Building Sustainable Agriculture

Tuesday November 13th, Bill Cowser and Bill Northey came to the UD STAR Campus to discuss biofuels and modern agriculture. All majors were welcome to this hearing and as a bonus at the end there was free UDairy ice cream! On Bill Cowser’s farm he raises beef cattle and grows soybeans and corn. He mentioned that every third row of corn goes to produce ethanol. In Iowa, 39% of its corn crops is used for ethanol. Cowser also mentioned the three commodities that come from a corn field: stalk/corn, feed, and bedding. One thing that I thought was kind of funny was what Cowser calls “The Chase.” The Chase is one thing that he needs/ wants to control the most but is unable too. He would like to control the weather but it’s impossible. He even said that he knows he can’t be he’s going to try. This past summer Iowa got a lot of rain. More than Delaware which destroyed some of the crops there.

Both men talked about the main goals of the agricultural industry. For instance, farmers want renewable, sustainable, environmental friendly, and profitable products. If it’s not profitable then that’s a huge lost right there because no one will be able to afford it and therefore, no one would buy the product. They also talked about the VTA or the Vegetative Treatment Area. What this is, is an area of perennial vegetation, like grass or forage. It is used to treat runoff from either a barnyard or a feedlot by settling, infiltration, and nutrient use. And when the runoff has settled into the soil, natural processes allow plants to use those nutrients. To me, this presentation was really interesting to hear. Even though it went over most of the topics we covered in class there was more to learn from it which is pretty cool. It’s also nice to get an insight view of the production from a different area.

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