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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

January 2014

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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ANNOUNCEMENTS

Direct Seed & Oilseed Cropping Systems 2014 Conference: “Covering New Ground”
January 20-24, 2014, Kennewick, Washington

The Biofuels Cropping Systems Research and Extension project at Washington State University and the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association have come together to organize and host this conference. Oilseed and direct seed cropping systems have many complementary topics and synergies. The 2014 Oilseed and Direct Seed Conference, “Covering New Ground,” will provide a unique opportunity to learn from researchers, agronomists, consultants, and your peers, and to connect and network with agriculture-related businesses, seed companies, co-ops, and support services.

BIOFUELS/BIOMASS

Hardwood Biofuels Webinar archives
Two recent Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest webinars are available online:

  1. Growing green energy: Poplar as a short rotation bioenergy crop was presented on November 20, 2013. It describes the importance of hybrid poplars for the renewable transportation fuel industry, and provides an overview of poplar cultivation, harvest, and processing.
  2. Assessing the economic and environmental impacts of sustainably produced poplar-based biofuels was presented on December 11, 2013. It provides methods for assessing the sustainability of poplar-based biofuel production.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Fewer cattle for a cooler planet
An international research team has concluded that methane gas reduction should be an important part of a comprehensive climate change action strategy, and that the easiest and most effective way to achieve this reduction would be to reduce the number of livestock globally. The research, “Ruminants, Climate Change, and Climate Policy” (fee required for download), was published in the December 2013 issue of Nature Climate Change. A summary of the research is available at OSU News & Research Communications.

Economist calls for carbon credits for farmers
An agricultural economist from New Mexico State University has been advocating for farmers to receive carbon credits for practices such as no-till farming and conversion of cropland to grassland. The cap-and-trade strategy rewards those whose agricultural practices sequester carbon in the soil by allowing others to purchase the credits. To learn more, see “Economist Champions Carbon Credits for Ag Lands,” published December 9, 2013, in Capital Press.

Climate change could herald freshwater shortage
Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on December 16, 2013, shows that the effects of freshwater shortages brought on by a warming planet could double the negative impact of global warming on agricultural production worldwide. “Constraints and Potentials of Future Irrigation Water Availability on Agricultural Production under Climate Change” is available free of charge from the PNAS website, or read a summary at USAgNet.com.

LIVESTOCK/DAIRY

Organic milk beats conventional in omega-3 ratio
Organic Production Enhances Milk Nutritional Quality by Shifting Fatty Acid Composition: A United States–Wide, 18-Month Study” was published December 9, 2013, in PLOS ONE. It describes a Washington State University-led study which examined the nutritional makeup of organic vs. conventional milk. The results show that organic milk has a far healthier ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. A brief summary of the results is available in WSU News.

PNAS features articles on livestock and environmental changes
The December 24, 2013 issue of Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences contains a free series of articles on the relationship between livestock and global change. The following four articles are included:

  1. Livestock and Global Change: Emerging Issues for Sustainable Food Systems” examines the interplay among increased environmental pressures, increasing demand for animal foods worldwide, and global economic factors. It acknowledges a lack of comprehensive research in this area, and affirms the need for international cooperation to solve serious impending problems.
  2. Exploring Global Changes in Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycles in Agriculture Induced by Livestock Production over the 1900–2050 Period” examines the effect of livestock production on nitrogen and phosphorus flows in agriculture worldwide.
  3. Biomass Use, Production, Feed Efficiencies, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Livestock Systems” presents a comprehensive dataset of biomass use, production, feed efficiencies, and greenhouse gas emissions by global livestock. It is intended to inform research on the sustainability of livestock systems and their role in food security and environmental sustainability.
  4. Global Climate Policy Impacts on Livestock, Land Use, Livelihoods, and Food Security” provides an integrated assessment of the linkages between land-based climate policies, development, and food security, with a particular emphasis on greenhouse gas abatement opportunities and impacts in the livestock sector.

POLICY, LEGISLATION, & STANDARDS

Funding for bioenergy feedstock development
On December 12, 2013, the USDA and US Energy Department announced $8 million in grants for seven projects to research and develop bioenergy feedstocks. The research will be conducted on switchgrass, hybrid poplar, pine, and other non-food plants. To learn more and see the list of recipients, see the USDA press release.

National Standard for Sustainable Agriculture
The non-profit Leonardo Academy is developing an ANSI-certified National Standard for Sustainable Agriculture, and the draft is now available for public comments. The standard addresses all aspects of sustainable agriculture, including energy production, consumption and use. Interested parties are encouraged to review and comment; comments will be accepted through March 6, 2014.

RESEARCH

Crop drone under development
A researcher from the University of Idaho has developed a small unmanned aerial vehicle that can fly over farm fields and quickly assess crops for signs of water deficiency, nutrient stress, or disease. The tool has been tested on sugar beet fields and wine grape vineyards in Idaho, and shows great potential. To learn more, read “UAV Could Help Farmers Quickly Monitor Crops,” published December 20, 2013, in Capital Press.

EVENTS, TRAININGS, AND WEBINARS

Will Poplar Bioenergy Farms Maintain Soil and Water Quality?
January 8, 2014, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM PST

To identify potential environmental impacts of a poplar biofuel feedstock cropping system, Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is monitoring a number of soil quality and environmental parameters. Studies include soil organic matter, biological activity, physical structure, and chemical balance as well as net carbon loss, soil erosion, greenhouse gas emissions, and nutrient leaching. In this webinar, researchers from the University of Idaho present approaches and initial findings from three sets of environmental impact measurements: nutrient leaching, greenhouse gas fluxes, and soil biology.

Cascadia Grains Conference
January 11, 2014, Tacoma, Washington

The Cascadia Grains Conference brings together farmers, processors and end-users, as well as investors, brokers and local government officials to support rebuilding a grain economy west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia through three value-added enterprises – brewing and distilling, animal feed, as well as baking and other food uses. This conference is presented by the Washington State University in partnership with Oregon State University.

Direct Seed & Oilseed Cropping Systems 2014 Conference: “Covering New Ground”
January 20-24, 2014, Kennewick, Washington

The Biofuels Cropping Systems Research and Extension project at Washington State University and the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association have come together to organize and host this year’s conference. Participants will have a unique opportunity to learn from researchers, agronomists, consultants, and peers, and to connect and network with agriculture-related businesses, seed companies, co-ops, and support services.

Harvesting Clean Energy 2014
February 4-6, 2014, Helena, Montana

The 13th Harvesting Clean Energy Conference includes a diverse range of participants such as farmers, ranchers, foresters and other rural land and business owners. The conference is also proud to attract participation from agricultural organizations, food processors, rural utilities, funders, economic developers, elected officials, government and tribal agencies and the clean energy industry.


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 mathewst@energy.wsu.edu.