WSU Small Farms Program co-sponsor this afternoon farm walk at Double Diamond Fruit Company. The orchard uses intensive Integrated Pest Management in their orchards, with an independent pest consultant providing control recommendations based on traps, phenology models, and minimizing impacts on beneficial insects. Initial tests of the "mow and blow" idea for managing the grassed orchard alleys to provide mulch for the tree row led to a joint project with WSU testing direct-seeding of legumes in the alley to grow more of the orchard nitrogen internally (description from ATTRA).

The 5th National Conference on Facilitating Sustainable Agriculture Education
September 9-10, 2012 (post-conference September 11), Corvallis, Oregon
Join us to explore this year's conference theme, The Campus Food System: A Learning Laboratory. Held in the heart of Oregon’s productive Willamette Valley, this conference will give sustainable agriculture educators, students, and advocates a chance to share and develop innovations in sustainable agriculture education. We will discover how campus food systems are and can be utilized as a laboratory to enhance students understanding of the importance of sustainable production and the complexity of local, regional, and global food systems.

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