On the Radio: Global warming could lead to food crisis


KC McGinnis | September 15, 2014
A vegetable delivery from an Iowa community supported agriculture group. (Chanzi/Flickr)
A vegetable delivery from an Iowa community supported agriculture group. (Chanzi/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new study which suggests global warming greatly increases the odds of a global food crisis in coming decades. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

 

Transcript: Food Crisis – Maggie St. Clair

New research from Stanford University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research suggests that climate change has greatly increased the odds of a crisis in global food production.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The study, titled “Getting caught with our plants down,” is meant to serve as a warning to institutions affected by fluctuation in food prices.

The study’s authors allow that the prospect of a major slowdown of corn and wheat production in the next few decades is low. However, they say that the chances of such of an event multiply by twenty times when global warming is factored in.

In this model, the trend of increasing food production would continue, but the rate of increase would drop substantially. This change would clash with global food demand, which is expected to keep rising.

For more information on the new study, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/7/074003/
http://www2.ucar.edu/atmosnews/news/12006/climate-experts-estimate-risk-rapid-crop-slowdown
www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2014/07/28/climate-change-study-yields/13283903/

Iowa State grad named to Agricultural Research Service Science Hall of Fame


Nick Fetty | September 11, 2014
Jerry L. Hatfield is the Director for the ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa. (USDA)
Jerry L. Hatfield is the Director for the ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa. (USDA)

Jerry L. Hatfield – the director of the ARS (Agricultural Research Service) National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa – will be among four scientists inducted into the Agricultural Research Service Science Hall of Fame.

Hatfield earned a PhD in Agricultural Climatology and Statistics at Iowa State University in 1975. He also holds degrees from the University of Kentucky (M.S. ’72) as well as Kansas State University (B.S. ’71). He served as a biometeorologist on the faculty at the University of California-Davis from 1975 through 1983 then was with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in Lubbock, Texas from 1983 through 1989. He has been at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames (formerly called the National Soil Tilth Laboratory) since 1989.

Dr. Hatfield’s main research has examined interactions among the components of the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum and its relation to air, water, and soil quality. Other research has focused on how farm practices affect water quality as well as the impact that climate change has had on agriculture. Recently he co-authored the book Climate Change in the Midwest: A Synthesis Report for the National Climate Assessment which was published last month.

Three other scientists join the 2014 Hall of Fame class including Perry B. Cregan, a researcher at the ARS Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland; Hyun S. Lillehoj, a molecular biologist at the ARS Animal Biosciences and Biotechnology Laboratory also in Beltsville; and Ross M. Welch, a retired plant physiologist for the ARS Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit in Ithaca, New York. To qualify for induction into the Hall of Fame, nominees must be retired or eligible to retire.

Poll finds widespread support for alternative energy among Midwest voters


A solar panel array (Maryland GovPics/Flickr)
A solar panel array (Maryland GovPics/Flickr)

Voters spoke out in broad support of energy efficiency and alternative energy sources during a recent round of polls across the Midwest.

The bipartisan poll was conducted earlier this summer to gauge attitudes toward various energy issues, and included interviews with around 2,500 voters from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. Among them, 95% supported increasing energy efficiency, while strong majorities supported increasing the uses of solar (91%) and wind energy (87%) in their states. Only 55% supported increasing coal use, while biomass had the lowest support (50%). Biomass also had the highest number of “Don’t Know/Not Applicable” answers, at 37%, implying some confusion around the energy source.

Attitudes toward solar, wind and natural gas remained about the same from 2010 to 2014, while support for nuclear energy dropped. Support for coal held at 55% over the last four years. However, over 80% of voters wanted to move toward cleaner sources of energy rather than increase coal use. They also viewed renewable energy production as a bigger contributor to their economy than coal mining.

Voters also voiced their opinion on potential policy issues. With the understanding that switching to alternative energy sources may cost more in the short term, 81% were willing to pay an additional $1 per month for energy, and 69% were willing to pay $4 more. They also supported energy measures like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, announced earlier this year.

For the complete report, click here.

 

On the Radio: Algae blooms present hazards in Iowa waters


A blue-green algae bloom along the shore of Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh, late June 2014. (Rob McLennan/Flickr)
A blue-green algae bloom along the shore of Lake Winnebago near Oshkosh, late June 2014. (Rob McLennan/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a type of hazardous algae that’s become increasingly common in Iowa waterways. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

 

Transcript: Algae

As the summer comes to an end, late season beach-goers are advised to take extra precaution as algae blooms in Iowa lakes can be at peak levels.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Hot August temperatures coupled with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in Iowa waterways provides the ideal breeding ground for algae. Certain forms of blue green algae can contain toxins that are harmful to humans and have even been known to kill dogs, livestock, and other animals.

Blue green algae are generally visible on the surface and can give the water a consistency similar to paint. The Iowa Department of Public Health advises any persons to immediately wash algae off themselves or pets that come in contact with it.

So far this summer, Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock, both in central Iowa, have reported high levels of blue green algae, and at least six other state-operated beaches across the state have seen high enough algae levels that swimming was not recommended.

For more information about blue green algae, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://iaenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/late-summer-is-peak-season-for-harmful-algae-iowans-encouraged-to-stay-safe-at-area-lakes/

http://www.idph.state.ia.us/eh/common/pdf/env/algae_factsheet.pdf

http://www.iowadnr.gov/Recreation/BeachMonitoring.aspx

Iowa farm hosting Bio-Renewables Field Day


Iowa State agronomy researcher Emily Heaton (left, red shirt) introduces congressional staffers to biomass crop miscanthus. (CenUSA Bioenergy/Flickr)
Iowa State agronomy researcher Emily Heaton (left, red shirt) introduces congressional staffers to biomass crop miscanthus. (CenUSA Bioenergy/Flickr)

A tall perennial grass called miscanthus may be the future of bioenergy in Iowa, and an upcoming event is highlighting its unique potential.

Iowa State University assistant professor of agronmy Emily Heaton and Iowa City landowner Dan Black will speak at a field day and seminar on Wednesday, September 10, to discuss their findings regarding miscanthus, which is currently being explored as a potential biomass crop in experimental fields.

The event will take place at the University of Iowa miscanthus test plot and is hosted by Iowa Learning Farms, the second in a series of four field days that will cover innovations in Iowa agriculture. The event includes a meal prepared by Johnson County Cattlemen and features Ben Anderson, power plant manager at the University of Iowa, who will talk about how miscanthus could be used in the UI power plant’s solid fuel boilers.

Researchers working with a non-invasive hybrid of miscanthus have so far observed a high success rate in surviving Iowa winters, which is necessary for it to reach peak production in its third year. This means the plant could play a major role in Iowa agriculture as a source of biomass that can be converted into energy. It can grow alongside existing crops and in sections of fields that usually produce lower yields for corn, meaning it could also help reduce runoff and preserve water quality.

RSVPs are being accepted until September 5 by calling (515) 294-8912 or by emailing ilf@iastate.edu. For more information, visit extension.iastate.edu/ilf.

On the Radio: Water quality meetings begin this week


A rock in the Cedar River near Mount Vernon, Iowa. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)
A rock in the Cedar River near Mount Vernon, Iowa. (Rich Herrmann/Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment introduces a series of meetings being held by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on state water quality. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

 

Transcript: Water Meetings

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is seeking the public’s input on water quality through a series of meetings beginning in early September.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The meetings happen every three years, as part of a review process mandated by the Federal Clean Water Act. The DNR hopes to gather feedback from Iowans on what issues are important to them in order to set new water quality goals for Iowa’s rivers and streams.

The DNR will then consider the public’s responses and use the information to form an updated action plan for the next three years. This updated plan will also be available for public evaluation.

Meetings will begin on September 3rd, and one will be held in each of the six field office regions.

For more information and to find a meeting near you, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.iowadnr.gov/InsideDNR/RegulatoryWater/WaterQualityStandards/TriennialReview.aspx

http://www.iowadnr.gov/insidednr/ctl/detail/mid/2805/itemid/2091

Iowa Lakes Community College opens new green building for studies in energy, environment


Nick Fetty | September 2, 2014

The new Sustainable Energy Resources and Technologies (SERT) building  on the Iowa Lakes Community College Esterville campus was not only built with the environment in mind but also aims to prepare students for careers in energy and environmental fields.

The 30,000-square foot facility opened its doors last week and nearly everything on the inside is built from recycled or repurposed materials. The building was originally purchased during a sheriff’s auction in 2010 and was initially used for vehicle storage. Renovation of the new facility began in May of 2013 which included adding an “energy-efficient geothermal and photovoltaic HVAC system.” The building also has solar panels that not only generate energy but also teach students how photovoltaic systems work.

SERT is equipped with classroom spaces and other resources for two-year degrees in Engineering Technology, Electrical Technology, HVAC, Water Quality and Sustainable Aquatic Resources, Environmental Studies as well as Wind Energy and Turbine Technology classes. The college currently has about 60 students preparing to be wind turbine technicians as the industry continues to grow, particularly in Iowa. WindTest, a company based out of Germany, will also test prototype wind turnbines within a 25-mile radius of the campus. The opening of the new facility marked the 10th year anniversary of the college’s wind energy program.

Iowa Lakes Community College enrolls more than 3,000 students and has campuses in  Algona, Emmetsburg, Estherville, Spencer and Spirit Lake. The school opened its doors in 1966 and mostly serves students in northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.