AIC Notes Issue 2011-27 July 28, 2011
Canadian Journal of Soil Science
The Canadian Journal of Soil Science, Volume 91, Number 4, July 2011 is now available online.
Assessing soil nitrogen availability in contrasting cropping systems at the end of transition to organic production.
Liu, K., Hammermeister, A. M., Warman, P. R., Drury, C. F. and Martin, R. C. 2011.
Quantifying soil nitrogen (N) availability at the end of a transition period for converting conventional fields to organic fields could enhance N management during the subsequent organic crop production phase. Soil total N (Ntot), KCl extractable N (KCl N) and potentially mineralizable N (No) were determined at the end of a 3-yr transition period. A complementary greenhouse ryegrass N bioassay was conducted using soils collected from the treated field plots. The field experiment consisted of six cropping systems comprising two N inputs (legume-based vs. manure-based) and three forage cropping treatments (0, 1 or 2 yr of forage in 4-yr rotations). The N input treatments consisted of alfalfa meal in the legume-based cropping system (LBCS) and composted beef manure in the manure-based cropping system (MBCS). Orthogonal contrasts suggested no differences in Ntot or KCl N either between LBCS and MBCS or between no-forage and forage cropping systems. However, in the greenhouse study, high cumulative N inputs in the MBCS resulted in significantly higher ryegrass N uptake and potentially mineralizable soil N than in the LBCS. Ryegrass N uptake ranged from 101 to 139 kg ha−1, which should be an adequate N supply for the succeeding potato crop. In the greenhouse, a ryegrass N bioassay effectively identified the differences in soil N availability. Ryegrass N uptake was linearly related to cumulative soil amendment N inputs but had no apparent relationship with N o. A systems approach provided a good assessment of N availability at the end of the transition period to organic production.
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Food Day in Canada
Food Day in Canada, a celebration of Canadian farmers and food producers, is July 30th. Visit the website for more information, including recipes and participating restaurants.
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Climate Change Impact on Weather Explored
About 500 experts in Canadian plant science gathered in Halifax this week for the Plant Canada conference.
The Canadian Societies of Agronomy, Horticultural Science, Plant Physiologists, Phytopathological, Weed Science and the Canadian Botanical Association met to discuss plant adaptation to environmental changes. The societies held some joint meetings and tours of Nova Scotia, but also held their own association meetings and discussed recent research projects and findings within specific fields of research.
David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada and Paul Bullock of the Department of Soil Science at the University of Manitoba delivered keynote speeches to the group, both noting that climate change and changing weather is having an impact on Canadian crops.
Phillips pointed out that extreme weather events -- ice storms, rain, wind and snow -- are happening more, calling recent meteorological events "an epidemic of ferocious, killer, catastrophic weather everywhere."
At the same time, seasons are more unpredictable, he says, noting that parts of Saskatchewan last year were in drought conditions, while this year, the same areas are flooded. Maple syrup producers used to begin their season when the sap started running on the first day of spring, says Phillips. Over the years, the season has shifted so that 80 per cent are now finished before the start of spring.
He says weather models predict that over time, the seasons will continue to shift and the variability of the weather will increase. That will result in longer growing seasons and more extremes in weather.
Phillips encouraged the plant scientists to continue their research "to try to get more out of the seed," to deal with the expected weather changes.
Bullock weighed the pros and cons of climate change on Canadian crops, listing yield loss, increased aridity, more severe or frequent droughts, breed tolerance to more pests and poor rainfall distribution as some concerns climate change is bringing to researchers. However, positive impacts of climate change could be more heat units, carbon dioxide stimulation of yields, northward expansion to suitable cropping areas, improved water use efficiency, deeper roots and warmer soil.
Weeds are also expected to be impacted with climate change, he notes.
"In most cases, weeds come out the winner," Bullock says, noting that current controls may not continue to be a solution. Glyphosate efficacy has dropped when there is an increase in carbon dioxide, one of the effects of climate change. "That's a bit of a cause for concern."
Precipitation, he says, is harder to predict.
"This is where we have some of the poorest knowledge about what to expect," Bullock says, noting that many studies predict "potentially longer dry periods between less frequent but more intense precipitation."
"That's not a good thing. That's a poor rainfall distribution that tends to be negative for crop yields."
Overall, Bullock says, the pros and the cons of climate change on Canadian crops are close to even.
"There is definitely some positive potential, but some negative. Where it all shakes down, I don't know," he says.
Allison Finnamore, FCC Express, July 22, 2011
Editor's Note: The Plant Canada conference proceedings can be viewed at
|Two Ridgetown Scientists Handed Honours at Plant Canada Meeting|
Two of the research staff at Ridgetown Campus received awards from the Plant Canada meeting held in Halifax last week.
Dr. Art Schaafsma was made a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Agronomy. This award is presented to members of the Canadian Society of Agronomy (CSA) in recognition of their outstanding contributions to agronomy. This is a great recognition of Art's dedication and contribution to Canadian Agriculture. Schaafsma efforts have focused on fighting mycotoxins in grain crops. Schaafsma is also campus director at Ridgetown.
Katelyn Congreves, a PhD student working with Dr. Laura Van Eerd was honoured with the Best Oral Presentation award from the Canadian Society of Horticultural Science. This award is given to a graduate student in recognition of excellence in presenting their research. Kate's paper was "Post-harvest organic carbon amendments to minimize mineral nitrogen losses in cole crop production: in situ" and she also gave a poster presentation on "Post-harvest organic carbon amendments to minimize mineral nitrogen losses in cole crop production: in vitro."
AgriLink, July 25, 2011
Editor's Note: Dr. Bao-Luo Ma, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada crop physiologist based in Ottawa was also named a Fellow of the Canadian Society of Agronomy. Dr. Lianne Dwyer, a member of the AIC Board of Directors, received the Distinguished Agronomist Award. An article on this honour to her will appear in the AIC July Monthly Report.
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|Government of Canada Invests in Marketing Opportunities for Canadian Canola Industry |
The canola industry will be better positioned to tap new markets and increase existing markets as a result of a more than $1 million investment from the Government of Canada. Randy Hoback, Member of Parliament for Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, made the announcement today at the Canola Council of Canada's (CCC) Summer Meeting on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.
"Canola is a great Canadian success story and our growers are responsible for producing the world's finest canola," said MP Hoback. "By helping the industry enter new markets and maintain existing ones, this investment will put more money into farmers' pockets and help strengthen the entire economy."
This investment will allow the CCC to highlight Canadian canola's superior health and quality characteristics, and will help it implement long-term international strategies which include market development as well as consumer awareness and branding.
"About 85 percent of canola grown in Canada is exported, so our marketing efforts are incredibly important to the health of our entire industry," said Canola Council of Canada President JoAnne Buth. "This investment will enable us to continue to maintain and develop markets around the world. It's great news for our farmers, input suppliers, crushers and exporters."
In 2010, Canada exported more than 12 million metric tonnes of canola seed, oil, and meal worth more than $6 billion to key markets including Japan, the U.S., Mexico and China. Canada is the number one exporter of canola in the world.
This $1.1 million investment is provided through the $88 million AgriMarketing program, under Growing Forward, which helps industry associations implement long-term international strategies including activities such as international market development, industry-to-industry trade advocacy, and consumer awareness and branding.
The Government of Canada has also developed the Canada Brand strategy to help the Canadian agriculture, agri-food, fish and seafood sector distinguish itself from key competitors in international markets. The Canada Brand encourages buyers overseas to link Canadian products, such as canola oil, with quality, commitment, trustworthiness and the clean land and water for which Canada is known.
Tools and promotional products, including a stylized maple leaf logo, are available to registered Canada Brand members, including the CCC, to help them develop marketing strategies and activities adapted to their own circumstances.
To find out more about the AgriMarketing program or the Canada Brand international strategy, visit: www.agr.gc.ca/agrimarketing or www.marquecanadabrand.agr.gc.ca.
AAFC Press Release, July 27, 2011
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|Restoring Balance to Food Supply|
The water bucket that is our global food supply is nearly empty. Water leaks out through holes labelled food, animal feed and biofuels. Farmers used to be able to keep it full -- sometimes to overflowing. But these days it is beginning to head towards empty. What can be done to restore the balance so the bucket fills to a safe level?
One way is through increased agricultural production -- new farm machinery, new seeds, new types of fertilizers and more irrigation. That would certainly help. At the same time, however, a changing and less predictable climate is already making it difficult for some farmers to achieve maximum harvests. The challenge is to increase production in a way that is less sensitive to unpredictable weather, yet avoids contributing further to climate change.
Canadian farmers have made considerable progress in the last two decades through no-till cropping. By not ploughing the land before seeding, more of the organic matter from past years' crops accumulates in the soil and improves soil fertility. As a result, these soils hold more moisture during dry periods.
Some African farmers have gone one step farther by practising what is called "conservation agriculture," a way of applying compost and fertilizers only to the places where the seeds are planted and then covering fields with a blanket of grass or leaves to retain moisture during droughts and to reduce erosion under heavy rainfall. Not only do these fields become more "climate ready" -- they also yield crops 10 times those produced by neighbouring fields.
Despite these positive developments, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization foresees a slowing of the increases in global agricultural production. This is due to the increasing shortages of water for agriculture, the limited productive capacity of expanded farmland and the expected impact of climate change on crop yields.
So if we can't fill up the bucket faster, what's next? We must begin to look at how we use our current crops and how we can slow consumption of them.
First up is how to deal with growing meat consumption, one of the larger holes in our bucket. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reports that global animal feed demands will double by 2030 due to rising world demand for meat and dairy products. In many parts of the world, young children in particular require more meat and dairy products, but in rich countries, meat consumption is already far above the levels of good nutrition.
The only way to tackle this is for more people in rich countries to eat less meat. Practically speaking, this may be very hard to implement except through rising prices. Even if meat consumption in rich countries is halved, the projected saving in global animal feed will be modest due to population growth and rising meat demand in the developing world. But it's a difference we can all make.
Next are biofuels -- one of the newest holes in the bucket. The current U.S. requirement of 10 per cent ethanol in all gasoline is due to be raised to 15 per cent soon. There are new technologies that have the potential to use non-food raw materials. These could take some of the pressure off the supply of corn. If they don't work out, or are long delayed in coming, the impact on global corn prices will continue to be a serious problem. If corn continues to be the main raw material for biofuels, some system of limiting biofuel production when food prices become too high might become essential.
The biggest hole in the bucket will continue to be food uses. Despite the expected increases in population, there are some important changes we can make to reduce this flow. It is estimated that as much at 40 per cent of the food grown in developing countries is lost after it leaves the fields. This loss occurs mostly during storage and transport. Even modest improvements in infrastructure here can lead to a bountiful second "hidden harvest." Continued well-designed aid for agriculture in developing countries can make a big difference.
There is enormous loss of food in Canada too, but it doesn't occur in the food storage and distribution systems. Rather, it is the waste of food in our shops and homes -- food that is uneaten and thrown away. Accurate numbers are hard to come by, but some research shows that North Americans waste 50 per cent more food than Europeans.
Reducing the amount of food that is wasted by Canadians will be difficult. There are no government policies that will affect whether you throw out the leftover pizza. Perhaps increasing food prices will be the key to changing these behaviours.
We have entered a new world for our food supply. It is far less predictable and less reliable than the old one. We need new, more extensive food stocks to even out the bumps in production. Agricultural production must increase, particularly in developing countries where the food and farm jobs are really needed, along with better ways of preventing food loss. But it is on the consumption side that we must really start to pay attention. We and our governments must start making changes so food doesn't become the new engine of global discontent.
Stuart Clark, Foodgrains Bank, in the Winnipeg Free Press, July 26, 2011
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Canadian Alliance to Advocate for Biorefining Sector
An alliance of energy-related trade organizations in Canada is calling on the nation's federal, provincial and territorial governments to act now to develop a comprehensive energy strategy. The coalition, known as the New Economy Alliance, aims to support the development of a national energy vision that would include clean, renewable bioenergy from a broad range of natural resources.
The alliance is bringing together Canadian associations representing forestry, chemicals, agriculture, renewable fuels and biotechnology with the goal of promoting innovation in new technologies that would add value to Canada's vast natural resources. According to information released by the alliance, producing biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials would maintain and create jobs, generate economic growth, enhance Canada's competitiveness and be environmentally beneficial.
The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association has joined the New Economy Alliance. Doug Hooper, past chair of the CRFA board who serves as chair of the government affairs committee for the alliance, said the group is working to find opportunities to jointly advocate for the types of strategic policies and regulations that would assist those in the biomass industry. He notes that there are significant opportunities in Canada to develop technologies and biobased industries around forest resources, agricultural resources and municipal solid waste feedstock.
Regarding biofuels, Hooper noted that the Canadian biodiesel and ethanol industries have worked together jointly under the banner of the CRFA to advocate for the policy measures that would produce a competitive environment for biofuels in Canada. "Going forward, it's become a larger conversation," he said. "We're not just making biofuels now from first-generation feedstocks, there is opportunities across forest residues, municipal solid wastes and new feedstocks, such as algae, and there is a complex of biochemicals and bioproducts that are also trying to enter the market....It's pretty clear now that we've got...a broader opportunity and we need to engage these alliances that are working in those growth area to work together."
Additional members of the New Economy Alliance include BIOTECanada, Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, CropLife Canada, Forest Products Association of Canada and the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance. The alliance will be working with governments to advance the bioeconomy across the agricultural, forestry, chemical, manufacturing and energy sectors. According to the alliance, integrating new bioprocessing technologies within established industrial plants will deliver a vast array of renewable, value-added alternatives, such as solvents, plastics, paints, adhesives, textiles, and consumer products. As its initial step, the group is challenging energy ministers now meeting in Kananaskis, Alberta, to develop a national energy vision that would include clean, renewable bioenergy from a broad range of natural resources.
Hooper stressed that the New Economy Alliance is highly focused on how to incentivize investment and innovation in the biorefining sector. "In Canada, we are very good at harvesting our natural resources," he said. "What we are looking to do is capture more of the value-added economic benefit, create jobs, and supply the growing demand for renewable products."
By Erin Voegele, Biodiesel Magazine, July 25, 2011
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New Student Award in Nutrition Unveiled
The Prairie Swine Centre and Gowans Feed Consulting have teamed up to create a new first of its kind student award in nutrition.
In an effort to address the expanding need for qualified swine nutritionists the Prairie Swine Centre and Gowans Feed Consulting have created the Gowans Feed Consulting Student in Nutrition Award.
The award, which is available at the PhD or Masters level, targets graduate students who have some industry experience and wish to increase their skills and future earning potential through advanced nutrition training and offers up to 20 thousand dollars per year of study in addition to the normal Graduate Research Assistantship stipend.
Prairie Swine Centre president and CEO Lee Whittington notes there's a huge need for trained nutritionists in the pork industry in Canada.
Clip-Lee Whittington-Prairie Swine Centre:
Nutrition has always been probably the most important factor in the success of a pork production operation, mostly because it's at least 65 percent of the cost of production.
With the wild variations that we've had in commodity prices over the last three to five years the focus is on coming up with alternative ingredients and taking a look at each stage of production and whether or not we can change our rations to meet the animals' requirements.
It's a constantly moving benchmark, nutrition is, because the genetics of our pigs, the way we manage them, the housing that we provide for them has meant that more and more of their genetic potential can be expressed in the modern pig as compared to 20 or 25 years ago and so nutrition has to keep running to keep up with the improvement in the genetics of the pig.
It's a never ending cycle and so, as a result, the nutrition tends to be the place that producers can act to get the biggest bang for their buck but also it's the place where you can act in a business to make the greatest change in the shortest amount of time.
For more information on or to apply for the Gowans Feed Consulting Student in Nutrition Award visit the Prairie Swine Centre's web site at www.prairieswine.com.
Bruce Cochrane, Farmscape.ca, July 25, 2011
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|Environment A Top Issue for Dairy Farmers|
Jeff Nonay has taken an innovative approach to protecting the environment on his dairy farm.
Nonay composts drywall scraps containing gypsum, or calcium sulfate, with livestock manure. The resulting compost provides 90 per cent of the soil nutrients Nonay needs on his 2,500-acre dairy farm north of Edmonton, Alta. The process reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the operation by 60 to 80 per cent. It also consumes 600 tons annually of an industrial product which would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Nonay described his unique method to the recent Dairy Farmers of Canada annual meeting in Winnipeg, which took environmental sustainability as its theme.
Greenhouse gas emissions from belching, flatulating cows is a sensitive topic for the dairy industry, which is sometimes accused of contributing to global warming.
A recent United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization study estimated the global dairy sector in 2007 emitted nearly two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to roughly four per cent of the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to global warming.
But speakers at the DFC meeting told delegates that Canada's dairy farmers are doing their bit to curb greenhouse gases.
Jacques Laforge, DFC's outgoing president, recently installed a $3 million commercial-scale biodigester on his dairy farm near Grand Falls, N.B., aided by a $1.2 million government grant.
The digester provides a number of environmental benefits, such as reducing the volume of manure, recycling straw fibre into bedding for cows, virtually eliminating ammonia emissions and even generating electricity to produce hot water, Laforge says.
He says dairy farms could band together as co-operatives to share the cost of installing digesters on farms.
Dairy farms can be environmentally sustainable in other ways, too, says Marg Rempel, a producer from Ste. Anne, Man. She recently discovered a product called Poo-Poo Paper which extracts fibre from cow manure and recycles it into envelopes, note pads and other paper products.
Canada's dairy sector is well positioned to be environmentally sustainable because of its supply management system, says Denis Boutin, a director with EcoResources Consultants, a Quebec-based firm.
Supply management prevents uncontrolled expansion of the industry, thus limiting the environmental impact, Boutin told the DFC conference.
Ron Friesen, FCC Express, July 22, 2011
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|Organic Farming Systems Yield Energy Saving of 20% or More |
After a review of 130 studies, researchers have concluded that organic farming systems use significantly less nonrenewable energy than conventional farming.
The farm energy savings for organic are often 20% or more.
"We concluded that the evidence strongly favours organic farming with respect to whole-farm energy use and energy efficiency both on a per hectare and per farm product basis," states the study. Possible exceptions are the poultry, hog and fruit sectors.
The findings validate the opinions of many organic famers, says Derek Lynch of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) in Truro, lead author of the "The Carbon and Global Warming Potential Impacts of Organic Farming: Does It Have a Significant Role in an Energy Constrained World?" study, published in Sustainability.
"Many organic farmers are convinced their farming system . . . is just as important as the product in terms of promotion of organic," said Lynch in a phone interview.
"And this is just another bit of evidence that our environmentally conscientious farmer manages a farm with a much lower footprint in terms of energy, and global warming to a lesser degree."
One of the differences in this study was that rather than considering only the energy use of farm fuel and electricity, a much broader approach was taken. The study authors, who included Rod MacRae of York University and Ralph Martin of NSAC, looked at all energy used within the life cycle of the whole farm system. "This means you have to include the embedded energy of any farm input," says Lynch.
Comparisons of farm-level energy use and global warming potential (GWP) were made of organic and conventional production.
For example, nitrogen fertilizer and some herbicides and pesticides all have an embedded energy content that has to be considered. "That's well established. We're not stretching things by doing that."
The study also compared farm energy savings with that used across the entire food chain, including packaging, processing, distribution, storage, preparation and waste disposal. Other major energy users in the food chain are wholesale and retail, for services such as cooling and packaging, and processing.
Based on the study's estimate that farm energy use accounts for an average 35 per cent of the total energy used in the food chain, a 20% reduction at the organic farm level would result in a 7% cut for the whole food chain.
Steve Harder, OACC, July 25, 2011
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|Former Councillor Offers Ideas on How Cities Can Gain Control Over What They Eat|
What would a city approaching food self-sufficiency look like?
Peter Ladner's soon-to-be released book The Urban Food Revolution offers tantalizing glimpses of urban environments that successfully integrate commercial enterprise, low-impact living spaces and agricultural productivity. Balcony gardens, urban market gardens, rooftop beehives, vertical greenhouses and aquaponics, and acres of lawn converted to high-value herb and vegetable production are all being employed with success somewhere. Why not everywhere?
"I didn't want to make this a book about studies or proposals," Ladner told The Sun. "I really wanted to focus on real things that people and cities are doing that actually work, things people and politicians could look at and say, 'We could do that here.' "
Though Ladner comes from a farming family - a certain farming community south of Vancouver bears
his family name - he is admittedly more a gardener and an idea man than he is a farmer.
After leaving civic politics following a failed mayoral bid in 2008, Ladner spent the past two years as a Fellow at the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University on a project called Planning Cities as if Food Matters, which includes undergraduate teaching and organizing public dialogues, and that enabled him to research the book.
Ladner is vice-chairman of the board of The Natural Step, an environmental education foundation, and he continues to write a column for Business in Vancouver, the publication he founded in 1989.
A lifelong proponent of sustainable urbanism, Ladner brings his experience as a journalist, publisher, and civic politician and policy-maker to bear on a question that is burning brightly in the popular zeitgeist: How will we feed ourselves when global food systems falter?
The forces that are already undermining the systems that bring historically unprecedented abundance to grocery store shelves are torn straight from the headlines: soil erosion, childhood obesity, peak oil, diabetes and cancer, climate change, concentrated corporate control of agriculture (so-called Big Food), and deadly food-borne illness.
"People have a really hard time wrapping their heads around the idea that their food sources are not reliable," said Ladner. "It's hard for people who have always been able to go to the store and see the shelves to imagine that food may not always be there."
Local resilience is the only insurance against fragile food systems, he said.
"I don't think our food should be coming from a few big companies for sure, but the place the energy should go is into rebuilding local food systems that were there until just two decades ago, not fighting the Big Food people," said Ladner. "We need to build from the bottom up."
A growing collective paranoia about the safety of food grown on an industrial scale and food from foreign sources is driving change in our region and in our neighbourhoods, he writes.
As Ladner puts it in the book: "Given all the crises facing the trade-dependent globalization of our
industrial food supply, the craving for local can be explained very simply: The surest way to control the supply and quality of the food we eat is to grow it ourselves. The next best way is to buy it from someone we know."
Southwestern B.C. is uniquely positioned to fix what's broken, to rebuild secure food systems. "We have a huge opportunity to really ramp up local food production here in Metro Vancouver," said Ladner.
"We have a mild climate, we have lots of water, fertile farmland, protection for that farmland, and a large number of small operators still intact."
We also have the capacity to be a hothouse for ideas, Ladner said. B.C.'s Agricultural Land Reserve, which protects farmland from development, is a success story that we can export to the world.
And, as Ladner found on recent travels, the world has much to teach us. Shrinking cities such as Detroit and Cleveland are installing market gardens in downtown spaces left vacant by decaying economies, bringing healthy food and new vibrancy to troubled neighbourhoods. Rooftops in major cities are being used for intensive cultivation using technology that requires little if any outside energy inputs.
Rebuilding local food systems as an integrated economically viable web of businesses will require leadership and infrastructure, he argues. "Plenty of both will be needed."
The Urban Food Revolution is a book about what is possible, drawing great ideas from all over the world, but especially from the innovations of Canadian and American cities, in part because those are the ideas we can imagine ourselves using.
The Urban Food Revolution will be in bookstores Oct. 10.
Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun, July 28, 2011
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|U.S. Assists Two Crop-For-Aviation-Fuel Projects |
Farmers in four states in the U.S. West can qualify for a federal cost-sharing payment if they grow camelina, an oilseed, for conversion into jet fuel, the government said on Tuesday.
The assistance would encourage large-scale production - up to 51,000 acres (21,000 hectares) -- of camelina for sale to aviation biofuel makers AltAir Fuels LLC, of Seattle, and Beaver Biodiesel LLC, of Portland, Oregon. It would be the first time the Agriculture Department subsidized an aviation bio-crop.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the announcement coincided with the one-year anniversary of an initiative by the U.S. Agriculture Department, Boeing Co (BA.N) and the Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, to bring bio jet fuels to market.
AltAir aims for a drop-in substitute for traditional jet fuels with production beginning in late 2012 in Bakersfield, California, and in 2014 at Tacoma, Washington. USDA payments would be available on camelina grown on 50,000 acres in central California and an area of eastern Washington state and western Montana.
"The market will be there on aviation," said John Williams, a spokesman for AltAir, which believes bio jet fuel will be price-competitive.
Beaver, which produces nearly 1 million gallons a year of biodiesel, would use camelina from 1,000 acres near Albany, Oregon, to produce an aviation fuel.
Fuel is the No. 1 cost for U.S. airlines, which burn 17.5 billion gallons of fuel a year, says the ATA. Camelina-based fuels have been tested by the U.S. military and on commercial aircraft. Two commercial craft used the fuel to fly to the Paris Air Show last month.
Under a 2008 law, the USDA can pay up to 75 percent of the cost of planting a biomass crop near a biomass processor and an annual payment for producing the crop. Annual payments run up to five years for grasses and 15 years for woody plants.
An annual crop, camelina needs little rainfall or fertilizer and can be grown in rotation with wheat or on marginal land. Its seeds are 40 percent oil, double the content of soybeans.
"Camelina is a great feedstock," said Daniel Shafer, principal manager of Beaver Biodiesel, but it is fairly new to U.S. farmers so USDA payments will make it more attractive to growers while the biofuels market develops.
The USDA announced cost-share support for two other projects:
-- Twenty thousand acres of switchgrass near an Abengoa biofuels plant at Hugoton, Kansas, to produce ethanol from cellulose, found in grasses, plant debris and woody plants.
-- Seven thousand acres of hybrid poplar plants at Boardman, Oregon, near a biomass plant for cellulosic biofuel maker ZeaChem Inc. The project is part of a USDA Wood-to-Energy initiative and would integrate energy feedstocks into timber production. ZeaChem is building a 250,000-gallons-a-year plant.
The USDA said it would spend $45 million over the lifetime of the cost-share contracts for the four projects. Earlier this year, the USDA announced five cost-share areas for switchgrass in Missouri and Kansas and for giant miscanthus in Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Charles Abbott, Reuters, July 26, 2011
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|Corn Yields with Perennial Cover Crop are Equal to Traditional Farming |
Soil quality, water quality, and possibly even farm profits will all benefit by using a perennial cover crop on corn fields that allows for similar yields to traditional farming methods, according to Iowa State University research.
Using standard agronomic practices and managing a perennial cover crop between rows of corn can keep soil, nutrients and carbon in the fields, a three-year study says. Plus, farmers will still be able to yield 200 bushels per acre, the study showed.
For the study, researchers looked at 36 potential ground cover species, different corn hybrids and various tillage practices and found that strip till planting using Kentucky bluegrass as the perennial cover crop is the combination the researchers will recommend to offer environmental benefits while maintaining yield.
Ken Moore, professor in ISU's Department of Agronomy, says that the system using Kentucky bluegrass with strip till yielded more than 200 bushels per acre, which was equal to the control plot, and might also be the easiest for farmers to accept.
"We evaluated all these ground covers and decided to work with Kentucky bluegrass, because it's as good as anything else," said Moore. "And Kentucky bluegrass is out in every lawn in Iowa. Every farmer grows it already. Every farmer knows how to kill it. We think farmers will be more likely to accept it as a ground cover."
Using ground cover to sustain and improve soil has become a focus of research because the need for biomass is increasing for use in producing biofuels.
Corn residue, or stover, usually remains on the ground after corn is harvested and helps reduce soil erosion and replenishes nutrients and organic matter.
The prospect of removing that stover to make biofuels causes many agronomists to fear that soil erosion will increase, while the remaining soil will suffer nutrient loss, says Moore.
Researchers received a Sun Grant for biobased research to identify ground covers that are compatible with corn, find corn that is competitive with the ground cover, and develop management systems that minimize competition between the corn and the ground cover. The Sun Grant Initiative is a national network of land-grant universities and federally funded laboratories working together to further establish a biobased economy.
Moore is pleased the results were so encouraging, but additional work is required before he and others recommend farmers try it.
"Yes, we can do it," Moore said of using perennial cover crops. "We don't know all the potential pitfalls of doing it. Under the circumstances that we tested, it does work."
Jeremy Singer, collaborator and assistant professor at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, says that he also sees a lot of potential.
"The bottom line is that with our best treatment, all three years we found yields in the control and yields in the Kentucky bluegrass with herbicide suppression and fall strip till were not different, which is very exciting," he said.
One focus of the research was to measure if cover crops help replace carbon in the soil that would be lost as stover is removed.
Using his own findings and examining previous research, Singer estimates that the Kentucky bluegrass treatment likely replaces as much carbon in the soil as stover would have, although he concedes that it is difficult to measure precisely.
And, the cover crops also provide at least 85 percent ground cover, meaning only 15 percent of the soil is exposed and susceptible to erosion, he said.
The cover crops also provide weed and insect suppression during the corn growing season, according to researchers.
To reduce competition between corn and Kentucky bluegrass, Moore said bluegrass needs to be chemically treated in the spring to force it into dormancy while the corn gets started.
Generally the two species co-exist well, said Moore.
"Growing two (or more) plants in one field is not a new idea. Ecosystems have been doing it for millennia," he said.
Prior to the Midwest becoming an agricultural powerhouse, the land supported many different species of plant -- each performing different functions for the soil and water quality. Now, we have just a few plant species dominating the landscape, each performing just one function, said Moore.
"In this study," Moore said, "we are trying to put those functions into a simple, easy-to-manage system that can have positive environmental impacts."
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Iowa State University.
Iowa State University (2011, July 25). Corn yields with perennial cover crop are equal to traditional farming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725162531.htm
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Canadian Society of Soil Science and Soil Science Society of America joint conference, Fundamental for Life: Soil, Crop, & Environmental Sciences, San Antonio, Texas, October 16-20, 2011
Feeding a Hungry World: A Summit for Animal Agriculture, Ottawa, Ontario, October 17-18, 2011
Catalyst Canada Honours Celebrating Champions of Women in Business, Toronto, Ontario, October 18, 2011
2011 Joint Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Acadian Entomological Society, Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 6-9, 2011
Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance, National Hemp Convention, Winnipeg, Manitoba, November 22-23, 2011
Canadian Organic Science Conference, February 21-23, 2012, Winnipeg, Manitoba
6th Annual Growing the Margins: Rural Green Energy Conference and Exhibition and 4th Annual Canadian Farm and Food Biogas Conference and Exhibition, London, Ontario, March 5-7, 2012
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Frances Rodenburg, Editor