Did you know one tiny molecule can save an entire harvest from being destroyed?
Aflatoxin is a toxic substance that comes from fungi on crops. This element can destroy entire harvests due to its dangerous impact on humans as it can stunt children’s growth or increase susceptibility to HIV.
University of Arizona researchers, however, have discovered a naturally occurring molecule that will prevent fungi on crops from producing aflatoxin. The molecule will need to be tested and approved for widespread use, but if it succeeds, it can save producers, and consumers, plenty of headaches.
The discovered molecule can also be used in developing countries, who may not test for aflatoxin yet – read more about the impact here.
Cover crops are planted after the main harvest to help revitalize the soil while also protecting the area from weeds. However, cover crops aren’t just environmentally friendly— they also help protect local water quality by reducing nutrient run-off and preventing erosion.
The University of Vermont has outlined the benefits of cover crops and other green farming practices in a short video illustrating how the planting goes beyond soil revival. With making cover crops more accessible, producers will be able to protect their soil and their local water sources.
Using cover crops also help farmers meet EPA goals – watch the University of Vermont’s video here to see how planting cover crops will benefit you.
With researchers’ help, plants can up their natural defense against predators, diseases, and drought.
Washington State University discovered an enzyme called proteases that protects the plant from insects and increases resistance to disease and drought. However, researchers can raise protease levels in adult plants by increasing protease activity, which means healthier and drought-resistant crops in our future.
The protease enzyme may also help cancer research. How? Read here.
A new type of biofuel using biological non-food sources may soon be readily available, and
Washington State University discovered that consumers were willing to pay more for a more environmentally friendly type of fuel.
First generation biofuels typically use food sources, like corn, which can increase the price of food and is less sustainable than second generation biofuels, which use materials like wood scraps. While this new biofuel does not exist commercially yet, if consumers are willing to pay a greater premium, the market of new biofuels might not be far behind.
Read more about Washington State University’s study on new biofuels here.
Forget their nutritional benefits – legumes are also genetically superior to other crops with their ability to convert nitrogen from the air we breathe to a form crops can use. All other crops have to receive nitrogen from the soil, which is why nearly $800 million was spent on nitrogen fertilizer in past years.
Clemson University looks to change that. The recipients of a three-year National Science Foundation grant, three Clemson University researchers are investigating the genetics in legumes’ roots that allow them to convert nitrogen without a fertilizer. If all crops had this genetic capability, farmers would save money and runoff from nitrogen fertilizer, which frequently pollutes water sources, would significantly decrease.
Read more about Clemson’s genetic research on legumes’ root and its impact here.
When we think of algae, we think of the green, slimy plant that is part of our aquatic ecosystem or home aquarium. However, researchers at Cornell University have reason to believe that microalgae may be the solution to combat global warming’s effect on our natural resources to make biofuels.
Microalgae is found in freshwater and marine systems. By harvesting microalgae, scientists can make biofuels, which will reduce the use of fossil fuels by aviation and cargo shipping industries, combating global warming. The nutrients remaining after the microalgae harvest can also be made into animal feed and potentially used for human consumption, assisting with energy and food insecurity crises as well.
A land-grant university team, led by Montana State University, has been awarded a grant to develop new technology for food, energy, and water systems. The project will focus on biofuels and carbon-capture technologies, and see if they can be introduced to the Upper Missouri River Basin. The impact of the study will help to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which is the leading contributor to climate change.
The grant will run until 2020, and is a collaborated effort by Montana State University, University of Wyoming, and the University of South Dakota.
Read more about the grant award and its study here.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have engineered a new strain of “super yeast” that doubles the efficiency of certain types of biofuel production. Their breakthrough was in expanding the types of sugars in biomass that can be converted into fuel.
Prior biofuel production left nearly half of all plant sugars untouched – a huge missed opportunity. Now, producers can harness the hard-to-reach xylose sugars in grasses, woods, and non-edible portions of biomass.
The breakthrough enhances the economic feasibility of biofuels, which promises to deliver both environmental and industry benefits.
Read more about the discovery here!
A Virginia Tech research team from the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences has developed a way to use yeast cells instead of petroleum in a range of consumer products. The breakthrough could improve the environmental footprint of products such as cosmetics, detergents and lubricants. Collectively, these industries are a $3 billion annual market.
The team was lead by Xueyang Feng, who found a way to trick yeast cells into producing an important type of fatty alcohol that previously could only be obtained from fossil fuels.
Read more about the details of the research on the Virginia Tech website.
Martin Nielsen, parasitologist, veterinarian and assistant professor at the UK Gluck Equine Research Center, has given a glimpse into the future of scientific research funding after winning a $2.1M 5-year grant from USDA.
The money was awarded after Nielsen raised over $12,000 through crowdfunding to conduct lab tests with collaborators that supported his proposal. Working with teams across other universities nationwide, Nielsen will lead the equine arm of a project that will help develop and test a new bacterial agent for parasite control among farm animals.
This research will also be of medical importance as over 1.5 billion people globally suffer from parasite infection.
Read more here!
New research at West Virginia State is focusing on identifying and developing remedies for the condition of local agricultural economies and environmentally friendly use of soil, water, and renewable resources in the Appalachia region. This research has uncovered the potential to mitigate the impact of storm water runoff on water quality, divert selected waste streams into valuable products to improve soil fertility, and improve productivity of disturbed areas and reclaimed land, among others.
Read more here!
A new Doppler weather radar will be raised at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ South Farm Research Center. The new radar will help Missouri’s central communities and provide forecasters an earlier look at developing weather. The project is funded by the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a program initiated to support fundamental research, education in science, technology, and engineering. With dual-poll technology, predicted precipitation amounts will be more accurate, as will the detection of tornados.
Read more here!
Students as Mississippi State University are finding new ways to use culled sweet potatoes in the first Sweet Potato Innovation Challenge. These potatoes that never make it to market create a loss in income for farmers, but they are being given a second chance. Eleven of the 23 projects that were presented to judges will receive funding in order for the students to continue to develop their ideas.
Read more here!
Researchers at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment have found that plant lipids play an important role in the defense against pathogens. They also found that these lipids might possibly play a role in humans’ ability to fight diseases. Lipids are fats, oils or waxes, but it is galactolipids, lipids containing sugar galactose, that allows the plant to fend off secondary infections. Pradeep Kachroo and his wife, Aardra, the researchers who have been working on this study, are still trying to find out if these galactolipids work the same way in humans when it comes to disease resistance. You can get galactolipids just buy eating plants, like spinach.
Read more here!
Cornell maintains the largest noncommercial greenhouse facility in all of New York. Such a distinction however comes with a few caveats. For one, the greenhouse gas emissions produced by Cornell’s facility is equal to that of 2,642 passenger vehicles, or 1,744 homes. Therefore, “staff and faculty from the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) worked with staff from Organizational Effectiveness to use the “lean” process improvement approach to save on greenhouse energy without diminishing the essential value of Cornell’s greenhouses.” The results have been overwhelmingly positive. Learn more about the lean initiative and results, after the jump.
Scientists from OSU helped uncover a new genome sequence in Eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus grows quickly and can be used for fuel and timber. Among its many uses, eucalyptus can provide a renewable source of fiber, pulp, biofuel material, and medicinal and industrial oils. The new genome sequence that was discovered with the help of 12 OSU scientists has the potential to unlock new biomass yield and stress tolerance, among other traits. The scientists are working with the genomes to manipulate how the eucalyptus trees grow, which will influence whether their wood is more suitable for production and manufacturing. The genome will provide a much clearer roadmap for the future of the eucalyptus tree as well as help scientists take a look back at its evolution.
New studies show that the creation of biomass power plants could not only help rural areas economically, but could help the whole national power grid. Tom Johnson, the Frank Miller Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the MU College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources and professor in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs says that through creation of these small power plants, it would directly help farmers and cut their costs. “If they had access to small biomass power plants, they could become close to self-sustaining in terms of power,” Johnson states. “If the grid was improved enough, they could even provide additional power to other people around the country, helping to stabilize the national power grid. This could help save rural citizens money and be a boon for rural economies.” But to receive the benefits that these power plants could bring, policy makers must step in. “We need an integration of policy and programs among community leaders, rural entrepreneurs and economic developers or practitioners who act as conduits between entrepreneurs and policy.”
Research is currently being done that is turning pine trees into a gas to be used to make gasoline and other liquid fuels. Sushil Adhikari, an Auburn University biosystems engineering associate professor and Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station scientist is making this possible through a process called “gasification”. This research holds the potential to impact the state’s economy drastically and help address a larger political debate regarding the country’s energy dependence.
University of California Berkeley is researching the potential of trees towards savings on energy and carbon. UC is hoping to help growers and policymakers better understand the energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon sequestration potential of orchard systems throughout California. Researchers will continue to work with growers throughout the state, with emphasis on orchard management practices to determine best practices for farm management and energy efficiency.
Perhaps we should give more thought to the food scraps we throw away after meals – Cornell students have come to the conclusion that “co-digestion of food scraps from Cornell dining halls with wastewater could contribute enough methane to run the city’s wastewater treatment facility.” By studying methane production at various locations, the students were able to identify ways to increase the efficiency of Cornell’s system. This research could be the first step in streamlining Cornell’s waste recycling as well as creating a healthier form of power for sewage plants.
Alabama Extension is weighing in on the recent high demand of propane gas as a result of lowering temperatures. This demand has become an issue for local farmers due to the shortage of distribution from companies. This propane distribution is expected to be low over the next few weeks, posing a problem for poultry farmers that depend on gas to raise their chickens.
A researcher from Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has turned the tables on conventional batteries by creating one that uses sugar as its source of energy. As opposed to traditional batteries that don’t last very long, create waste, and can be expensive, this new “sugar battery” lasts longer, can be recharged, and is more environmentally-friendly. “Zhang’s development could help keep hundreds of thousands of tons of batteries from ending up in landfills.” This development may change the face of batteries as we know it in the next several years.
Pennsylvania State University researchers have found that companies can economically convert their operations to wood boilers for heat and power. This shift would favor larger commercial and industrial operators with access to large timber supplies and a friendly regulatory environment. Charles Ray, Penn State assistant professor of wood products operations, suggests that wood is a renewable resource that could contribute to the nation’s sustainable energy needs.
Penn State Extension is offering insight in regards to natural gas powered vehicles. GE Global Research is working on a train engine that will run on both diesel and up to 80% of natural gas.This research is beneficial to all as it lowers costs for fuel and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. With the advances in natural gas production technology, it is important to consider alternative fueling options for rail and marine transportation.
In an article from the University of Wisconsin, the issue of using marginal lands to grow bioenergy crops is debated. Of farmers surveyed by researchers, less than 1/3 said that they would be willing to grow non-edible biofuel feedstock. These “hotspots” of willing farmers, however, provide an ample opportunity for bioenergy researchers to experiment with bioenergy crops and create sustainable energy solutions.
On October 24th the University of Illinois Extension will host the Tri-State Heating with Biomass Symposium along with the University of Wisconsin Extension and Highland Community College. This event will provide attendees with general information about biomass heating and will feature several speakers from industry, university and members of the Illinois Biomass Working Group. As everyone is affected by the steady increase in heating costs, it is important to look for and research in alternatives such as heating with biomass.
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign´s College of Agriculture Consumer and Environmental Science, researchers have completed the first comprehensive analysis of a sorghum genome. This analysis may lead to new uses for food and fuel, and could enable farmers to cultivate sorghum in a more efficient way.
Purdue University is reporting on how the local bus system could reduce its costs and emit significantly fewer pollutants by converting its fleet to one powered by natural gas, a cleaner fuel now in greater supply and more affordable. The study was specific to the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corp., also known as CityBus, but this approach of fueling buses with compressed natural gas, or CNG, could apply to similar municipal bus systems nationwide.
The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has scheduled stops for road tours to display the accomplishments of a recent research partnership with the main focus on bioenergy production in the Southeast. The tractor-trailer will feature a mobile gasifier that exhibits howbiomass can be converted toelectric energy. This gasifier shows the achievements that have been made by the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems. This is a $15Mregional project lead by University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agricultures Center for Renewable Carbon.
Researchers at Clemson University are looking into switchgrass as a renewable fuel source. The process of breaking down the parts of plants that hold carbohydrates, cellulose and xylan, has been difficult to solve therefore, Clemson researchers are looking to fungi and bacteria for their decomposing properties. Should these studies yield positive results, the development of cost-competitive biofuels from plant biomass won’t be far away.
Algae is becoming the subject of scientific excitement as many scientists see it’s potential as a new source of oil. Experts at the University of Florida hope that further research could provide for a sustainable, environmentally sound way to break the world’s fossil fuel dependence. Algal lipid properties are seemingly compatible for a biofuel source as it grows quickly and can withstand extreme weather conditions.
New York growers may potentially one day turn craggy, rugged and lumpy marginal land into a virtual, perennial fountain of liquid energy gold. This Rumpelstiltskin method of converting damaged land into bioenergy grasses was the topic of interest during the Biofeedstock Energy Tour at the Big Flats Materials Center. The potential of this renewable fuel source would spike a giant increase in the New York energy market.
A Purdue University agricultural economist will testify on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.. Chris Hurt will explain to the House Energy and Commerce Committee of benefits of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to crop producers. The act increased demand for biofuels and caused corn harvest requirements to jump by billions of gallons.
Penn State researchers are hard at work to identify drought response genes in the Jatropha. This tropical plant provides a wide range of potential as a renewable energy source should scientists be able to improve it’s stress responses. This international team of specialists has identified the first step towards engineering a hardier variety.
Researchers from the Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of Illinois have found that the Black Locust has showed a higher yield and faster harvest time than other woody plant species previously evaluated. This new finding will help researchers catalyze future experiments regarding the harnessing of biomass potential in woody plants.
The U.S. dairy industry is getting help from researchers at the University of Arkansas to reduce its carbon footprint after the dairy industry set a goal of a 25% gas emission reduction by 2020. The researchers are giving a “cradle-to-grave” life cycle analysis of milk, which will give the producers, processors, and other in the dairy supply chain the necessary guidance needed to reduce their environmental impact and maintain long-term viability. The team looked at all stages of milk production, from the fertilizer used to grow the animal’s feed to even waste disposal of packaging after consumer use. This led them to discover that for every kilogram of milk consumed in the U.S. per year, 2.05 kg of greenhouse gases, on average, are emitted over the entire supply chain to produce, process and distribute that dairy. Many areas of impact reduction were found within the industry, including feed and milk production, processing and distribution, retail and the supply chain. Their focus was on farms, where processes for feed production, handling of enteric methane and manure management varied greatly and thus represent the best opportunities for making significant reductions. Thanks to these efforts from the University of Arkansas research team and the dairy industry, the industry carbon footprint should decline.
Many growers are taking serious consideration towards the production of a new industrial crop called energy beets. These sugar beets are bred to be used in the biofuel market and towards industrial purposes. North Dakota University’s Extension service is reminding growers to be mindful of what herbicides they use on this year’s growing season. The warning refers to the damage that may be incurred by several common herbicides once farmers decide to grow the bio-beet.
There has beet significant progress made on a project to develop a new industrial crop of energy beets in North Dakota. These sugar beets are bred for biofuel and industrial purposes. Scientific demonstrations and trial plots are displaying a high yield of production for these beets in various soil types and conditions. Along with tolerating dryer soils, energy beets also have the potential to help farmers by improving soil health because the tap root penetrates further into the ground, utilizing nutrients, nitrogen and water that most other crops can’t reach. The project is a cooperative effort between Fargo-based Green Vision Group (GVG) and Iowa-based Heartland Renewable Energy.
Going along with the initiatives towards alternative fuels, engineers at Kansas State University have developed a method by which to utilize waste products of biofuels to strengthen concrete. Another positive from recycling this debris is the smaller carbon footprint left behind. Concrete is one of the world’s most-used industrial materials, providing an urgency and opportunity to make it greener. Waste products of agriculture such as corn stover, wheat straw, and rice straw are being applied to replace Portland cement.
A team of Virginia Tech researchers has discovered a way to extract large quantities of hydrogen from any plant, a breakthrough that has the potential to bring a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world. The U.S. Department of Energy says that hydrogen fuel has the potential to dramatically reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and automobile manufacturers are aggressively trying to develop vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells. Unlike gas-powered engines that spew out pollutants, the only byproduct of hydrogen fuel is water. Virginia Tech’s discovery opens the door to an inexpensive, renewable source of hydrogen that utilizes renewable natural resources, releases almost no greenhouse gasses, and does not require costly or heavy metals. Previous methods to produce hydrogen are expensive and create greenhouse gases.
The Wooster campus of Ohio State University’s Agricultural Research and Development Center is recycling waste to alternative energy. The research group employs an anaerobic digestion technology, which turns a variety of organic wastes into biogas that is converted into electricity. The campus is slowly reaching is taking strides in the right direction to reach its goal of carbon neutrality, with nearly a third of the energy required to power the main campus being satiated from these methods.
A new initiative seeks to provide college students with an introduction to key energy issues. A webinar is going to be held that will highlight frameworks emphasis on critical thinking. In an effort to help address the array of energy challenges facing the country, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Maryland and the Environment and Energy Study Institute to unveil a model curricular framework called ‘Energy 101.’
A new report, “Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight,” was completed and submitted as the first ever comprehensive plan for an individual state to provide 100% of its energy from wind, water, and sunlight – while also calculating the number of energy devices, land and ocean areas, as well as jobs and polices required to make the plan a reality. Co-authored by Robert W. Howarth, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell professor of engineering– the report explained that the project could generate 4.5 million jobs for New York and give the state an opportunity to “lead the nation… toward what we all know must be the energy path of the 21st century”.
An international conference next week at the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) will examine the feasibility of natural gas as an alternative fuel. The SAE International Natural Gas Symposium Tuesday and Wednesday opens with a high-level overview session providing natural gas production forecasts, infrastructure development, government initiatives and technology trends.
Biobutanol shares similar benefits to ethanol with some additional features that give it potential as the biofuel for the future. Biobutanol is less corrosive and can be manufactured and distributed using the existing ethanol production methods and facilities. Researchers at Michigan State University seek to unlock this potential for a renewable transportation fuel.
Two MU School of Natural Resources sustainability experts will be featured at the inaugural SEC Symposium, “Impact of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future” Feb. 10-12 in Atlanta.
Shibu Jose and Hank Stelzer, two researchers from the University of Missouri, will display the latest results from their research on renewable energy during the symposium
The University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences recently completed a 4-year studying alternatives to corn-producing ethanol. According tho the study’s findings, Perennial biofuel crops such as miscanthus, are now shown to have another beneficial characteristic–the ability to reduce the escape of nitrogen in the environment. The study compared miscanthus, switchgrass, and mixed prairie species to typical corn-corn-soybean rotations, each of the perennial crops were highly efficient at reducing nitrogen losses, with miscanthus having the greatest yield. According to Mark David, U of I biogeochemist, results from this study clearly show these crops have the potential to quickly and greatly reduce nitrogen losses that have important environmental effects, while providing a large biomass harvest.
The Ohio State University CFAES and the Touchstone Research Laboratory have begun to study the use of algae in an attempt to develop new efficient and renewable sources of natural fuel. The oil derived from algae could also be used to develop bio-plastics, food supplements and many other products in a sustainable and cost effective way – with the program at Cedar Lane Farms boasting of goals to ultimately “make the algae industry competitive with petroleum fuels.”
According to University of Maryland Professor Patrick Kangas, algae could be a very important biofuel producer for the future. “Algae actually grows faster than any other kinds of plants,” Dr. Kangas said. “That’s why it may well be the best source as a feedstock for biofuel.” Dr. Kangas has been studying algae and its potential to help reduce water pollution and produce fuel since 1979. His work was recently highlighted on CNN in an interview about the importance of backing algae research.
Researchers from the North Dakota State University Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics are working to develop enhanced energy sugar beets that are optimized for biofuel production. “The NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics will lead the project’s economic and environmental analyses,” says David Ripplinger, bioproducts and bioenergy economist and assistant professor in the department. This project emphasizes the promise of energy beets as an industrial feedstock and a proprietary yield-enhancing technology to improve the competitiveness of energy beets as a feedstock.
As the temperature drops, heat bills rise. University of Kentucky Extension Services is working with local resource agents to implement a new boiler that relies on biomass gasification in place of propane. This winter will determine the success of the boiler, which has been installed in a local agent’s farm. The boiler provides heat for five local greenhouses, a roadside market and local building nearby, which previously relied on 2,000 gallons of propane in the winter. The unit is rated at 95 percent efficiency, if it works well through the winter the boiler will save the community and local businesses money on heating bills, a wonderfully green solution to heating an entire farming operation.
Researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have found that natural bacteria in cow rumens could be extremely helpful in biofuel production. According to UW-Madison CALS expert bacteriology professor Garret Suen, the microbes found in cow rumens have evolved to break down cellulose from the plants they eat efficiently and effectively. This has been a key challenge in biofuel production, and harnessing this natural process could be invaluable in industrial applications.
Ohio State University’s research arm of the College of Agriculture found that Cleveland has the potential to generate 100 percent of their energy needs, which would save millions of dollars, help the environment and create local jobs. The city’s energy consumption profile was composed and local resources assessed and it was found that Cleveland was rich in renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, conversion of waste to energy, and biofuels. Various scenarios were created by the research team to integrate renewable energy into Cleveland’s energy consumption in varying degrees, from utilizing wind power in abandoned parking lot to the aggressive 100 percent local generation of power through offshore wind power. Incorporating a portion of these energy solutions would cut spending, reduce pollution and create local jobs; it is an interesting answer to the city’s reliance on imported energy, one that allows the city to control the aggressiveness.
University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Craig Kvien discusses the importance of the Southeast Energy Options Conference, which will be held on UGA’s campus with the support of other Southeast universities. The conference’s purpose is to educate people on energy efficiency in agriculture and to highlight new research and technology in the field. Among the experts attending will be former president Jimmy Carter, who will open the conference.
Cornell University agricultural researchers team up with other universities to work on the Northeast Woody/Warm-season Biomass Consortium, which focuses on improving biofuel production. The project aims to integrate sustainable systems, to make use of abandoned land and avoid land competition, and will even bring new jobs to the sites.
Researchers from Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are teaming up with Swedish scientists to study butyric acid, a biobased acid that may be used as a petroleum alternative. Given the Swedish government’s recent announcement that the country will stop using oil by 2020, this research is essential to developing ways to use the country’s large agricultural and forest resources to produce petroleum alternatives. Kris Berglund, MSU professor of chemical engineering and food science, is taking the lead on the project, and says that Michigan can learn a lot from the Swedes when it comes to energy independence and using abundant forest resources to become self-sufficient in energy. Butyric acid can be produced from forest-sourced raw materials or agricultural residue, and can later be processed into a high-value chemical. Berglund’s research and entrepreneurial endeavors are part of a larger collaborative effort between Sweden and MSU to share ideas about growing a biobased economy in both countries, creating jobs and launching companies that work to replace fossil fuel-based products with alternatives derived from plants and microbes.
University of Kentucky Extension specialists are currently working on producing switchgrass and other crops for biomass. Using switchgrass for biomass is a clean, environmentally-friendly way to produce energy locally, and it can also be used for grazing or hay. The specialists address the need for alternative energy sources and are confident with the use of switchgrass, as it can last up to 20 years.
As gas prices are on the rise, Arkansas State University College of Agriculture assistant professor Kevin Humphrey is researching different crops that can be converted into biodiesel that would work in small car engines. Humphrey, along with a team of undergraduates, has found a process to convert cooking oil into biodiesel as a cheaper, more environment-friendly alternative to petroleum. He obtains the cooking oil from nearby Chick-fil-As, and utilizes crops grown on campus for his research.
Researchers from the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources have discovered a new crop connection that can help revive areas of fields that have lost productivity. According to Newell Kitchen, a Plan Sciences Specialist at U of Missouri CAFNR, bioenergy crops such as switchgrass and miscanthus can help soil, improve water quality and provide alternative revenue. In recent research, Kitchen found that even when there is a lack of topsoil, it is possible to grow a healthy switchgrass crop that will produce five to seven tons per acre per year. By storing carbon below ground, these crops improve the soil nutrient content and structure for the next season, which makes a more bountiful harvest likely for next year. Additionally, biomass plants can be a profitable crop when used to provide energy, whether that is being co-fired with coal in a power plant or, potentially, being processed into liquid fuels. “That could provide a flow of income for farmers that would diversify their enterprise and make these marginal soils more productive,” said Kitchen.
According to a recent study from Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative (WBI), a research institution of the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Wisconsin can be a national leader in bioenergy production using waste from the state’s prosperous agriculture and food processing sectors. UW-Madison researchers found that in dairy cow manure alone, the report found 4.77 million dry tons available per year, which is the potential energy equivalent of replacing a large-scale coal plant. The waste can be diverted from dairy farms, food processing facilities, landfills and municipal waste water treatment plants into biogas. This presents an opportunity to produce energy from waste without disrupting other state industries, while simultaneously boosting the economy.
Auburn University College of Agriculture, Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, and Alabama Cooperative Extension host the free AG Discovery Adventure Event September 29th. The event provides local citizens with interactive games designed to explain the importance for bioenergy and sustainability in agriculture in unique and fun ways.
The National Science Foundation awards $335,930 to West Virginia University’s “Technology, Energy, Economy and Environment Chain: Integrated Modeling for Technology Transition in Energy Rich Regions” project—an initiative WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design researchers Hodjat Wesley Burnett and Jerald J. Fletcher as well as Regional Research Institute Director Randall Jackson believe will give analysts and decision-makers wide ranging information that will guide sensible sustainable clean energy decisions across the United States and the world at large.