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Center for Consumer Freedom takes on alt-meat ingredients

The Center for Consumer Freedom is taking on the idea that plant-based meat products are healthier than traditional meats from animals. The CCF began running full-page ads in two of the nation’s biggest publications, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The ads highlight the processed...

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Center for Consumer Freedom takes on alt-meat ingredients

The Center for Consumer Freedom is taking on the idea that plant-based meat products are healthier than traditional meats from animals. The CCF began running full-page ads in two of the nation’s biggest publications, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The ads highlight the processed...

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Ethanol CEO tells industry to not stand quietly

The American Coalition for Ethanol held its annual conference in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 14-17. A DTN report says ACE CEO Brian Jennings made an interesting proclamation to the rest of his industry, which is currently on the ropes. Jennings asked members of the ethanol industry to look to the future and t...

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Boiling weeds in Saskatchewan

The X-Steaminator succeeded in getting a lot of attention at the Ag In Motion farm show in Saskatchewan this summer. It’s certainly not a new idea, but when the prototype-model is based on a concept of greater efficiency and is built on a much larger scale than has been previously designed, it cat...

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Herbicides, bugs on plant strategies wrestle tenacious invasive weed

Cheyenne area rancher Nina Haas walked slowly in the range grass, lush from summer rain, looking down at Dalmatian toadflax plants, and stopped. Something had grabbed her attention, and she went down to one knee for a closer look. “There,” she pointed to one of the leaves on a plant. A round ...

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(Audio) "Chat with the Chancellor" with NU System Interim-President, Dr. Susan Fritz - August 17, 2019

Brandon Benitz continues his weekly “Chat with the Chancellor” series here in the Summer 2019 semester.  He's once again joined by a special guest, the interim-President of the University of Nebraska system, Dr. Susan Fritz. Dr. Fritz filled in for Dr. Bounds on this program back in July 201...

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Crops

Ethanol CEO tells industry to not stand quietly

The American Coalition for Ethanol held its annual conference in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 14-17. A DTN report says ACE CEO Brian Jennings made an interesting proclamation to the rest of his industry, which is currently on the ropes. Jennings asked members of the ethanol industry to look to the future and to not stand on the sideline while the Environmental Protection Agency continues to grant small refinery waivers to Renewable Fuels Standard requirements. The EPA has now granted enough waivers to total more than four billion gallons of lost ethanol demand in just three years. While all that is happening, a potential 3-billion-gallon export market in China is closed to U.S. producers. That’s going on while doubt about the future of the RFS continues to grow outside the ethanol industry. "The ethanol industry isn’t doing enough in response to quell some of those concerns. We have to turn up the volume,” he said. The president directed USDA and EPA to review the waiver program this year, making ethanol believe Trump was aware of the problem. However, the EPA recently announced it had granted another 31 small-refinery exemptions and denied only six for 2018. Jennings added now is the time for the industry to “get angry” and speak up about the harm the EPA is doing to an industry that would be in a much better place without the EPA’s actions.

Boiling weeds in Saskatchewan

The X-Steaminator succeeded in getting a lot of attention at the Ag In Motion farm show in Saskatchewan this summer. It’s certainly not a new idea, but when the prototype-model is based on a concept of greater efficiency and is built on a much larger scale than has been previously designed, it catches the eye. Ron Gleim, a third-generation farmer from Chaplin, Saskatchewan, said that he’d grown tired of looking at weed-escapes in his fields. So, he decided to apply some new engineering to an old idea “After thousands of hours driving around looking at weeds, you kind of think we’ve gotta find a better way to do this, and one day I said we’ve just gotta try hot water or steam," Gleim said. The process doesn't use any  chemicals and is designed to work totally on electricity. The X-Steaminator produces steam at up to 200 to 300 degrees Celsius and kills all the cellulose in the leaves, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s a dandelion or a Russian thistle, it's going to die. Several weed control companies use super-heated steam to kill weeds. Their marketplace is primarily urban-oriented, where chemical applications are often restricted or illegal. The equipment is typically a hand-held wand attached to a boiler system and used for spot applications. Gleim’s does not have a boiler. It uses electric coils to heat the water near instantaneously, and the commercial generator-and-pump-system is designed to be pulled by a field tractor. “Environmentally, it’s going to be a huge benefit to society, but farmers, themselves, are going to be able to use this. It’s very safe, and it’s very cost-effective," Gleim said."It’s going to control weeds that they can’t control now. It’ll save them ten dollars an acre for pre-burn off. If we can desiccate with it, that’s another twenty dollars an acre.” The prototype on display at Ag In Motion was there to showcase the X-steaminator’s design. Gleim said they would be demonstrating machines that will cover 60 feet or more in a pass, with an operating speed approaching five miles per hour, by next spring. At least that’s what his team engineers are telling him. “They’re saying this isn’t rocket science, we can do this, and the engineers are developing some better ways so that we can build a sixty-footer, and maybe even a hundred-footer, and probably go around five miles an hour," he said. In the next six to eight months, Gleim will have a sixty-foot demo that they will use on some area farms. He added the X-Steaminators would probably not be for sale for a year.

Herbicides, bugs on plant strategies wrestle tenacious invasive weed

Cheyenne area rancher Nina Haas walked slowly in the range grass, lush from summer rain, looking down at Dalmatian toadflax plants, and stopped. Something had grabbed her attention, and she went down to one knee for a closer look. “There,” she pointed to one of the leaves on a plant. A round hole had been bored through, one telltale indication of a Dalmatian toadflax stem boring weevil – Mecinus janthiniformis – at work. As if coming out from behind a curtain on cue, a little black weevil with legs churning treaded from under a leaf and continued upward, oblivious to humans and going about fulfilling its USDA-mandated biocontrol job of munching and ultimately injuring the invasive plants on the range at the High Plains Grasslands Research Station just west of Cheyenne. Those attending the Dalmatian toadflax field day earlier this month would later wave sweep nets and sweep the insects off plants. USDA workers used respirators to suck the valuable bugs into small glass jars for attendees to take home and release. The beetles were only 10 feet away from herbicide trials by University of Wyoming Extension invasive weed specialist Dan Tekiela. The side-by-side examples were exactly what Tekiela wanted attendees to see – multiple approaches to Dalmatian toadflax control. “Herbicides aren’t the only option,” he said. “An integrated approach is appropriate but understand not all management approaches are applicable to all situations. That’s really important.” Dalmatian toadflax is native to the Mediterranean region (including the Dalmatian coast of the former Yugoslavia) and was intentionally introduced into the U.S. as an ornamental plant in the late 1890s or early 1900s. Tekiela said horticultural reports from 100 years ago state the plant seemed to survive well but wasn’t very pretty. “That’s such a perfect statement of an invasive,” said Tekiela. “Here we are 100 years later, and it’s one of the more problematic species in the Western U.S.” The weed hasn’t yet blown to proportions like Canada thistle. Dig a teaspoon of soil anywhere in Wyoming, and Canada thistle seeds are there, said Tekiela. He believes there is an opportunity to slow Dalmatian’s spread because the plant hasn’t advanced that far. “You can save a lot of money if you don’t let it get to that point,” said Tekiela. “With the increasing density of Dalmatian toadflax is the decreasing density of the other desirable plants you want. Getting those back is hard. Killing a plant is easy. It’s getting what you want there that is hard.” There isn’t one silver bullet, and thinking about multiple management strategies on your property may lead to the best result, he said. Biocontrol can work in some scenarios but is not feasible in others, Tekiela said. Herbicides may be good options in others. The herbicide trials showed more than what would wreak havoc on the invasive weed. Tekiela is also interested in knowing and showing how much the surrounding native plant community can benefit from management. “I can go out and kill plants, make a moonscape out of something, but that’s not what our goal ever is,” he said. “(That goal is) get rid of one plant and keep everything else.” Dalmatian toadflax has been a focus for Tekiela because it is challenging to manage. He said its waxy coating makes herbicide control difficult. Leaves will even squeak if rubbed together. “That wax is almost like a protective coating, a coat of armor,” he said, to herbicides. Not to the beetles. Adult females lay eggs in the stems in the spring, and the larvae hatch and begin feeding on the inside of a stem. The beetles do not kill a plant but greatly reduce its vigor, according to information from the Colorado Department of Agriculture. After many years, sites have been known to collapse. Bruce Shambaugh, state USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service director, explained to attendees the process the agency uses for Dalmatian toadflax boring weevil control. The beetles may have had a bit of novelty for attendees: Many probably have applied herbicides but not as many have netted beetles. The participants could take them home if they provided information about how many beetles were released and where. Tekiela said tracking the beetles will enable better management decisions based on where they have been successful.  

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Livestock

Center for Consumer Freedom takes on alt-meat ingredients

The Center for Consumer Freedom is taking on the idea that plant-based meat products are healthier than traditional meats from animals. The CCF began running full-page ads in two of the nation’s biggest publications, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. The ads highlight the processed ingredients in meat substitutes. The ads are part of a larger campaign to educate the public on what’s in plant-based meat. The headline for the watchdog group’s ads said, “Fake Meat, Real Chemicals.” The ad then goes on to list the primary ingredients for pork sausage and a non-meat sausage, or bacon and an alternative product. “Despite what the name leads people to think, plant-based meats are not made in gardens, but rather in industrial facilities,” said CCF Managing Director Will Coggin. “Fake meat companies are trying to promote a ‘health halo’ over their products, but consumers should know that imitation meat is highly processed. In some cases, fake meat has more calories and sodium than the real thing.” CCF describes itself as “devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices.”

Herbicides, bugs on plant strategies wrestle tenacious invasive weed

Cheyenne area rancher Nina Haas walked slowly in the range grass, lush from summer rain, looking down at Dalmatian toadflax plants, and stopped. Something had grabbed her attention, and she went down to one knee for a closer look. “There,” she pointed to one of the leaves on a plant. A round hole had been bored through, one telltale indication of a Dalmatian toadflax stem boring weevil – Mecinus janthiniformis – at work. As if coming out from behind a curtain on cue, a little black weevil with legs churning treaded from under a leaf and continued upward, oblivious to humans and going about fulfilling its USDA-mandated biocontrol job of munching and ultimately injuring the invasive plants on the range at the High Plains Grasslands Research Station just west of Cheyenne. Those attending the Dalmatian toadflax field day earlier this month would later wave sweep nets and sweep the insects off plants. USDA workers used respirators to suck the valuable bugs into small glass jars for attendees to take home and release. The beetles were only 10 feet away from herbicide trials by University of Wyoming Extension invasive weed specialist Dan Tekiela. The side-by-side examples were exactly what Tekiela wanted attendees to see – multiple approaches to Dalmatian toadflax control. “Herbicides aren’t the only option,” he said. “An integrated approach is appropriate but understand not all management approaches are applicable to all situations. That’s really important.” Dalmatian toadflax is native to the Mediterranean region (including the Dalmatian coast of the former Yugoslavia) and was intentionally introduced into the U.S. as an ornamental plant in the late 1890s or early 1900s. Tekiela said horticultural reports from 100 years ago state the plant seemed to survive well but wasn’t very pretty. “That’s such a perfect statement of an invasive,” said Tekiela. “Here we are 100 years later, and it’s one of the more problematic species in the Western U.S.” The weed hasn’t yet blown to proportions like Canada thistle. Dig a teaspoon of soil anywhere in Wyoming, and Canada thistle seeds are there, said Tekiela. He believes there is an opportunity to slow Dalmatian’s spread because the plant hasn’t advanced that far. “You can save a lot of money if you don’t let it get to that point,” said Tekiela. “With the increasing density of Dalmatian toadflax is the decreasing density of the other desirable plants you want. Getting those back is hard. Killing a plant is easy. It’s getting what you want there that is hard.” There isn’t one silver bullet, and thinking about multiple management strategies on your property may lead to the best result, he said. Biocontrol can work in some scenarios but is not feasible in others, Tekiela said. Herbicides may be good options in others. The herbicide trials showed more than what would wreak havoc on the invasive weed. Tekiela is also interested in knowing and showing how much the surrounding native plant community can benefit from management. “I can go out and kill plants, make a moonscape out of something, but that’s not what our goal ever is,” he said. “(That goal is) get rid of one plant and keep everything else.” Dalmatian toadflax has been a focus for Tekiela because it is challenging to manage. He said its waxy coating makes herbicide control difficult. Leaves will even squeak if rubbed together. “That wax is almost like a protective coating, a coat of armor,” he said, to herbicides. Not to the beetles. Adult females lay eggs in the stems in the spring, and the larvae hatch and begin feeding on the inside of a stem. The beetles do not kill a plant but greatly reduce its vigor, according to information from the Colorado Department of Agriculture. After many years, sites have been known to collapse. Bruce Shambaugh, state USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service director, explained to attendees the process the agency uses for Dalmatian toadflax boring weevil control. The beetles may have had a bit of novelty for attendees: Many probably have applied herbicides but not as many have netted beetles. The participants could take them home if they provided information about how many beetles were released and where. Tekiela said tracking the beetles will enable better management decisions based on where they have been successful.  

Farm/Ranch Tours Proving Effective for Showcasing Benefits of US Lamb with Chefs

U.S. consumer food choices are often sparked by creative chefs many years before they become mainstream. Examples are ethnic flavor fusion, local foods and sustainable options. Getting US lamb in favor with the right chefs is a cornerstone foodservice marketing strategy of your checkoff promotion program for both current and future industry benefit. The American Lamb Board (ALB) is increasing its efforts among forefront chefs to showcase American lamb and create a preference versus imported choices. Of the tactics used by ALB, one of the most effective is to host chefs on US sheep farms and ranches. Tours give chefs first-hand proof of how much care goes into raising US lamb and how passionate our American farmers and ranchers are about producing the highest quality meat in a sustainable manner. Last week, ALB hosted an event at Lighting Ridge Farm near Sherborn, MA. More than 50 chefs representing at least 30 New England restaurants attended the field trip. Nancy Miniter of Lightning Ridge Farm was the host, which included an engaging tour of her farm followed by interactive American Lamb educational demonstrations and a barbecue lunch. Inspirational sessions featured a lamb charcuterie techniques and open-fire grilling presentations. A popular demonstration focused on the economics of whole animal butchery led by Ben Lloyd of Salted Slate in Boston. He focused on ways that chefs can maximize profits by utilizing whole lamb carcasses at their restaurants. To watch video clips from the day-long event taken by David Dadekian of EatDrinkRI on this Instagram post.

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Technology

Kansas Corn Farmers Featured in STEM Education Book

Kansas Corn has published a new educational book titled, “We Grow Corn—Raising corn on a Kansas family farm”. The book, with an accompanying video series, will be an important component of the Kansas Corn STEM program, which provides STEM-based lessons and classroom materials to K-12 teachers.  In the 2018-19 school year, Kansas Corn STEM reached over 1,300 teachers, and more than 50,000 students. The addition of the “We Grow Corn” book and videos will expand the program’s impact on STEM learning in Kansas schools. Kansas Corn collaborated with northeast Kansas corn farmers Brad and Danyelle McCauley and their four children to show students how corn is grown. The book follows the McCauley family farm through the year with photographs, information and fun facts. Readers will also learn about irrigated corn on a page featuring the Steve Rome family farm in southwest Kansas. Eight online videos featuring Brad McCauley and Steve Rome accompany the book to give students a deeper look into farming. An online teacher resource page is also available. Farmers played a key role in the project, according to Kansas Corn Director of Education Sharon Thielen, PhD, who authored the book and led the project. “Farmers were involved in every step of creating this book and video series. We especially appreciate the help of the McCauley and Rome farm families who brought this project to life. Our goal was to make this an informative book about corn farming in Kansas while providing STEM learning opportunities,” Thielen said. “Working with Manhattan-based photographer and videographer Ray Martinez, we were able to capture stunning images that authentically depict a year on Kansas corn farms.” McCauley said his family participated in the project to support STEM education in Kansas schools. “This project was important to our family because it supports education in our schools by showing how we grow corn on our family farm,” Brad McCauley said. “Science and technology play a big role in growing corn and other crops in Kansas. That’s why corn farmers support this effort to support STEM learning in our Kansas classrooms.” The We Grow Corn book and video series is part of a larger offering of lessons and material for K-12 teachers. The hands-on lessons range from sprouting corn seeds and understanding soil and water needs for crops to making corn-based plastics and ethanol in challenging high school lab experiments. The book is available to Kansas teachers and a book will also be included in each teacher kit sent out this year through the Kansas Corn STEM program. Teachers can order lessons and materials for their grade level online at kansascornstem.com. A teacher guide, online access to the book, videos and photos are available at wegrowcorn.com The Kansas Corn STEM program is led by Kansas Corn staff and teachers across the state who write lessons and labs for use in Kansas classrooms. The program received national recognition with the “Reaching for Excellence” award from the National Corn Growers Association earlier this year. Teachers can learn more about Kansas Corn’s education program at kansascornstem.com and access online materials for the book and videos at wegrowcorn.com

NCGA Voices Support for USDA Proposed Rule on Biotech Regulation, Offers Suggestions for Improvement

The National Corn Growers Association today submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the Proposed Rule regarding Movement of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms. The submission voiced support for the proposed rule while also offering several suggestions that would strengthen the final rule. The proposed rule marks the first comprehensive revision of USDA’s regulations since they were established in 1987. Corn farmers have a strong interest in the availability of new technologies to enhance the sustainability, productivity and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. Agriculture biotechnology and next generation breeding techniques allow growers to increase yields while decreasing inputs. Meeting demand, improving processes and minimizing environmental impacts are what make modern corn production a dynamic industry. The proposed rule, in large part, demonstrates an underlying agreement with the basis of NCGA’s stance and strives to create a more efficient regulatory process allowing growers greater access to new products. NCGA praised USDA’s intention to focus on the plant pest risk of each product, instead of the method used to create it.  NCGA also thanked USDA for its proposal to only review plant-trait-mechanisms of action (MOA) requiring oversight once, instead of each time that MOA is used in combination with other traits, as is the requirement now. The proposed rule indicates a path moving forward appropriate for the advancements in plant breeding innovation while ensuring a responsible degree of oversight. To further build upon this foundation in the rule, NCGA requested explicit and formal language be added to ensure this system functions in a timely and reliable manner that adds no additional barriers for previously approved plant-trait mechanisms. The comments submitted urged the USDA to coordinate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration broadly on the regulation of ag biotechnology to continue streamlining the process and avoiding unnecessary duplications that delayed the tools farmers need to meet today’s needs. NCGA referenced the June 11, 2019 Executive Order, Modernizing the Regulatory Framework for Agricultural Biotechnology Products, which asks the three regulatory agencies to identify ways to streamline regulatory processes, when making this request. To view the full comments as submitted, click here.

Stalk-Worn Sensor to Measure Crops' Water Use

Lincoln, Nebraska, July 31, 2019 — Wearable technology will soon move from wrist to stalk, swapping measures of blood flow and respiration for sap flow and transpiration. Their design won’t have anyone confusing growing season with fashion season, but the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s James Schnable and Iowa State University colleagues are developing a Fitbit-like sensor to be worn by corn and other thick-stemmed crops. Funded by a Breakthrough Technologies award from the National Science Foundation, the researchers are pursuing an elusive goal: measuring rates of sap flow in real time, actual fields and changing weather conditions. Because sap flow indicates how much water a plant is using vs. conserving, measuring it with hourly or minute-by-minute precision would help researchers better understand how crops are responding to drought conditions. That, in turn, would allow researchers to compare the drought resistance of different genetic lines with greater speed and accuracy, Schnable said, leading to more water-efficient hybrids that can tolerate ever-harsher climates from Nebraska to Nigeria. [caption id="attachment_398905" align="alignnone" width="300"] By measuring the water use of plants on an hourly or even minute-by-minute basis, Nebraska's James Schnable and colleagues hope to better understand and eventually improve how crops respond to drought. (Craig Chandler/University Communication)[/caption] “There are different strategies plants can take and different strategies plant breeders can pursue depending on their goal, the environment they’re breeding for and the crop they’re working on,” said Schnable, associate professor of agronomy and horticulture. “All of these, though, do require (that) you actually be able to look at how much water the plant is using, not over just an entire growing season but really on a day-by-day or hour-by-hour basis.” Understanding water use is especially important, Schnable said, given that a plant’s ability to resist drought competes with its ability to produce food. When a plant opens the tiny pores in its leaves to welcome the carbon dioxide essential for photosynthesis — and eventually, food — some of its water escapes through those same pores, making it more susceptible to drought. Crops bred for higher yields invite in even more carbon dioxide, giving water more opportunities to depart. Managing that physiological tug-of-war — or even finding ways to lengthen the rope at both ends — will become more critical by 2050, when the world will likely need to feed an additional 2 billion people while accounting for more-sporadic rainfall. As of now, crop breeders usually assess new genetic lines by planting a series of trials under drought conditions, measuring the yields and comparing those yields to what’s produced in a water-rich environment, Schnable said. The smaller the difference in yield, the better. “So they’re (currently) taking a lot of different things that could all feed into drought tolerance — they’re all lumped together — and they get this one output value, which is: What’s the final yield,” Schnable said. The research team — which also includes Schnable’s father, Patrick, at Iowa State — instead wants to pinpoint the conditions under which different crop varieties begin or stop conserving water, potentially helping customize varieties to different climates. Pairing those observations with genetic analyses of the varieties could also offer more detailed information about the practical influence of various genes in the field, guiding modification efforts in the lab. “The more we can actually measure some of those (individual factors) in the field and look at the differences between varieties, the more we can make precise judgments about how two different lines with the same level of drought tolerance got there,” Schnable said. “You could separate those (different factors) out and then breed for those individual factors separately. “Think of it like this: You can compare two cars by how fast they go or, once you can start to pull apart (and) look at different parts of the engine, figure out how each part of the engine works well or poorly, then maybe start to combine the best of different engines together. But you can only do that if you can measure the performance of different parts separately instead of looking at just the final speed.” POOR SAP? The team’s project qualified for the Breakthrough Technologies program — which the National Science Foundation developed for “high-risk, high-reward” pursuits — in part because no one has managed to develop a sensor that can monitor sap flow over a full growing season in the field. But Iowa State’s Liang Dong has crafted a design, which consists of sophisticated technology packed into a small but flexible package, that the team hopes will prove equal to some of the most stubborn challenges. To gauge the rate of sap flow, the bracelet-like device will administer small amounts of heat to the stem it fits around. Tiny sensors above and below the micro-heater will then record the amount of heat that passes by, effectively measuring how quickly the sap is carrying the heat away — and, by association, how fast the sap is flowing. A combination of nanoscopic structures and fibers within the device should help insulate the sensors, preventing a loss of heat that could otherwise invalidate their readings. Its flexibility comes by way of an elastic band that can stretch to accommodate the growth of corn stalks or other crop stems, including those of soybean and sorghum, that can widen substantially within weeks. The elasticity also serves another purpose: allowing the device to monitor a stem’s diameter, which factors into the equations that describe how fast the heat is traveling and sap is flowing. “The power of the sensors is (that) we can measure something that has not been practical to measure before, which is how much water the plant is using on a very fine resolution,” Schnable said. “The challenge is (that) if you design a tool to measure something that hasn't been measured before, how do you know if you're getting it right or not?” The answer? Compare the sensor data against a known quantity — in this case, finely calibrated technology at Nebraska’s Greenhouse Innovation Center. There, a series of conveyor belts, hyperspectral cameras and scales can detect faint changes in the water weight of individual plants that either do or don’t sport the new sensors. Then, it’s essentially just a matter of weighing one set of measurements against the other, Schnable said. “That way we can tell if we’re producing useful data or gibberish,” he said. It also captures what most excites him, on a personal level, about the project. “My favorite collaborations are those where I'm working with people who have completely different skill sets than mine,” Schnable said. “Dr. Dong came out of the biomedical field, which is why he knows how to build wearable sensors to address all sorts of different questions and problems. We're coming at the same problem from completely different backgrounds and completely different motivations. "Just getting to have those conversations and learn about topics I never would have been exposed to in any sort of a normal plant science job is really fun.”

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Ag Policy

Ethanol CEO tells industry to not stand quietly

The American Coalition for Ethanol held its annual conference in Omaha, Neb., Aug. 14-17. A DTN report says ACE CEO Brian Jennings made an interesting proclamation to the rest of his industry, which is currently on the ropes. Jennings asked members of the ethanol industry to look to the future and to not stand on the sideline while the Environmental Protection Agency continues to grant small refinery waivers to Renewable Fuels Standard requirements. The EPA has now granted enough waivers to total more than four billion gallons of lost ethanol demand in just three years. While all that is happening, a potential 3-billion-gallon export market in China is closed to U.S. producers. That’s going on while doubt about the future of the RFS continues to grow outside the ethanol industry. "The ethanol industry isn’t doing enough in response to quell some of those concerns. We have to turn up the volume,” he said. The president directed USDA and EPA to review the waiver program this year, making ethanol believe Trump was aware of the problem. However, the EPA recently announced it had granted another 31 small-refinery exemptions and denied only six for 2018. Jennings added now is the time for the industry to “get angry” and speak up about the harm the EPA is doing to an industry that would be in a much better place without the EPA’s actions.

NRCS announces $1.9M research investment

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) today announced $1.9 million in funding for 15 Soil Science Collaborative Research projects focused on soil science and soil survey research. The information gained from the collaborative research will advance NRCS’ ability to provide scientifically based soil and ecosystem information to help address important natural resources issues facing our nation. “NRCS is investing in universities across the country to leverage their scientific knowledge and expertise to support our conservation mission.,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. “By engaging a diverse group of scholars through research, we can identify innovative solutions and technological advancements that will increase our contributions to both science and society.” Now in its 12th year, the current Soil Science Collaborative Research projects were selected from among 32 applications. Projects were selected based on nationally identified needs in communities and landscapes. Universities selected to receive funding for research projects include: Alcorn State University Brooklyn College of the City University of New York Colorado State University Kansas State University New Mexico State University North Carolina State University Purdue University University of Arizona University of California University of Massachusetts University of Tennessee University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley University of Wyoming (two projects) Virginia Institute of Marine Science A detailed description of the projects is available online. The information accumulated from these annual projects has helped NRCS develop integrated technical tools and information to assist planners and land managers in predicting and assessing soil health, ecosystem and landscape sustainability and the implementation of sustainable management systems. “NRCS is a world leader in soil research,” said Dave Hoover, director of the NRCS National Soil Survey Center. “This prioritized investment in science-based tools will develop innovative data sharing and information delivery tools and products to reach multiple stakeholders around the world from underserved audiences to the most technically advanced.” NRCS accepts proposals once a year. Interested researchers can learn more on the Soils Research Page.

Ricketts urges EPA to commit to renewable fuels

Governor Pete Ricketts addressed the 32nd annual American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) conference in Omaha.  During his remarks, he discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recent decision to exempt 31 small refineries from fulfilling their Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “As the second largest ethanol producing state in the nation, President Trump’s approval of year-round E15 is a big win for Nebraska,” said Governor Ricketts. “There is, however, still more work to do. While the EPA granted fewer small refinery waivers to the RFS this year, the 1.4 billion gallons waived undermines the purpose of the RFS.  To deliver on President Trump’s support for ethanol, the EPA should be more transparent about the waiver process and reallocate any waived gallons.  They owe it to our farmers.” Each year, several small refineries petition the EPA for temporary exemptions to their RVOs.  The EPA exempted fewer than 10 small refineries annually under the RFS for 2013-2015.  However, in recent years the EPA has been much more willing to grant exemptions.  Under the 2018 RFS, 40 small refineries sought exemptions and 31 received them.

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