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RESEARCH REVIEW: Watch these projects in 2007

Watch these projects in 2007

November 13, 2007  By Ralph Pearce

Eastern field editor for Top Crop Manager, Ralph Pearce has prepared
this synopsis of research projects. While not a comprehensive list, it provides
an update and a prompt to watch the progress of these and other projects in
demonstration tours during the 2007 season.

Ethanol from wheat
Based on test results conducted at a demonstration plant in Ottawa, Iogen Technologies
has set 2009 as a start date for an ethanol plant which will use wheat straw
as a biomass and help push cellulosic ethanol on to the North American market.
Already, the company has begun contracting with growers to supply wheat straw
and by its own estimates, is closer to commercializing the cellulosic ethanol
process 'than any other company'.

Projections from company executives state production costs of $1.30 per gallon
for biomass ethanol, a figure that is comparable to the production cost associated
with corn based ethanol. News reports in May 2006 cited locations in Saskatchewan,
Alberta and Idaho as potential sites for the plant, but the latest word acknowledges
the Snake River Valley in Idaho as the chosen location.


Manure technology having to catch-up to research
As demands on manure usage have tightened from environmental and economic vantage
points, advancements in technology used to manage manure and its nutrients have
fallen behind the pace set by researchers.

Dr. Xiaomen Li of the Alberta Research Council has been working with Canada's
beef industry with the goal of quickening the pace of adopting new technology
and systems geared towards sustainable manure management. One of these, the
Integrated Manure Utilization System (IMUS), has earned considerable recognition
for its capacity to separate and utilize various components from manure and
other byproducts from the farm.

In addition to creating energy and fertilizer, the system can separate solids
and liquids sufficiently to make water contained in manure reusable. Furthermore,
Li and her team are now attempting to adapt the IMUS technology for use on liquid
manure, as well as rendered materials, food processing waste and even municipal

Renewable energy studies show favourable

More producers are putting pencil to paper and determining the viability of
on-farm energy systems. At the 2007 Southwest Agricultural Conference, Don Hilborn,
an advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs,
discussed the results of an on-farm case study, where a dairy producer installed
an anaerobic digester to replace his energy usage.

The producer calculated his electrical costs at an average rate of 650kWh per
day or $28,500 per year. With 140 milking cows excluding replacements, that
works out to about $203 per cow, well within the range of $116 to $245 per cow
per year, set by the Ontario Farm Management Analysis Project (OFMAP) guidelines.

The anaerobic digester, installed in 2002, produces enough biogas to generate
750kWh of energy per day. Ten percent of the power from the diesel engine is
from diesel fuel leaving 90 percent of the output, or 675kWh per day, which
is more than the initial energy requirement cited in the study. An equal amount
of heat is created by the motor, with roughly 30 percent of the heat used to
maintain the digester's 40 degree C level. The remaining heat is used to run
hot water heaters for two homes involved in the dairy operation. In the past
two winter seasons (2005 and 2006), the homes were fully heated by this system. 


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