Posted By Chuck June 20, 2012
One of the graduate students presenting a poster at this year’s Corn Utilization Technology Conference was Md. Abdullah Al Barri. He is a student at North Dakota State University. His poster was titled, “Utilization of Industry Lines in U.S. Northern Corn Breeding Programs.”
I asked him to talk about his work. He says his objective was to identify expired plant variety protected lines for short season corn breeding programs which would be useful in the northern corn belt. Universities and other plant breeders obtain patent protection for their work that eventually expires. Many of those inbred lines are now publicly available. His work was to see if they are still useful. To do this he compared NDSU lines, expired lines and promising industry lines. His work is in progress but preliminary results show that some inbred expired lines are very useful and could be exploited for northern growing areas.
Listen to my interview with Adbullah here: Interview with Md. Abdullah Al Barri
2012 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Chuck June 18, 2012
The 2012 Corn Utilization Technology Conference had several sessions on biorefineries like the one chaired by Dr. Dennis Miller, Michigan State University. He does research on biofuels and chemicals from renewables.
Dennis says that as we move forward with making chemicals and fuels from renewables we want to follow the model the petroleum industry has used. That includes large model chemical processing plants called refineries using biomass to make multiple products at one site. He says that while listening to the other panelists in his session heard two major themes. One was from Archer Daniels Midland which already has large biorefineries. There vision of the future is to expand the feedstock base and use things like corn stover. Then two smaller companies contrasted that by choosing single platform models that are near commercial production. He says that right now there is plenty of room for all these companies to be successful.When it comes to looking ahead Dennis says that we’re just at the cusp of seeing a breakthrough of these types of companies.
Listen to my interview with Dr. Miller here: Interview with Dr. Dennis Miller
2012 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Chuck June 18, 2012
Much of the research that is presented during the Corn Utilization Technology Conference is about new uses for corn. During a session all about new uses at this year’s conference, Steve Peterson, Monsanto, gave a presentation on “Advances in Corn Stover Harvest and Treatment for Animal Feed.” He says Monsanto started a project about five years ago to determine if we can harvest stover and how to handle, transport, store and process it. The project was started after getting questions from their customers about the residue when they are growing corn after corn. Through the process he says they’ve been able to determine how much stover you can remove and the factors that impact that. The conclusion they’ve come to is that you can sustainably harvest stover. So now they are looking at the best ways to use that stover. That includes working with cattle feeding operations to see if it can replace corn and hay in cattle diets. Steve says that the motivation for all of this is Monsanto’s goal of doubling corn yields by 2030.
Listen to my interview with Steve Peterson here: Interview with Steve Peterson
2012 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Cindy June 14, 2012
New York City Mayor Bloomberg seems intent upon transforming the “City that Never Sleeps” into the “City that Never Eats.”
The latest food banning proposal being considered by the New York City Council would limit sizes of treats like popcorn and milkshakes. They have already agreed to put the ban on large size sodas up for a public hearing July 24.
Mayor Bloomberg did away with trans fats in the city back in 2006. He also started the National Salt Reduction Initiative to “help food manufacturers and restaurants voluntarily reduce the amount of salt in their products.” Talking about the initiative in 2010, Bloomberg admitted that he likes salt. “I put salt on my popcorn — as a matter of fact, popcorn without salt is not popcorn,” was the quote.
Well, popcorn without more popcorn isn’t popcorn either!
There’s no doubt that movie theater concession sizes have more than super-sized over the last 20 years. I used to work at a movie theater in high school and our small popcorn was actually small and only cost 50 cents! The “small” sizes today were large sizes a couple of decades ago – but they cost a lot more.
Still, when families and groups of teenagers go to movie theaters together they often share large tubs of popcorn between them. When you divide a tub of popcorn between several people, it’s not that much. Will the New York City Council account for that? Will they just make it a law that you have to prove how many people are in your party to purchase a tub?
This is pure insanity. When I posted about the Salt Reduction Initiative two years ago, I used the following quote from a character in the movie “Demolition Man” who was speaking against the futuristic society that had bans on everything it considered “bad” for people:
I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, “Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?” I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I’ve SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It’s a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing “I’m an Oscar Meyer Wiener.”
Could we have a future with only banana-broccoli shakes for food? No super-sizes, of course.
Posted By Chuck June 14, 2012
Aflatoxin. Know what it is? If not, listen to Dr. Peter Cotty, USDA-ARS, explain. Dr. Cotty chaired the first session on this subject at the 2012 Corn Utilization Technology Conference. A full track of sessions on aflatoxin was held for the first time this year at the conference. This first session focused on biological controls.
I asked Dr. Cotty to first explain what aflatoxin is and why it is a problem. He says they “are invisible chemicals that occur in the corn crop when certain fungi are associated with the crop.” They are extremely toxic so controlling them is very important, something USDA has worked on for over thirty years. This is a real economic problem for farmers mainly in the southern part of the corn belt. They’ve developed a biological control using a set of fungi that are applied to the crop that can reduce contamination by up to eighty percent and at an economical cost – as little as $5/acre. By reducing contamination farmers can obtain better pricing and contracts for their crop.
Listen to my interview with Dr. Cotty here: Interview with Dr. Peter Cotty
2012 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Chuck June 12, 2012
The subject matter at the Corn Utilization Technology Conference gets pretty technical. Take the session titled, “Biochemical and Biomimetic Approaches to Saccharifying Biomass for Advance Biofuel Production.” Now that’s a mouthful. Our presenter was Nathan S. Mosier, Ph.D., Purdue University, seen in the photo as one of the panelists for a session on Advanced Biofuels.
Nathan says the corn refining industry has done a great job of using the corn kernel to create various value-added products. He’s trying to do similar work with things like corn stover, “to break it into its constituents in a way that allows us to add value and produce more products that can be sold.” There are efforts he’s been working on that are getting close to commercial application that would be used to make cellulosic ethanol. He sees a real need to continue to do research since there are so many opportunities and that includes bio-refineries that can make fuels that don’t require petroleum.
Listen to my interview with Nathan here: Interview with Nathan Mosier
2012 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Cathryn June 11, 2012
Have you ever heard about the Corn Farmers Coalition and wondered who actually sees this stuff?
Sure, the ads catch attention from a mile away. Sure, the beaming family farmers, on their real farms, convey powerful, impactful messages about today’s farm. Sure, these ads appear to be something that would draw any normal reader into a short ag literacy lesson. But, where do people actually come into contact with them?
As always, the innovative minds behind the campaign have found new, thoughtfully selected venues that reach those outside of rural America want to find their information- where they already are.
This week, the campaign launched its fourth year with fresh faces and facts both in traditional venues, such as the DC Metro, and in other places that pack a punch, like the online version of the Washington Post. The award-winning informational series has, yet again, even more finely honed its choice of channel to include the online news sites that, according to the papers themselves, have greatly impacted how Americans consume news content.
Like the stories covered by journalists, the Corn Farmers Coalition paints a clear picture of farming, an industry with which 98.5 percent of the population has little or no contact. Like the feature stories, it provides answers to the questions most prevalent in readers’ minds. Like the hard-hitting exposes, it shows the truth, unbiased and in all of its glory.
Take a moment to check out what legislators, regulators, their aides and many other inquisitive inhabitants of our nation’s capital will be checking out themselves this summer. Then, join the featured families taking the voice of the corn industry to Washington with a letter on why real farmers, just like the ones in these ads, need a real farm bill in real time by clicking here.
Posted By Cathryn June 7, 2012
This election year, Americans are already growing increasingly agitated with pompous, self-important celebrities who feel an uncontrollable desire to pontificate upon politics. Qualified only by having played a politician in a made-for-TV movie or having co-written a B-side flop, these self-anointed bearers of the divine torch of celebri-smarts help us regular folk understand our mistaken, unworldly personal ponderings.
Honestly, who could take a multi-millionaire who plays dress-up for a living seriously when he or she banters on about the plight of the common folk? Did they learn about Main Street in a Method class?
Another group of sell-out celebrats, the chefs of cable TV, who not only feed actors but often host their own insightful television programs, want to tell average Americans how to think about the farm bill. In a letter proudly coordinated by the Environmental Working Group, intellectual icons including Mario Batali and Tom Colicchio trumpeted their opposition to big, rich commodity farms while wrapping themselves in the trendy terminology of the local, organic and environmental movements. As much as they criticize the Senate legislation, how many of these signers even read it?
To be frank, it seems a tad hypocritical to take the bully pulpit preaching a populist gospel while rubbing elbows with the sophomoric socialites who get a kick out of menus that offer greater detail about each truffle-decorated tapa than their letter offers about the world-changing policies proposed. It’s like they all live in Portlandia.
The only advice these elitist epicureans have the expertise to dish out pertains to the dishes in their ovens. Most Americans cannot afford to dine at their establishments; America cannot afford to bite into their half-baked policies.
Farmers feed us in a meaningful, sustainable fashion. So, call the trendy wannabes out for what they are and stand by a classic. America’s farm families need a farm bill now. America’s top chefs need a new hobby.
Posted By Chuck June 6, 2012
The 2012 Corn Utilization Technology Conference has come to a close and attendance was officially higher than in 2010. It has been a tremendous showcase of all kinds of research being done to continue to make new products and improve others made out of corn which is “Rooted in Human History (pdf).”
To close out the conference and give us a wrap-up I spoke with Rick Tolman, CEO, NCGA, seen here delivering his closing remarks a few minutes ago. I would echo his comments about being impressed with the young people attending the conference, many of whom submitted student posters for competition.
Rick says it’s the best of times and worst of times for the corn industry. Best of times because corn growers are on the top of their game, growing the largest crop in the United States which is used worldwide in more products and applications than any other crop. However, Rick says it’s also a tough time for corn growers due to a lot of uncertainties like negative media attention driven by misinformation coming from activist groups who want to change the way we grow corn and grow food. This conference helps get him enthused about the business though when you see how many new ideas are being worked on that will ultimately benefit the industry.
I also asked Rick for his thoughts on the farm bill, partnering with NASCAR and the progress of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance which NCGA is a member of. He’s optimistic about all these programs.
Listen to my interview with Rick here: Interview with Rick Tolman
You can find photos from the 2012 CUTC here: 2012 CUTC Photo Album
Posted By Chuck June 6, 2012
A successful Corn Utilization and Technology Conference concluded today with the presentation of awards recognizing the top poster contest entries this year. Pictured are a few of the winners with NCGA President, Garry Niemeyer. A few of the winners had to leave prior to the closing luncheon.
“The National Corn Growers Association is pleased to lend our support and encouragement to young researchers,” said NCGA Director of Research and New Uses Dr. Richard Vierling. “Corn offers a variety of solutions for many of today’s problems, and we are honored to play a small role in recognizing the scholarly efforts that will help create entirely new ways to utilize this amazing resource.”
This year’s contest attracted more than 30 student entries, which is more than a third more than those submitted at the last event in 2010. A panel of industry and academic experts evaluated the posters on their relevance to the corn industry, scientific originality, viable and supportable conclusions and oral and visual presentation. The judges reviewed entries that detailed research well above average in their significance to the industry. Due to the impressive quality of the entries, multiple rounds of judging were necessary to select the winners.
In an effort to reflect the broadened scope of the conference, the contest added two new awards this year for posters concerning the importance of aflatoxin research and mycotoxin mitigation. See the list of winners after the break. (more…)