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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

January 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

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.


New plant will digest King County dairy manure

A manure biodigestion plant under construction in Enumclaw, Washington, will collectively process manure from a consortium of King County dairy farmers. Electricity from the plant will be sold to Puget Sound Energy. For information, see "Cow Manure to Power New King County Plant," appearing December 12, 2011, at

Hog farm digester "cleanest in existence"

"A Farm Lives High – And Clean – Off the Hog," published December 25, 2011, in the Los Angeles Times, describes a North Carolina hog farm's anaerobic digestion system. The system, developed by Duke University and partially funded by Google, was described by its creators as the "cleanest in existence," and could serve as a prototype for other farms due to the simplicity of its design.

Biodiesel inputs vs. outputs

"Energy Life Cycle Analysis of Biodiesel," updated December 19, 2011, on the eXtension website, describes the process of energy life cycle analysis, whereby the inputs and outputs of a biofuel production system are weighed, and explains why results from different studies can vary so widely. Results from recent studies on soy biodiesel are presented, and the importance of these and similar studies is assessed.

Oilseed production case studies

A study published by Washington State University in July 2011, "Oilseed Production Case Studies in the Eastern Washington High Rainfall Zone," provides readers with detailed information about the trials, successes, and challenges of oilseed crop growers in Eastern Washington. A summary of the study, Studies Published of Oilseed Growing in Eastern Washington, appeared December 7, 2011, in WSU News.

Oregon plant to convert farm, food processing waste to energy

A new biorefinery in Boardman, Oregon, will process onion, potato, and other agricultural waste from local farms and processors. According to Novus Energy CEO Joe Burke, the plant will produce methane gas in four or five days, and convert 90 percent of the feedstock to methane gas, liquid fertilizer, water, and a dry soil supplement. For information, see "Tim Hopkins Energy Start-up Ready for Major Launch," published December 4, 2011, in the Star Tribune.


Macadamia nut biochar found to reduce CO2 emissions

Results of research from the USDA Soil and Water Management Research Unit found that soils amended with biochar showed a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly when the biochar comprised 20 percent or more of the soil volume. Additionally, the study revealed a relationship between soil microbes, biochar, and ethylene production. The research is summarized in "Findings on Biochar, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Ethylene," posted December 13, 2011, on the USDA website.


Dairies cut costs while saving energy

An article published November 10, 2011, in Capital Press, "Technology Upgrades Cut Costs," describes the efforts of Idaho dairies to cut costs and save energy. By making simple energy efficiency upgrades, such as switching to higher-efficiency light bulbs and upgrading to variable speed drive vacuum pumps, the featured dairies were able to significantly reduce energy expenditures.


Final 2011 REAP funds announced

On December 15, 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the final round of REAP funding for FY 2011. Funds will be provided for agricultural producers and rural small business in 8 states to cover up to 25% of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. To learn more and see the list of recipients, read the USDA press release.


Report enumerates value of Oregon's agricultural lands

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) released a new report in December 2011 titled "A Comprehensive Valuation of Agricultural Lands: A Perpetual Investment in Oregon's Economy and Environment." The report examines the value of agricultural lands in the state, and finds that the economic and environmental benefit derived from its conservation are greater than what can be achieved from development. In the words of Jim Johnson, Land Use Specialist, ODA, "You can only produce one crop of houses, but if that land remains in agriculture, you can produce a crop year after year after year."

Energy-smart food model can feed the world, says UN report

An issue paper published November 29, 2011, by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, "Energy Smart Food for People and Climate," prescribes an "energy-smart" model of food production for agriculture worldwide. The paper, which was published at the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, details energy-saving measures for every stage of agricultural production and distribution, including the use of more efficient engines, compost and precision fertilizing, targeted irrigation, no-till farming, and improvements in food transport and storage.

Drivers and solutions for global food price hikes

The Food Crises: A Quantitative Model of Food Prices Including Speculators and Ethanol Conversion is a 56-page report by M. Lagi, Yavni Bar-Yam, K.Z. Bertrand, and Yaneer Bar-Yam, all at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI); it was published September 21, 2011, at arXiv (arXiv:1109.4859v1). The researchers determined the major causes of worldwide increases in food prices and how to track them for policy-making purposes. They conclude that investor speculation and ethanol conversion are the causes, and they show that supply and demand do not coincide with price changes as is often maintained. The authors explain that the model they developed accurately shows what is causing higher prices. Rational policy decisions, needed to reduce growing hunger, can be made.


FarmWare 3.6 released

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) AgStar Partnership Program released FarmWare 3.6, an updated version of its FarmWare software, on November 17, 2011. FarmWare is a modeling software which, given the appropriate inputs, can estimate the costs and returns of integrating an anaerobic digestion system into an existing or planned livestock facility.

Tips for calculating payback from energy-saving investments

"Estimating Payback for Energy Efficiency," published in November 2011 by Iowa State University Extension, provides tools for evaluating the investment vs. return of energy-saving equipment purchases. Calculations are given for determining the break-even point of energy savings vs. outlay, thus providing valuable decision making criteria for those looking to replace older equipment.


2012 No-Tillage Conference
January 11-14, 2012, St. Louis, Missouri
Once again, we've lined up nearly 40 of the very best no-tillers, crop consultants, agronomists and researchers to deliver cutting edge ideas, tips, and techniques to raise your no-till profitability, efficiency, and effectiveness to a higher level. Our theme, "Two Decades of No-Till Know-How," reflects the effort, dedication and perseverance of growers, consultants and researchers throughout the world seeking to make no-till an integral business strategy and lifestyle among farmers. This 20th annual National No-Tillage Conference offers 7 general sessions (with 16 powerful presentations), 20 No-Till Classrooms and 60 invaluable No-Till Roundtables. Plus, nearly 30 hours of valuable pesticide recertification and Certified Crop Advisor credits are available.

Pacific West Biomass Conference and Trade Show
January 16-18, 2012, San Francisco, California
With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show is the largest event of its kind in the world. The mainland Pacific West—from Southern California to British Columbia—is home to dozens of biomass power plants, advanced biofuels startups, research hubs and vital industry associations. This event brings together area producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power with waste generators, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors, policy makers and more.

Pasture-Based Dairy Online Course
Online, January 17 - March 23, 2012
The University of Missouri (MU) is offering a 9-week team-taught (14 instructors) course covering the topic of pasture-based dairy farming. The course was offered to MU undergraduates in Spring 2011 for the first time and received very positive reviews. Beginning in Spring 2012, the course will still be offered to traditional MU students, but will also be opened up to off-campus and non-traditional students such as current dairy farmers that are considering transitioning from confinement to management intensive grazing, or to those that are considering starting a pasture-based operation.

TEDx Manhattan: Changing the Way We Eat
January 21, 2012, New York, New York and webcast live
This one-day TEDx event will explore the food system — from what happened, to where we are, to what we are doing to shift to a more sustainable way of eating and farming. The goal of "Changing the Way We Eat" is to create new synergies, connections and collaborations across disciplines, to unite different areas of the food movement and to introduce the TEDx audience to the exciting and innovative work being done in this field. The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming is the lead sponsor for TEDxManhattan. The event will be webcast live, and individuals, groups, and organizations are encouraged to host viewing parties.

Oilseed Crop Production Workshops
January 24, 2012 - Odessa - Odessa Community Center
January 26, 2012 - Colfax - Hill Ray Plaza
Mike Stamm, canola breeder in the Agronomy Department at Kansas State University, is the keynote speaker at both workshops. Stamm will share the challenges and opportunities he has observed with canola production in the Great Plains, as well as results from the national canola variety testing program. Other confirmed speakers include Heath Sanders, oilseed agronomist with Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City; Jeff Scott, an experienced canola grower from Pond Creek, OK; Tom Gehring, senior agronomist with Primeland Cooperatives in Cottonwood, ID, Brian Lorentz of Columbia Grain International in Grangeville, ID; and George Weicker, Feed Mill Operations Manager with National Food Corp. in Arlington, WA.

32nd Annual EcoFarm Conference
February 1-4, 2012, Pacific Grove, California
As the oldest and largest ecological agricultural gathering in the West, the EcoFarm Conference meets every year to create, maintain, and promote healthy, safe, and just food farming systems. With over 1,500 attendees, the three days yield myriad opportunities for networking with colleagues, discovering the newest ecological agricultural development and techniques, and building skills for us as individuals and together as a community.

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