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Search: Biomass

Growing and Building the Billion Ton Bioeconomy

Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy page cover

Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy page cover

The USDA and other federal agencies recently released the Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy (FARB) documenting federal agency activities aimed at helping to develop and support the “bioeconomy” – an emerging part of the overall U.S. economy.  Emphasis is specifically placed on the production and use of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower.  USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE), Dr. Catherine Woteki, stresses these fuels, power, and products are produced using biomass–agricultural residues, grasses, energy crops, forestry trimmings, algae, and other sources–instead of fossil fuels.

The report also delves into the Billion Ton Bioeconomy Vision, an effort coordinated through the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Board.  Comprised of industry experts from the Departments of Energy (DOE), Agriculture (USDA), Interior (DOI), Transportation (DOT), Defense (DoD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Board is committed to collaboration among federal agencies on bioeconomy conceptions working to triple the size of today’s bioeconomy by 2030—to more than a billion tons of biomass. Read more »

Innovation in the Tropics Helps Farmers Conserve Resources and Improve Soil Health

Dr. Koon-Hui Wang of the University of Hawaii presenting about Cover Crops Calculator for the Tropics

Dr. Koon-Hui Wang of the University of Hawaii is the lead principal in the national Conservation Innovation Grant on Cover Crop Calculator for the Tropics. Photo by Jolene Lau.

Farmers in the Tropics needed a better tool to estimate the nitrogen contribution from cover crops to reduce their commercial fertilizer rates.

Cover crops, which may appear as weeds to the untrained eye, are healthy plants that enhance soil health and minimize erosion. Covering the soil helps protect this precious resource that provides our food and fiber.

A calculator to address this issue was developed for Idaho and Oregon with a high success rate in legume cover crops― a type of plant, such as peas or beans, with seeds that grow in long cases (called pods). Through a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), the University of Hawaii expanded on this proven technology and modified it for tropical climates and soil types in the Pacific Islands Area. Read more »

Agricultural Research Needs to Be a Priority

Agronomist Edgar E. Hartwig with soybeans

Agricultural research means real results helping real people every day. Agronomist Edgar E. Hartwig has devoted half a century to soybeans research, developing productive plants with built-in resistance to insects, nematodes, and diseases. He is best known for commercial varieties that include Bragg, Lee, Forrest, Lamar, Sharkey, and most recently, Vernal. (USDA ARS photo by Keith Weller.)

Seeing President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal and the strong commitment it makes to agricultural research reminds me of Dr. Consuelo De Moraes.

As a university researcher and panel manager of the National Research Initiative (NRI) competitive grants program, I called Dr. De Moraes in 2002 to inform her that USDA was going to fund her research proposal on determining how plants defend themselves against insects, so farmers could exploit the same as a means to control pests. She screamed with happiness. Later I learned that people heard the scream throughout the building at Pennsylvania State University. After that, Dr. De Moraes went on to great acclaim as one of the leading insect researchers. Read more »

Tribal partnerships fuel sustainable aviation

Residual forest materials are collected from tribal forestland for use in aviation biofuel production.  (Image courtesy of NARA)

Residual forest materials are collected from tribal forestland for use in aviation biofuel production. (Image courtesy of NARA)

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.

Alaska Airlines will conduct a demonstration flight in 2016 using 1,000 gallons of jet fuel made from forest scraps. 

The aviation biofuel was derived from twigs and small branches that would otherwise have been burned in slash piles after timber harvest. These forest residuals were provided by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe via the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance Tribal Partnership Program (NARA TPP).  TPP and other NARA partnerships are made possible by a $39.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).   Read more »

Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems: Changing the Landscape of Organic Farming in the Palouse Region

Dorper ewes grazing in selected areas in a mixed crop-livestock research project

Dorper ewes graze in selected areas in a mixed crop-livestock research project. (Image courtesy of Jonathan Wachter)

Grazing livestock may soon be a common sight in the Palouse region of southeastern Washington, usually known for its rolling hills and grain production. 

Jonathan Wachter, a soil science doctoral student at Washington State University, has been working with a local farm to improve the competitiveness of organic mixed crop-livestock systems and their potential adoption by growers in a conventional grain-producing region. Read more »

Bioenergy, Bioproducts Education Program Builds Student Confidence, Equips Educators

Morina Ricablanca

Morina Ricablanca teaches bioenergy and other subjects to special needs students at East Hoke Middle School in North Carolina. (Image courtesy of Morina Ricablanca)

Being an educator is in Morina Ricablanca’s blood. Growing up in a family of teachers in the Philippines, she knew she would someday pursue a career in education. Ricablanca participated in an outreach program assisting troubled youth while attending Manuel L. Quezon University Law School in Manila. She realized then it was time to join the family business of teaching.

Her decision has led her to a successful career working with special needs students at East Hoke Middle School in rural North Carolina. Ricablanca was named the “2014 Teacher of the Year” for her school district, partly due to her work helping three of her students win the school’s science fair. Read more »