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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

March 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.


Camelina grower and processor shares his story

"Running on Camelina: Pressing Seed to Meet Pressing Energy Needs" is a combined article and video interview, published on February 11, 2011, on the WSU Today website. The article describes a successful camelina growing and processing operation in La Crosse, Washington, run by farmer Steve Camp. Camp produces highly nutritious seed meal and refined biodiesel from his crop, which are used to feed his livestock and run his tractors, respectively.

Expert panel tackles food vs. fuel debate

An interdisciplinary four-member panel shared perspectives on the biomass industry food vs. fuel debate at the National Biodiesel Conference, held in February 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Panel members included a farm association representative, two academic researchers, and a representative from the USDA. For more information, read "Different Views of Food vs. Fuel Shared at NBB Conference," published February 10, 2011, in Biodiesel.


Tips for improving tractor fuel efficiency

A new publication, Tractor Maintenance to Conserve Energy, was released by Iowa State University Extension in February 2011. See this publication to learn how to keep a tractor maintained and outfitted for optimum fuel efficiency, and learn how simple adjustments in operation, such as idling time and fuel selection, can impact energy performance.


On-Farm energy production is on the rise, survey shows

The use of solar panels, wind energy, and methane digesters on farms in the U.S. has increased markedly in the past decade, and farmers adopting such systems are benefitting economically by paying less for utilities. Details can be found in the 2009 On-Farm Renewable Energy Production Survey, released in February 2011 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A brief summary can be found in the February 23, 2011, press release.


Research to study the effect of climate change on agriculture and forestry

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will provide funding for three major research efforts to study the impact of climate change on agriculture and forestry. The studies will examine various climate models, juxtaposing them with different agriculture and forestry management practices and predicted carbon sequestration levels. Read more about the studies in the February 18, 2011, press release.

USDA smells roses when examining methane biodigester potential

Climate Change Policy and the Adoption of Methane Digesters on Livestock Operations, by Nigel Key and Stacy Sneeringer of the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), provides an economic model of the relationship between carbon offset prices, farm management practices, and the profitability of adoption for dairy and hog farmers. The report finds that if farmers were compensated for their carbon reductions, a modest increase in the price of carbon would result in significantly higher rates of methane digester adoption by farmers.

Study examines effect of crop residue harvesting on soil quality

A study published by the American Society of Agronomy found that indiscriminate crop residue removal on farms will eventually deplete soil organic matter, resulting in degraded soil, increased pollution, reduced crop yields, and decreased overall agricultural sustainability. While this result could be partially mitigated by sustainable farming practices, the research shows that a whole-systems approach must be used to determine whether and how much crop residue can sustainably be removed on a case-by-case basis. The report, "Predicting Agricultural Management Influence on Long-Term Soil Organic Carbon Dynamics: Implications for Biofuel Production," was published in the January 2011 issue of Agronomy Journal.

Research provides path to Life-Cycle Assessment of biofuel production and use

Grand Challenges for Life-Cycle Assessment of Biofuels, published in the March 1, 2011, issue of Environmental Science and Technology, recognizes seven challenges which must be overcome in order for a comprehensive Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) of biofuel production and use to take place. The seven categories represent knowledge gaps along the entire lifecycle of biofuel production and use; the article discusses each challenge, and provides a starting point for working towards a comprehensive LCA process.


USDA may provide crop insurance for biofuel feedstocks

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investigating the possibility of providing insurance for biofuel feedstock crops, including corn stover, switchgrass, camelina, and others. The insurance would serve as a risk management incentive for farmers. For more information, read the press release.


USDA provides support for North Dakota wind project

PrairieWinds wind farm in North Dakota was chosen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive a guaranteed loan for the planning, engineering, and construction of over 100 wind turbines. The new turbines, along with existing infrastructure, are expected to produce over 151 megawatts of electricity, which will be distributed to 2.8 million customers in 9 states. To learn more, read the February 11, 2011, press release.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Foundational Programs

The purpose of AFRI is to support research, education, and extension work by awarding grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture, including farm efficiency and profitability, ranching, renewable energy, forestry (both urban and agroforestry), aquaculture, rural communities and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, food safety, biotechnology, and conventional breeding. Through this support, AFRI advances knowledge in both fundamental and applied sciences important to agriculture. Letter of Intent Deadline: March 16, 2011.


Oilseed Crop Production Workshop presentations now available online

Presentation materials from the Oilseed Crop Production Workshop, sponsored by the Washington State University (WSU) Biofuels Research & Extension Project in January 2011, are now available online. Materials from 24 workshop segments are included, covering practical aspects of oilseed crop production, feasibility, cultivation methods, fertilization, economics, and research.

Atlas of Rural and Small Town America

The Atlas of Rural and Small Town America, a new online map tool developed by the USDA Economic Research Service, offers an interactive presentation of data from rural and semi-rural areas of the United States. Population statistics, employment, agricultural data, and other demographic and economic indicators are available to view, analyze, and compare. A February 18, 2011, press release has details.

Public review draft of EPA biofuels report available for download

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released an external review draft of Biofuels and the Environment: The First Triennial Report to Congress. The report presents a detailed analysis of the environmental impacts of biofuel production and use, including air, water, and soil impacts, ecosystem health and biodiversity, and resource conservation impacts. The analysis covers the entire biofuel supply chain, from feedstock production to biofuel production and use.


California Small Farm Conference
March 6-8, 2011, San Jose, California
Providing a venue for small farmers and their supporters to come together to network, learn, discuss and grow, the California Small Farm Conference has continually gained momentum and attendance....Our Mission is to conduct an educational conference on topics relevant to family farming, direct marketing and issues related to agricultural sustainability.

WPA Webinar: Small and Distributed Wind
March 16, 2011, 12:00 PM PST
This free webinar is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America 2011 webinar series. It will provide a discussion about small, distributed, and community wind. The webinar is free; no registration is required.

Biomass Crop Production Workshop
March 17, 2011, Creston, Iowa
This workshop will provide information about miscanthus and other perennial

bioenergy crops for energy generation in southern Iowa. Farmers, energy producers, land managers, and anyone interested in biomass production are welcome to attend and learn more.

Food Policy from Neighborhood to Nation
May 19-21, 2011, Portland, Oregon
This is going be the most comprehensive national conference on local and state food policy in the US! Building on CFSC's 2009 Food Policy Council national gathering, this conference will bring together people from across North America who are working to influence local and state food, agriculture, or nutrition policy.

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