Getting the Most from Your Energy Dollar...
Using Energy Wisely on the Farm and Ranch

farm fuel tank
USDA Quality Assurance Specialist David Johnson examines a fuel sample while Greg Meyer, fuel company driver, fills a 20,000-gallon farm fuel tank with biodiesel . Photo: Keith Weller.
There’s no avoiding this reality in farming: Energy is one of the more expensive components of raising crops and livestock. In fact in 2005 in Nebraska, agricultural expenditures rose 10 percent above 2004 costs according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of rising costs for fuel and fertilizer — which is petroleum-based. An earlier USDA study found that nearly half the cost of production was for spent for energy.

In this issue, the Quarterly profiles fact sheets on cellulosic ethanol, the benefits of center pivots over drip or trickle irrigation, ways renewable energy can be incorporated into farming operations, energy saving irrigation tips, and ways to reduce on-farm energy costs.

What’s All the Fuss About Ethanol from Biomass?
Cellulosic Ethanol” is an eight-page, March 2007 fact sheet that describes research advances at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Ethanol-based fuels are being developed and produced to replace some percentage of the imported petroleum-based fuels now in use in the United States. The promise of cellulose — wood chips, grasses, and other waste material — is that it may be developed on a rather large scale and not
cellulose crop
The US DOE Biofuels Program is developing technology to produce ethanol from the fibrous material (cellulose and hemicellulose) in the corn stalks and husks or other agricultural or forestry residues. Photo: Bob Allan
disrupt the food supply.

Using Renewable Energy on the Farm
The Union of Concerned Scientists web site features a section on renewable energy and agriculture. This site is useful for farmers — and those assisting them — who want to learn more about renewable energy as a cash crop. The site links to four renewable energy fact sheets and other helpful resources, including an Energy 101 tutorial.
The Future of Biofuels
Harvesting Clean Energy Journal explores “Growing Sustainable Biofuels: The Cellulosic Fuels Revolution” in its May 2007 edition.
irrigation check-up
Dave Schwaninger of Hallam, NE checks his irrigation equipment for leaks. University of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR) photo by Brett Hampton.
The article, by Patrick Mazza of Climate Solutions, highlights the booming biofuels market and related backlash, and the environmental and economical advantages of cellulosic biofuels.


Energy Saving Irrigation Tips
The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service offers “Energy Saving Tips for Irrigators”. The publication, available in PDF or electronic formats, describes ways to save energy and reduce irrigation energy costs, which include: mechanical improvements, management changes, energy cost reduction and making your own energy.

Reducing On-Farm Energy Costs
This article, “Reducing on-farm energy use reduces costs: Apply these tips to your farm,” appeared in the April 28, 2006 issue of Crop Watch from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In addition to six areas highlighted, the article also includes links to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s popular energy estimators for nitrogen, tillage and irrigation which have previously been profiled in the Quarterly.
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