UD Building Sustainable Agriculture Seminar

On November thirteenth, Bill Cowser and Bill Northey visited the University of Delaware to discuss biofuels and modern agriculture. Bill Cowser produces corn, beef, soybeans, and ethanol in Nevada Iowa. Cowser’s farm has grown from accommodating 50 beef cattle in the early 1900s to accommodating a couple thousand beef cattle. Cowser has worked with the EPA to accommodate the high levels of rainfall in Iowa through a multi-step filtration and reuse program on his farm. Cowser also raises his beef cattle on concrete so he is able to retain and use the manure produced on his farm. Agriculturalists are also looking at the way that they are affecting the environment through water management and nutrient management. A variety of cover crops are utilized to protect the soil from erosion as well as absorb excess nutrients in the soil. There is also research and development occurring to reduce nutrients that wind up in rivers and other bodies of water. Currently there is an issue with hypoxic zones in bodies of water that wind up killing aquatic life.  Thanks to technology, crop fields are no longer blanketed with fertilizer or pesticides. Technological advancements have allowed farmers to tailor the application of sprays and other materials based on the needs of different areas of a field. This technological advancement has also saved farmers money. Corn is the crop that allows processing plants to produce ethanol. There are 42 ethanol plants in Iowa presently and these plants produce 4 billion gallons of ethanol a year. Half of the corn being produced in Iowa goes to the production of ethanol. Ethanol is produced for less than traditional gasoline. Agriculturalists are finding a way to utilize all components of the corn plant. Husks and other components can be used as feed, fertilizer, and the production of charcoal and other products. It was interesting to learn about aspects of modern agriculture and biofuels from Bill Cowser and Bill Northey.

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