Industry touts sustainable production of renewable fuels

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2013 - Renewable fuel industry leaders said today that U.S. agriculture is making impressive strides in sustainability, allowing producers to provide food, feed, fuel, fiber and fuel in an environmentally sensitive manner.

A media conference call was staged, sponsors said, to underscore the “impressive gains in water use, energy efficiency, and soil and land conservation” seen in biofuel production, and counter “falsehoods about the sustainability of oil alternatives” advocates say are coming from renewable fuel opponents.

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During the call, Adam Monroe, president of Novozymes North America, a company focused on the development of feedstock-to-biofuel conversion technologies, said U.S. policy makers should grasp the benefits that the development of biofuels provides the nation's energy portfolio, including more jobs and enhanced energy security, while driving even greater agricultural sustainability.

Monroe cited the growth of “bio-ag” technology as a “whole new world” in which the microbiology in soil is being studied extensively, leading to the development of a better synergy between plants and the soils around them. The trend, he said, is leading to a reduction in pesticides because new plant traits get more use out of the pesticide that is used, and greater crop yields because of better interaction between microorganisms and seeds, making crops better able to handle adverse weather conditions like drought and heavy rains.

Fred Yoder, an Ohio farmer and past president of the National Corn Growers Association, said his operation is 100-percent conservation- and no-till, “saving untold tons of top-soil” and making his farm “is the most productive it's ever been. It's the most sustainable it's ever been.”

Yoder said technology has played a “big, big part' in the success of his farm, including new seeds and new equipment. He also cited the incorporation of cover crops “to keep my soil alive,” and that by studying the soil profile of land and increasing its carbon content, erosion and nutrient runoff are minimized. He said the same practices could boost the production of biofuel feedstocks in a sustainable way, particularly on marginal lands.

Jan Koninckx, business director for biofuels with DuPont, noted a cellulosic ethanol plant his company is building near Nevada, Iowa, where area farmers will provide corn stover as feedstock for the facility. He said the plant exemplifies the growing trend of sustainably producing biofuels, citing an agreement DuPont recently signed with USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service to incorporate conservation planning tools to insure the sustainable collection of the stover.

Citing his company's 10 years of work on developing renewable fuels from non-food crops, Koninckx said, “There are ways to collect this corn stover and other biomasses in a very sustainable way while, at the same time building soil quality . . . Sustainability is very achievable in our supply chains.”




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