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EnergyAg Newsbriefs

March 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

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.


Carbon sequestration on bioenergy farms
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study is providing insight into the relationship between bioenergy crop production and carbon sequestration levels. Researchers found that carbon can be sequestered much deeper in the soil than previously thought, up to five feet below the surface. Additionally, amending the soil with nitrogen was found to significantly increase biomass yield. To learn more, read “A Surprising Supply of Deep Soil Carbon,” published in the February 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Switchgrass is a natural at genetic diversity
Research Summary: Research Finds Strong Genetic Diversity in Switchgrass Gene Pools” was published at on February 28, 2014. This article describes an investigation into the genetics of switchgrass. Researchers found that a broad genetic diversity exists in the natural population; this is good news for crop developers and conservationists alike because genetic diversity is an important factor when selecting for beneficial traits in either area.

Bioenergy learning modules from CenUSA
A series of Bioenergy Learning Modules are available free of charge on the website. While intended primarily for the Central U.S., the content is often applicable to other regions. Modules on bioenergy feedstock development, production, harvest and storage, economics, health and safety, performance, and markets and distribution are available.


Cover cropping key for soil health
Greening Up with Cover Crops for Yield and Sustainability” was published February 24, 2014 on the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture website. In this article, WSU sustainable agriculture specialist David Granatstein shares insights gained while attending the 2014 National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health in Omaha, Nebraska. Recent and important developments in cover crop research and strategies are presented, as well as a discussion of the state of cover crop utilization in Washington State.


Irrigation efficiency tips
Introduction to Energy Efficient Irrigation” was updated on the website on January 31, 2014. It provides an overview of energy efficient irrigation, and provides information and links about irrigation system improvements and management that result in optimal water and energy efficiency. An irrigation checklist is provided, as are links to further resources.


Water shortage a challenge for anaerobic digestion in Colorado
Arid Anaerobics: Colorado Cattle Managers Spurred to Consider Anaerobic Digestion” was published in the January/February issue of Manure Manager. This article explores the issue of water scarcity as a barrier to the adoption of anaerobic digestion in Colorado. In addition, it introduces the Anaerobic Digestion Feasibility Tool, a web-based tool developed by Colorado State University researchers to help farmers decide if anaerobic digestion is a feasible manure management option for their farms.

NRCS programs for ranch efficiency
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs are helping farmers to increase the efficiency of their irrigation systems. A farmer in Oregon utilized the programs to rebuild his piping system underground, thereby minimizing leaks and reducing watering time by approximately half. To learn more, read “NRCS Programs Improve Efficiency on Ranch,” published February 7, 2014, in Capital Press.


Solar powered small farm equipment
Carts & Tools, a tool company in Corvallis, Oregon, is creating battery-powered tillers, weeders, and other farm equipment that is easily maneuverable and can be charged with a solar panel. The tools are designed for efficiency-minded small farmers for whom larger implements, such as fuel-powered tractors, are over-scaled. To learn more, read “With Small Farmers in Mind, Tool Maker Thinks Big,” published February 12, 2014, in Capital Press.


2014 Farm Bill energy budget reduced; retains core programs
The 2014 Farm Bill, voted into law on January 29, 2014, includes significant Energy Title funding for programs such as Rural Energy for America (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). At the same time, smaller programs were cut, resulting in a total decrease in funding of 47% for energy programs when compared with the 2008 Farm Bill. A summary of the changes is available at

Climate Hubs to mitigate the impacts of climate change
On February 16, 2014, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the creation of seven regional Climate Hubs for risk adaptation and mitigation to climate change. These research and education centers will address the increasing risks brought about by a changing climate, such as fires, invasive pests, floods, and droughts. To learn more, read the press release on the USDA website.


Webinar: Nitrogen Cycling and Losses in Agricultural Systems
March 13, 2014, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. PST

Join Kristy Borrelli, Extension Specialist with the Regional Approaches to Climate Change Project, as she provides an overview of the nitrogen cycle and its importance in agriculture. Participants will learn about nitrogen cycling and nitrogen fertilizer management in agricultural cropping systems. The information presented will provide a foundation for two additional webinars this spring covering nitrous oxide emissions and mitigation strategies in Pacific Northwest cropping systems. These webinars are co-produced by the Regional Approaches to Climate Change for Pacific Northwest Agriculture Project (REACCH) and WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR).

Future Energy Conference
April 22, 2014, Portland, Oregon

Now in its eighth year, this is the premier event addressing the business side of clean energy. Presented by the Northwest Environmental Business Council (NEBC), this conference provides an unmatched forum for learning, networking, and business development by bringing together members of the energy industry, energy end-users, policy makers, project developers, financiers, and technology and service providers.

Northwest Wood-based Biofuels and Co-products Conference
April 28-30, 2014, Seattle, Washington

Researchers, business leaders, government agencies, and economic development personnel will share research findings, ideas, and strategies to sustainably develop wood-based bio-refineries that can produce biofuels and co-products in the Pacific Northwest.

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