Government, company agreementwill help farmers improve conservation practices
By Jennifer Carrico
A joint agreement between the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and DuPont will set voluntary standards for the sustainable harvesting of agricultural restudies for renewable fuel, and support rural job creation, additional income for farmers, bio-based energy development, and the safeguarding of natural resources and land productivity.
On March 29, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the DuPont headquarters in Johnston to sign a Memorandum of Understanding along with DuPont Executive Vice President Jim Borel.
The MOU will provide conservation planning assistance for farmers who supply bio-based feedstocks to biorefineries as the industry begins to commercialize.
“This is more than just a MOU, it’s about rebuilding the rural economy,” said Vilsack. “This agreement will help provide a local and regional market for a new product for farmers.”
He said USDA and DuPont share a common interest in good management of soil, water and energy resources, as well as helping farmers adapt new market opportunities with the wise use of natural resources.
“While figuring out how to use these feedstocks in the biorefineries, these scientists will continue to find even more uses for our agriculture products,” said Vilsack.
Borel said DuPont is willing to take on the big challenges with the bio-energy industry because they see big opportunities.
“Working with farmers is critical to maximizing the land’s productivity and protecting natural resources,” he said. “With this new collaboration, we have a partner in the NRCS to ensure that the collection of corn stover for the production of cellulosic renewable fuel makes sense for an individual grower’s operation and the land they farm.”
DuPont is currently constructing a cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa, which will primarily use cornstalks as the main feedstock.
Jeff Taylor, a farmer near Nevada, has worked with DuPont and Iowa State University for the past three and a half years to help determine what the best option is for corn stover removal.
“Right now it looks like it is best to take about 40 percent of the stover off of the fields with a single pass,” he said.
Taylor explained how he has increased the number of seeds he plants per acre over the past several years. With the addition of seeds, there is also an addition of stover, which doesn’t decompose as well.
“With the addition of corn stover, we originally had were adding more tillage, but now with the corn stover harvest, we actually have fewer passes over the fields,” he said. “With the fields where we plant corn on corn, we were adding 30 pounds more nitrogen per acre, but now we are saving money because we don’t have to use as much fuel to get our crop in or as much nitrogen.”
Taylor said he’s not only saving money and time, but his crop is healthier because the removal of some of the organic matter has also removed disease problems that had to be dealt with.
“It’s definitely a win-win situation. Initially, I thought this would be about making money by selling the corn stover, but now it’s about the nutrient value it has added to my farm and my crop,” he added.
Through the MOU, DuPont will develop a process to work with cooperating farms on sustainable harvest practices that help keep soil in the field and out of rivers, streams and lakes, while promoting healthier soils which help reduce flooding through increased infiltration rates, and provides for the efficient use of nutrients.
The Nevada, Iowa plant is to produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. This plant will use harvested residues from a 30-mile radius around the facility.
“This agreement will support our nation’s effort to reduce dependency on foreign oil. Our crop growing success starts and ends with leaving the condition of the soil sustainable,” said Vilsack. “Iowa and U.S. farmers are committed to good conservation practices and this agreement shows consumers that we have this commitment.”
Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.