Less Than a Lemonade

In Activism, Conservation, Education, Environmental by Mark

Guest Blog from CommonGround Kansas

Have you ever wondered how much weed killer farmers apply to their fields? CommonGround Kansas volunteers answered that question with a helpful visual — a cup of lemonade and a football field — before the Kansas State vs. Missouri State football game in Manhattan, Kan., Sept. 24.

Football fans braved thunder and pouring rain during pre-game festivities, which included the “Celebrate Kansas Ag” tent near the southwest entrance to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Volunteers Kim Baldwin, Karra James, Melissa Reed and LaVell Winsor handed out CommonGround reusable cups with servings of lemonade to demonstrate how little glyphosate is applied to an acre of crops, which is about the size of a football field.

As farmers, we only use what’s needed to control weeds. We use a small amount of herbicide, which gets diluted to the proper application rate by combining it with a large tank of water. You can rest easy when you see a sprayer in a field. Most of the liquid you see being applied to the crop is water.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by for conversation and refreshments! To learn more about how farmers raise crops, visit kstate

findourcommonground.com.https://www.facebook.com/CommonGroundKansas/videos/1251309111566729/

Changing the World Through Farming and Food

In Activism, CUTC, Education, Farming, Food, General by Mark

By Lauren Stohlmann

We’re really quite lucky Matt Stasiewicz didn’t decide to become an automotive engineer. The work he’s done for agriculture is extensive and valuable for human health. Not that understanding engines isn’t important work, but creating a single-kernel sorter to reduce mycotoxin levels in market corn from Eastern Kenya, might be a bit more life-changing.

Stasiewicz originally enrolled at Michigan State as an engineering student. He was good at science and math, but he quickly realized that Michigan State’s engineering program focused mostly on automotive engines and he was not all that excited about cars. So he thought about what he could do to help people and what his interests were.

“What is immediately good for people? Food.”Stasiewicz - CUTC (003)

Stasiewicz chose to study food process engineering at Michigan State because he recognized that food is obviously a necessity to human life.

In this program, Stasiewicz had the opportunity to travel to Africa to learn first-hand the connection between food safety and poverty. According to the United Nations, one in nine people in the world are undernourished. That is 795 million people not getting enough nutrients in their diet and that poor nutrition leads to the deaths of 3.1 million children each year around the world. Up to 80 percent of food consumed in a large portion of the developing worlds, comes from 500 million small farms across the globe.

After returning home, Stasiewicz wanted to apply some of the applications he learned abroad to make a difference for other developing countries. “Corn is a staple. It is all they can afford, therefore it exposes them to aflatoxin more so than in other countries.”

Stasiewicz works at the University of Illinois as an assistant professor of food microbiology. He never would have guess he’d be living in the Corn Belt, but he’s thankful that it grants him this opportunity to study a branch of agriculture, “Where I work, it’s the right thing to work on. Corn is so prevalent in the modern food system. The scope of corn can be applied in many places.”

As someone who also studied philosophy and the ethics of technology during his undergraduate degree, Stasiewicz understands and has interfaced with the public about how modern technology and farming are changing and about their intersection. He understands that most consumers have the right to eat what they want and it is perfectly reasonable to accept that.

“The conversation should not just be about the food that we eat, it should also be about the system of making the food that we eat.” AKA farmers. “No one is in this to make biotechnology that causes harm to people,” Stasiewicz says. “It is easy for the general public to debate food and safety in turn, missing this fact.” He recognizes the importance of food choice no matter if someone drives a Lexus for dinner into the city or has to walk a mile just to collect water.

At the NCGA’s recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, Stasiewicz shared the research he has been working on, studying aflatoxins in Kenya. He researched the quality and safety of grain, screened for aflatoxins and understood that the distributions of aflatoxin were skewed, meaning that some of the kernels were “bad” and some were “good.” With that knowledge, he created a single-kernel sorter that segregates kernels of corn containing aflatoxins. His system uses circuits with LED lights to determine if there is aflatoxin present and uses a puff of air to push away the “bad kernels” to separate them from the good. His hope is to make a larger scale, rapid-scanning system that would one day used in grain elevators to sort the corn prior to being grinded. If successful, Stasiewicz can help reduce the amount of corn wasted and help supply more people and livestock with safe corn.

“It is important to make progress in the world. I’m fortunate I fell into a world of food safety where I can help,” Stasiewicz says. “It’s very fun to be at a land-grant university. I get to teach other people to do good work.”

#CUTC16 Honors Student Poster Contest Winners

In Audio, CUTC, Education by Cindy

cutc-16-pavel-somavatPavel Samat is a Ph.D student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference Samat was a contestant in the Gary Lamie student poster contest for his work with purple corn. His research focuses on using this purple corn to extract a healthy, economic alternative to synthetic dyes.

“Food and beverages currently are colored using synthetic dyes and they have detrimental health effects on people. And some of the synthetic dyes have already been banned because they are carcinogens. Red dye 40, which is predominatly used in the U.S. to make foods and beverages red is coming under a scanner because it makes children hyper-sensitive.”

Instead the purple corn can provide not just a bright color, but is also very nutritious. And while it isn’t quite ready yet, a team is also working to find ways to adapt this South American corn to the midwest.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview here: Interview with Pavel Samat

cutc-16-tabyta-SabchukTabyta Sabchuck was a winner in the Mycotoxin poster contest. She is a student at the University of Nebraska and her project was funded by the Nebraska Corn Board.

She has currently complete the first part of a multi-step process. It involved researching temperature and its effect on processing corn during ethanol production. You can hear her interview here: Interview with Tabyta Sabchuck

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album

#Sustainability Should Be Expected – #CUTC16

In Audio, CUTC, Sustainability by Cindy

cutc-16-rob-meyersRob Meyers recently attended a panel discussion on sustainability at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference on behalf of his company, PepsiCo. His message: sustainability should be expected.

Across the supply chain, he says, we’ve reached the point that once happened with food safety. Everyone came together, everyone worked to make food safer. Once again collaboration will be an important part of taking sustainability to the next level, and that level shouldn’t leave consumers confused about how their products are grown or raised.

“It is the responsibility of consumer package goods companies like ourselves to just embed sustainable practices within our products,” says Meyers. “I don’t think it needs to be a consumer choice, it just needs to be an expectation and obligation for consumer companies to deliver.”

PepsiCo knows first hand how confusing food information can be. Recently the company asked consumers: what is in a bag of Lays potato chips? Answers included many things, including some sort of chemical reaction needed to make a chip. To bring people a little closer to an understanding of where food comes from, the company added bar codes to packages that introduced the grower behind that bag of chips.

Some consumers are driven to local farmers and markets in order to make that connection, but PepsiCo thinks they can accomplish the same goal in a different way. Its up to big companies to let the consumer know what is happening with their food, Meyers believes.

Listen to more of Meyer’s interview here: Interview with Rob Meyers, PepsiCo

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album;

Making Momomers From #Corn

In Audio, CUTC, New Uses by Cindy

Got corn? Then you can make some amazing things. For example, attendees at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC16) that took place in St. Louis this week learned about making new momomers for corn? Say what? Let’s get some insight from biomaterial expert Michael Saltzberg who is the business director for DuPont Industrial Biosciences’ biomaterials business.

cutc-16-michael-saltzbergSaltzberg spoke on the Biorefining II panel where he discussed a new product they are developing in collaboration with ADM. They are working on a new momomer that uses fructose, from corn, as the raw material. It’s a process that uses chemical catalysis in a several step process that takes fructose to a momomer that’s called furan dicarboxylic acid methyl ester or FDME.

What’s exciting, said Saltzberg, is that this momomer can be used to make exiting new polymers especially in the packaging area. For example, helping soft drink and beer manufactures downgage their packaging but offer the same shelf life is important for them he said.

So what does this mean for the biorefinery industry? Saltzberg noted a major focus of the conference is to see what other applications can utilize some of the corn fractions. “This is a great way to take corn starch to fructose to a very valuable chemical out of it. So I think for the ag processing industry and for farmers it offers that kind of opportunity,” he said.

And for a company like DuPont, added Saltzberg, being able to develop new momomers through renewable raw materials and creating new polymers out of them enables them to assist their customers in solving some of their challenges.

To learn more about emerging momomers and their applications, listen to Chuck’s interview with Michael Saltzberg: Interview with Michael Saltzberg, DuPont

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album.

New Oil Recovery Technology Featured at #CUTC16

In Audio, CUTC, Ethanol by Cindy

Many ethanol plants across the U.S. are getting more out of each kernel of corn by producing corn oil as a by-product of ethanol production. However, there is a new oil recovery technology emerging that was discussed by Scott Kohl with White Energy during his presentation on the Biorefining I panel at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC). The event takes place every two years and focuses on emerging and new technologies using corn.

cutc-16-scott-kohlKohl said the dry grind ethanol industry represents about 80 percent of the U.S. capacity today and recovering oil from the process has become financially important for facilities. Approximately 80-85 percent of ethanol plants are recovering oil (corn oil) and this, Kohl noted, raises the plant’s bottom line.

However, one of the more important and interesting developments of late, Kohl said, is the technologies being crossed from traditional oil refining for human cooking oil to distillers oil and the quality of corn oil coming out of ethanol plants that adopt this technology will be substantially higher. Kohl said the oil looks similar to soybean oil in properties for biodiesel type applications, and he believes the raw value of the oil will be 8-10 cents a pound more. This is because the corn oil will be easier to refine into biodiesel than the current corn oil on the market.

Corn Oil One logoIn a nutshell, what’s happening, Kohl explained, is the dry grind industry is taking a process from one industry, wet milling, to another industry, dry milling, in an economical fashion. He said there is only one facility that he knows of today using this specific process and that’s Corn Oil One in Iowa – the first of its kind. The biorefinery has been running for a little more than a year and Kohl said the product is performing well. He added that he expects the model to be replicated over time as more data emerges from the early technology adopters.

On another note, Kohl said White Energy is doing extremely well and noted the company is most focused today on producing ever lower carbon renewable fuels.

To learn more about recovering oil and White Energy, listen to Chuck’s interview with Scott Kohl: Interview with Scott Kohl, White Energy

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album.

#Biobased in Focus at #CUTC16

In Audio, CUTC, New Uses by Cindy

cutc-16-danielsonBiobased was a hot topic at this year’s Corn Utilization Technology Conference (#CUTC16) and one person on hand who knows a lot about the emerging technologies in this space is Nathan Danielson with Biocognito. The company is a small consulting firm that counsels businesses working to bring new technologies to the biomaterials space. He said that many of his clients are located in California because there is great interest in new materials and discovering new ways to use corn. He added that there are a lot of private investors that are excited about this area as well.

Danielson was very involved in the planning of this year’s CUTC conference and served as chair for two sessions. His panel focused on near-term and long-term technologies that have a significant potential to increase corn utilization from lab to commercialization. “One of the things I challenged the speakers to think about was how do you find a home for the next one billion bushels of corn,” said Danielson.

He is also chair of the poster committee with more than 40 posters on display. Danielson focuses on the student side of the presentations although there are also posters from companies. He said each year he walks away saying he can’t believe they just keep getting better and better. He has been chairing this committee for four years and has found that, “What I love about this session is that it show’s how bright the future is for this industry. When you get this many people with this talent and this dedication getting into the industry it makes me really happy to be a part of it.”

To learn more listen to Chuck Zimmerman’s interview with Nathan Danielson here: Interview with Danielson, Biocognito

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album.

#CUTC16 Addresses the Value in Big Data

In Audio, CUTC, Data by Cindy

cutc-16-jeremy-wilsonJeremy Wilson works for Crop IMS and knows a thing or two about big data. In his presentation, Data Share and Share Alike at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, Wilson addresses the information recorded on a farm and who should be given access to it.

On his own farm Wilson says they share all their information with someone, because there is a third party who can offer value for every bit of data collected. But that doesn’t mean he’ll hand over valuable numbers to just anyone. The key is finding the company or service that will interpret that data in a way that enhances the overall operation. Data should equal value, in other words.

And because data is valuable its important that data collection is of good quality. Every person who operates a monitor should understand how it works. Most systems will allow a driver to punch a couple of buttons, engage the GPS and take off, but that doesn’t mean the information collected is sound. This diminishes the the quality of information a third party can give back to a grower.

“Yield data, applications data, planting data; you only get one chance each growing season to get good, quality data. And if we loose it, its gone. We never get to get it back,” Wilson emphasizes.

Hopefully in the future user interfaces will become more friendly. Organizations on the machine and data side of the issue are working to create data standards, making it easier for an operator to know if all is well on a monitor. Great strides have been taken in the last 3-5 years– the next few years should make data collection a simpler task, Wilson encourages.

You can hear Chuck’s full interview here: Interview with Jeremy Wilson

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album.

#Sustainability Buzz at #CUTC16

In Audio, CUTC, Sustainability by Cindy

cutc-16-fred-yoderFred Yoder is an Ohio corn farmer who believes sustainability is more than a buzz word. At the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference Yoder talked about his involvement with Climate Smart Agriculture, a term coined to describe just what it is growers will have to do to feed 9 billion people while working with what we’ve got. Working with the climate, Yoder explains, means adapting to changes, taking the bad weather with the good and figuring out how to use that to make farmers more productive.

More productive, it turns out, is often the same as more economical. Climate Smart Agriculture is founded on three main pillars; more productivity, adaptation and resilience, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When Yoder began his own journey in sustainability he said it started with conservation tillage and cover crops to become more productive. By adapting his practices with grid sampling and variable rates he began to see that the economics were leading to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on his farm.

Yoder notes that it takes leaders to make farming more sustainable. “We need leaders to get out there and try it,” he says. “Every farmer ought to be trying something on the back forty that he is not necessarily comfortable with, but just try it. Most of the time it works better than he thinks.”

You can listen to Chuck’s full interview here: Interview with Fred Yoder

2016 CUTC Photo Album

Getting Cellulosic #Ethanol Out of #Corn

In Audio, CUTC, Ethanol by Cindy

The combination of corn developed for ethanol production and new process technology is helping corn lead the way to affordable advanced biofuels.

cutc-16-araba-interviewedMiloud Araba, head of technical services for the Enogen group at Syngenta, spoke at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference this week in St. Louis.

Araba says that Enogen is working with Quad County Corn Processors to introduce Cellerate, a process technology designed to enable dry grind ethanol plants to convert corn kernel fiber into advanced and cellulosic ethanol, increasing a plant’s ethanol production. “You’re not only bringing value to the ethanol plant, you’re bringing value to the farmer – the corn grower,” Araba explains. “In this case you’ve turned the farmer not only into a corn provider, but also an enzyme provider. And so this is what we like to call a win, win, win. A win for the community, a win for the farmer, and also a win for the ethanol plant.”

He is also hearing a positive response from participants at the conference because of the simplicity of the process. Technologies do not have to be complex to bring a lot of value is the resounding theme.

Listen to Chuck’s full interview here: Interview with Miloud Araba, Syngenta

Check out pictures from the conference: 2016 CUTC Photo Album