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Articles from 2015 In March

Antibiotic use in poultry - PDF

USDA plantings report out of sync with trade expectations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) once again surprised the trade today when it released the highly anticipated Prospective Plantings report.

Corn planted area for 2015 was estimated at 89.2 million acres, down 2% from last year. If realized, USDA said it will be the third consecutive year of an acreage decline and would be the lowest planted acreage in the United States since 2010. The average trade guess prior to the report was 88.7 million acres.

Despite the decrease in most states, Minnesota and Wisconsin were both expecting an increase in planted acreage from last year.  

Soybean planted area for 2015 was estimated at a record high 84.6 million acres, up 1% from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage intentions increased or were unchanged in 21 of the 31 major producing States. For soybeans, the trade expected 85.9 million acres.

Increases of 200,000 acres or more were anticipated in Arkansas, Iowa, and Ohio. Compared with last year, the largest declines were expected in Kansas and Nebraska. If realized, the USDA said soybean acreage will be the largest on record in Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

All wheat planted area for 2015 was estimated at 55.4 million acres, down 3% from 2014. The 2015 winter wheat planted area, at 40.8 million acres, was down 4% from last year but up less than 1% from the previous estimate. Of this total, about 29.6 million acres were Hard Red Winter, 7.75 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 3.43 million acres were White Winter. Area planted to other spring wheat for 2015 was estimated at 13.0 million acres, down slightly from 2014. Of this total, about 12.1 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat. The intended Durum planted area for 2015 was estimated at 1.65 million acres, up 18% from the previous year.

The Andersons’ risk management team said in pre-report analysis that historically the USDA’s March 31 report has not been accurate to actual acreage planted. “There is a still a lot of time after the report for weather and market changes to influence producer's final acreage,” the team noted.

NASS today also released the quarterly Grain Stocks report to provide estimates of on-farm and off-farm stocks as of March 1. Key findings in that report included:

•        Corn stocks totaled 7.74 billion bushels, up 11% from the same time last year. On-farm corn stocks were up 13% from a year ago, and off-farm stocks were up 7%.

•        Soybeans stored on farms totaled 1.33 billion bushels, up 34% from March 1, 2014. On-farm soybean stocks were up 60% from a year ago, while off-farm stocks were up 18%.

•        All wheat stored totaled 1.12 billion bushels, up 6% from a year ago. On-farm all wheat stocks were up 17% from last year, while off-farm stocks were up 3%.

•        Durum wheat stored totaled 37.6 million bushels, down 1% from March 1, 2014. On-farm stocks were down 22% from last year, but off-farm stocks of Durum wheat were up 23% from March 1, 2014. 

Direct-fed Microbial, Enzyme & Forage Additive Compendium

Direct-fed Microbial, Enzyme & Forage Additive Compendium

The Direct-fed Microbial, Enzyme & Forage Additive Compendium provides immediate access to information on direct-fed microbial, enzyme, forage and waste/odor additive products, including an extensive listing of those commercial products currently available in the U.S. and Canada. This online publication is produced by the staff of Feedstuffs.

The Direct-fed Microbial, Enzyme & Forage Additive Compendium is offered in an online, internet-based format. The format allows you to conduct key-word searches to find those products that meet your search criteria for easy comparison. It will also allow us to keep the information as up-to-date as possible as manufacturers develop new products or improve their existing product lines.

The online publication is organized in a series of sections:

•The Direct-Fed Products section contains information on products for use in animal feed. Specific product use and marketing information for direct-fed bacteria, enzymes, oligosaccharides and fungi (yeast and mold) additives can be found here.

•The Forage Products section contains a listing of products available for use in the preservation and fermentation of silage and hay crops, including high-moisture grains.

•The Waste/Odor Products section contains a listing of products available for use in controlling waste and odor that results from animal production.

•Manufacturer contact information is also available in the Companies section.

Click here to access the Direct-fed Microbial, Enzyme & Forage Additive Compendium:

NBB files petition for EPA to reconsider Argentina import rules

The National Biodiesel Board is calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to stay its recent decision to streamline Argentinian biodiesel imports to the U.S. under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), pending public review and comment.

In a petition filed Monday with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, NBB cited the lack of public comment on the EPA decision and little transparency regarding the plans Argentinian producers can use to demonstrate compliance with the RFS.

“We have serious questions about how Argentinian producers will certify that their product meets the sustainability requirements under this new approach and whether U.S. producers will be operating under more strict regulations,” said NBB vice president of federal affairs Anne Steckel. “As a result, we have asked the EPA to hold and reconsider its approval to allow a more open process with public comment and discussion.”

“Given the circumstances, we think this is a very reasonable request,” Steckel added. “The U.S. biodiesel industry is in a state of crisis right now as a result of EPA’s continued delays in finalizing RFS volumes. An influx of Argentinian biodiesel will only exacerbate the domestic industry’s troubles at the worst possible time.”

The EPA initially approved the application from Argentina’s biofuels association, CARBIO, on Jan. 27.

Typically under the RFS, foreign producers must map and track each batch of feedstock used to produce imported renewable fuels to ensure that it was grown on land that was cleared or cultivated prior to Dec. 19, 2007 – when the RFS was established.

The EPA’s January decision allows Argentinian biodiesel producers to instead rely on a survey plan being implemented by a third party to show their feedstocks comply with the regulations. The goal of the survey program is to ease the current map and track requirements applicable to planted crops and crop residues grown outside of the United States and Canada, resulting in a program that seems far less stringent and more difficult to verify.

Because the EPA did not provide an open process when it considered the application, the limited information provided in EPA’s approval document raises significant questions about whether soybean-oil biodiesel being imported from Argentina meets the renewable biomass requirement under the regulation. Many of the soybeans processed into soybean oil in Argentina come from Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, and other countries. Given the complex international trade involved and the apparent gaps in the program as outlined in EPA’s approval document, the EPA will have little ability to verify the survey plans proposed by Argentinian producers, even with the third-party surveyor’s limited reviews. Argentina would be the first country to use a survey approach under the RFS. Canada and the U.S. operate under an aggregate approach in which feedstock is approved so long as the aggregate amount of agricultural land in each country does not grow.

NBB estimates that up to 600 million gallons of Argentinian biodiesel could enter the U.S. next year as a result of the change, particularly after the European Union blocked Argentinian biodiesel in 2013 after the country exported some 450 million gallons to the EU in 2012.

In 2014, the entire U.S. biodiesel market was about 1.75 billion gallons. In addition to the new U.S. survey rules, Argentina supports its domestic biodiesel program with a cost-distorting “Differential Export Tax” program that allows Argentinian biodiesel to undercut domestic prices.

Biodiesel – made from a variety of resources including recycled cooking oil, plant oils such as soybean oil, and animal fats – is the first EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide. According to the EPA, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent to 86 percent compared with petroleum diesel. With plants in nearly every state in the country, the industry supports some 60,000 jobs.

The EPA is more than two years late in establishing volumes under the RFS after failing to establish a requirement for 2014 and 2015. The continued uncertainty under the policy has destabilized the biodiesel industry, causing many U.S. production plants to stop production and lay off employees.

Algal Scientific secures $7m in funding

Algal Scientific Corp., a developer and manufacturer of algae-based chemicals and a supplier of related technologies for the food and beverage industries, announced that it has closed a $7 million Series B funding round. The investment is being led by Formation 8, with additional participation from Evonik Industries and Independence Equity, all returning investors. This brings the total amount raised by the company to more than $10 million.

Algal Scientific was founded in 2009 with the goal of leveraging its expertise in biology and engineering to develop transformative agriculture solutions for some of society's greatest problems, including the overuse of antibiotics in the world's food supply. The company has created Algamune, a beta-glucan feed ingredient commercially produced from algae that can be introduced into livestock and poultry diets to naturally support the animals' immune systems.

With this new funding, Algal Scientific plans to dedicate resources to addressing and overcoming the global overuse of antibiotics, specifically of those used in the food supply, including the development of its Algamune, which is produced by growing a selected strain of natural, non-genetically modificed microalgae in controlled, sterile fermentation systems so that it contains high concentrations of beta-1,3-glucan, which has long been known for its ability to naturally support a healthy immune system.

GNP Company begins $35 million expansion

GNP Company, the Midwest’s leading producer of premium natural chicken under the Just BARE and Gold’n Plump brand labels, announced March 30 it has started the first phase of a two-phase expansion plan for its Cold Spring and St. Cloud, Minn., area operations.  At the same time, it shared a new organizational structure for its executive leadership team that better aligns the company’s systems and services. 

“This marks the next stage of a new future and growth plan for GNP Company,” said president Steve Jurek. “These changes underscore our continued commitment—as well as that of our new owner, Maschhoff Family Foods—to investing in the growth of GNP Company’s business and people. It’s truly an exciting time for us.”

The first phase of expansion, which began earlier this month, was expected to cost $35 million.  It includes a building addition and the installation of new equipment to add capacity in the Cold Spring plant’s first processing area, as well as build-up of the company’s hatchery. Plans for the second phase, which may include a building addition and the installation of new technology and equipment to further automate processes, were still in development.  Approval was contingent upon the company’s future business plans, business expectations and customer needs.

If both phases of the expansion are completed, the company said annual plant production capacity will increase by an estimated 33%, which equates to about 88 million more processed pounds of chicken or 352 million more meals per year (based on the recommended serving size of 3 ounces of cooked chicken).  The full expansion was also expected to make the Cold Spring facility one of the most automated meat processing plants in North America.

In preparation for the first phase of expansion, GNP Company has finished and/or started the following projects:

-          Added eight new docks to the distribution center and outbound load staging area; completed a new entrance to reduce truck and automobile congestion and increase safety and security; added a drop-trailer parking area to consolidate parking; and began construction of an additional 28-degree-cooler storage space at the Cold Spring processing plant;

-          Purchased a building in Sauk Rapids for future hatchery growth to support increased production;

-          Expanded the truck shop for its St. Cloud Live Operations; and

-          Developed plans for the addition of up to 72 new barns in the St. Cloud area to provide the additional birds needed to satisfy potential production growth.

The Cold Spring processing plant makes Just BARE and Gold’n Plump chicken products for the premium branded retail business segment and supports new product innovation.  Both are critical to the company’s ability to effectively compete in the marketplace and meet current and future customer expectations, the company said.  Company sales grew to approximately $452 million in 2014 (January through December)—an increase of 13% over 2013.

GNP Company also made recent strategic organizational changes within the company’s executive leadership team. The company said the new organizational design will help achieve the company’s long-term strategies involving product supply, automation, people development, and retail product evolution while offering team members and family farm partners new opportunities for growth.

The executive leadership team now includes an executive vice president of processing and supply, a vice president of sales, marketing and service, a vice president of live operations and engineering, a senior director of human and a senior director of technical services and chief financial officer

The company does not expect the expansion to significantly change the total number of jobs at the Cold Spring plant. Production capacity will be increased primarily through new technology and equipment to automate processes. New growth opportunities for team members will be determined as the expansion plan progresses and new equipment and processes come online.

Demand for specialty eggs boost Cal-Maine third quarter sales


Cal-Maine reported 11% growth in sales in the third quarter of 2015 due to the increase demand in specialty eggs during the holiday season.

“Specialty egg volumes have increased throughout this fiscal year and were up 22.6% for the third quarter compared with the prior year,” explained Dolph Baker, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.

Furthermore he added, “Specialty egg sales accounted for 20.3% of dozen shell eggs sold and 26.9% of total shell egg sales revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2015, compared with 17.4% of dozen shell eggs sold and 23.7% of total shell egg sales revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2014. We believe the strong performance of specialty eggs will continue to be a key driver of our growth as we capitalize on favorable consumer demand trends. We provide a wide variety of healthy choices that meet this demand. We will continue to make the appropriate investments to expand our production capabilities for specialty eggs and identify ways to further enhance our product mix.

For the quarter ended on Feb. 28, 2015, the company reported net income of $50.9 million. Net sales for the recently ended quarter were $437.6 million compared with net sales of $395.5 million a year ago.

For the first nine months of fiscal 2015, net sales were $1,173.1 million compared with net sales of $1,069.3 million for the prior-year period. The Company reported net income of $115.1 million for the same period in fiscal 2014.

Baker said lower feed costs per dozen eggs were lowered 9.1% lower in the first nine months of the fiscal year, compared to the previous year.

As result, operating income for the Q3-2015 was $72.0 million compared with $46.6 million for the Q3-2014.

Still, Baker acknowledged that the implementation of Proposition 2 in Calif. did initial disruption in market supply on January 1, 2015. However, prices have moderated and the shell egg market in Calif. seems to be striking a more favorable balance of supply and demand as producers adjust to the new standards.

“We are very pleased with our performance to date in fiscal 2015. Looking ahead, we will continue to monitor market conditions that could influence our business, including the changing situation in California as well as the national hen supply. And, as always, we continue to closely watch the grain markets. Regardless of market conditions, we will manage our operations with efficiency and work hard to meet the demands of our customers. We look forward to the completion of another successful year for Cal-Maine Foods,” Baker concluded.

Handling inedible food production byproducts

Handling inedible food production byproducts

ONE of the often-stated ethical reasons people give for choosing vegetarianism/veganism is that by eliminating animal products, especially meat, from human diets, more plant-based foods would be made available globally because animals are inefficient at converting feed to products.

However, this ignores the fact that the production of human food generates a significant amount of byproducts that are not edible to people but can be fed to animals (Table 1).

Economically, many of these byproducts are valuable and, accordingly, are called "co-products" in agribusiness terms. The U.S. soy and ethanol industries wouldn't be viable if they couldn't sell soybean meal and dried distillers grains as part of their business models.

From a human nutrition point of view, the primary products from food processing are the human-edible portions — e.g., flour, vegetable oil, nuts, etc. — and the inedible remainders are byproducts.

How many byproducts are generated in human food production in the U.S.? A lot! Looking at individual crops (Figure 1), the edible portion varies from a low of 20% in the oil from soybeans to a high of 75% for flour from wheat.

In the case of soybeans, it could be argued that 20% is too low because it doesn't consider tofu and soy milk production. For this analysis, I am looking only at major food uses of crops in the U.S., not minor uses or what potential alternatives there are.

When citrus and other fruits and vegetables are eaten fresh, any inedible portion occurs at the retail/home level and isn't considered a contribution to the animal feed supply. Rather, the proportions for these items given in Figure 1 are when they're processed for juice, canned, frozen or dried.

The ethanol and biodiesel industries also generate significant amounts of byproducts that add to the animal feed supply. Over the 2009-13 crop years, 136.7 million tons of human food were produced from primary crops in the U.S. (Table 2). An almost equal amount of byproducts — 137.5 million tons — were generated in human food and biofuel production combined.

These byproducts are incorporated into feed for aquaculture species, livestock, poultry and pets. Ruminant livestock are especially good "sinks" for these byproducts since they are more able to digest and utilize the nutrients in high-fiber feeds than monogastric species are.

Not all of the 136.7 million tons of food and 137.5 million tons of feed are consumed in the U.S.; large amounts are exported. Also, primary crops (corn, wheat and soybeans) are exported and are not included in Table 2; nor do the byproducts include feeds from secondary processing, e.g., bakery waste, the rendering industries (animal protein meals, tallow, yellow grease, etc.) or crop residues (corn stover, straws, etc.).


Ruminants as recyclers

Byproduct feeds typically comprise 20-25% of common livestock and poultry diets in the U.S. (Figure 2). For swine and poultry, this portion is smaller than the grain portion in commercial rations, but the inedible proportion of those diets is still larger than the edible portion.

With cattle, there's a much wider range among byproducts, forages and grain, depending on the life stage. Of course, it is possible to feed a 90%-plus byproduct ration to cattle. These proportions consider the use of corn stover, wheat straw, etc., in cattle diets as forage and not as food byproducts, which is arguable.

Although it's possible to estimate how much of these crop residues are produced each year, it's very difficult to calculate the amounts used in livestock feeding versus other uses such as bedding or by the equine industry.

While U.S. feedlot rations contain high amounts of grain, the number of days a beef animal is on feed is a small portion of the whole cattle life cycle. Currently, beef from dairy cull cows and calf-fed Holstein steers comprises 22-25% of the beef produced in the U.S. When both cull beef and dairy cows are considered, only 65% of the beef animals slaughtered each year spend time in a feedlot (Knapp, 2014).

Combining these facts into a life-cycle assessment approach that accounts for animal-days per year, I estimated that U.S. cattle spend only 11-12% of animal-days per year in feedlots before slaughter (Knapp and Cady, 2014). Another way to think about it is that 35 million-plus fed cattle spend an average of 175 days in feedlots, while 50 million-plus brood cows, dairy cows, stockers and replacement heifers spend 365 days elsewhere.

The 11-12% of animal-days in a feedlot translates into grain comprising 16-17% of animal feed-days when diet composition is taken into account, with byproducts, forage and mineral/vitamin supplements comprising the other 83-84%. In other words, the U.S. produces more than 25 million lb. of beef and 200 million lb. of milk per year in a system that uses 16-17% grain to maximize the utilization of byproducts and forages.

The grain used in cattle feeding is like a fuel additive; adding it to the byproducts and forages allows for the achievement of 25-40% greater productivity than would be possible without it.

It would be nice to calculate the efficiency for byproduct and forage feeding, i.e., how many pounds of beef or milk are produced per pound of byproducts. Unfortunately, it's difficult to estimate, with any confidence, how many byproducts are fed to the different species and what amount is exported, given what data are publicly available.


Alternative disposal routes?

What if there were no animals on this planet to feed byproducts to? As an alternative to being used in animal feeding, byproducts can be disposed of by composting, combusting and fermenting to generate electricity, tilling back into the soil as an amendment and landfilling. All of these would be an expense to the food producer/processor.

Imagine how the U.S. soybean industry would dispose of 40 million tons of soybean meal and hulls or how the corn and ethanol industries would get rid of 62 million tons of gluten feed, gluten meal and distillers grains?

Composting and combusting can eliminate much of the solid mass, but this occurs with a substantial release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (Russomanno et al., 2013). It seems much better to capture this carbon in meat and milk.

Likewise, fermentation captures some of the carbon in methane as well as releasing carbon dioxide, but when it is burned to produce electricity, the methane ends up in carbon dioxide.

More carbon can be sequestered in soil amendment and landfilling. However, amending soils with byproducts would require the use of fossil fuels for tilling. There is simply not enough landfill space to contain all of the byproducts from food production and processing.

The flow of municipal solid waste into U.S. landfills over the 2008-12 period was 134 million tons annually (Environmental Protection Agency, 2015). Disposing of byproducts by landfilling would double that flow.

All evidence indicates that feeding byproducts to livestock and poultry is the most environmentally and economically sustainable way to dispose of byproducts.



Poultry and livestock, especially cattle, are excellent recyclers of the byproducts of human food production and processing.

Here are some talking points to help educate others about the importance of animal agriculture:

* For every 1 lb. per ton of human food produced and processed in the U.S., another 1 lb. per ton of byproducts is generated.

* The amount of byproducts generated from human food processing of primary crops is larger than the amount of municipal solid waste going to landfills — 137.5 million versus 134 million tons annually.

* The most economically and environmentally sustainable way to dispose of these byproducts is in animal feed. Composting, combusting or landfilling are less desirable disposal options.

* The use of byproducts reduces the need for grain feeding and results in more food available for people. This is a double benefit achieved by sparing grain for human consumption AND converting inedible feedstuffs into highly nutritious, edible animal-derived foods.

The production and disposal of inedible byproducts in the human food production system is not the only fact ignored by those who try to justify eliminating animal agriculture; there are more.



Environmental Protection Agency. Municipal solid waste in the United States: Facts and figures 2008-2012. Accessed at www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/msw99.htm.

Food Waste Reduction Alliance. 2013. Analysis of U.S. food waste among food manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers. Report prepared by BSR. Accessed at www.foodwastealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/FWRA_BSR_Tier2_FINAL.pdf.

Knapp, J. 2014. Food forward: Global beef story. Elanco Animal Health.

Knapp, J.R., and R.A. Cady. 2014. Unpublished work.

Renewable Fuels Assn. 2011. Fueling a nation: Feeding the world. Accessed at http://ethanolrfa.org/page/-/RFA%20White%20Paper-%20Fueling%20a%20Nation,%20Feeding%20a%20World.pdf?nocdn=1.

Russomanno, K.L., M.E. Van Amburgh and R.J. Higgs. 2012. Utilization of byproducts from human food production as feedstuffs for dairy cattle and relationship to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental efficiency. Proceedings of Cornell Nutrition Conference, p. 130-145.

U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization. 2013. Utilization of fruit and vegetable wastes as livestock feed and as substrates for generation of other value added products. RAP Publication 2013/04.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service Feed Grains Database. Accessed at www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/feed-grains-database.aspx.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service Oil Crops Yearbook. Accessed at www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/oil-crops-yearbook.aspx.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service Rice Yearbook. Accessed at www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/rice-yearbook-2014.aspx.


1. Production and processing of edible foods, biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) and associated non-edible byproduct animal feeds


Human foods

Animal feeds


High-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, corn oil

Corn gluten feed, corn gluten meal, distillers grains, hominy


Flour, wheat germ

Red dog, mill run, wheat middlings, wheat bran


Distillers grains


Beverage alcohol

Distillers grains


Brown and white rice

Rice bran


Soybean oil

Soybean meal, hulls


Canola oil

Canola meal


Cottonseed oil

Whole cottonseed, cottonseed meal

Fruits & vegetables

Canned, frozen, dried

Peels, pits, seeds, pomace, etc.

Citrus fruit


Citrus pulp

Sugar beets

Beet sugar

Beet pulp



Almond hulls

Note: This list is not all-inclusive and captures only the major streams of food, fuel and feeds in the U.S.


2. Million tons of human foods, biofuels or byproduct animal feeds produced annually from primary crops in the U.S., average of 2009-13 crop years


Human foods


Byproduct animal feeds


























Fruits & vegetables






Sugar beets










Note: All feeds, foods and fuels on an as-is basis. For most grains and oilseeds, this would be 85-90% dry matter. Fruits/vegetables, citrus and sugar beets would be less than 20% dry matter.

*Data include crops processed in the U.S. but do not imply that human food or animal feed is consumed only in the U.S. Significant quantities of food and feed are exported for consumption elsewhere in the world. Also, this does not include byproducts produced in other countries, e.g., canola meal, and imported into the U.S. for animal feeding.

Sources: U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (2013), Food Waste Reduction Alliance (2013), Renewable Fuels Assn. (2011), U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.


Handling inedible food production byproducts

Dr. Joanne Knapp is with Fox Hollow Consulting LLC.


Volume:87 Issue:12

Innovation key to water supply management

Innovation key to water supply management

POPULATION growth could cause global demand for water to outpace supply by mid-century if current levels of consumption continue, but it wouldn't be the first time this has happened, according to a recent Duke University study.

Using a delayed-feedback mathematical model that analyzes historical data to help project future trends, Duke researchers identified a regularly recurring pattern of global water use in recent centuries. Periods of increased demand for water — often coinciding with population growth or other major demographic and social changes — were followed by periods of rapid innovation of new water technologies that helped end or ease any shortages.

Based on this recurring pattern, the model predicts that a similar period of innovation could occur in coming decades.

"Researchers in other fields have previously used this model to predict earthquakes and other complex processes, including events like the boom and bust of the stock market during financial crises, but this is the first time it's been applied to water use," said Anthony Parolari, Duke post-doctoral research associate in civil and environmental engineering who led the study. "What the model shows us is that there will likely be a new phase of change in the global water supply system by the mid-21st century."

"This could take the form of a gradual move toward new policies that encourage a sustainable rate of water use, or it could be a technological advancement that provides a new source of water for us to tap into. There's a range of possibilities," he said.

Data on global water use show that the Earth is currently in a period of relatively stagnant growth, he said. Per-capita water use has been declining since 1980, largely due to improved efficiency measures and heightened public awareness of the importance of conserving Earth's limited supply of fresh water. This has helped offset the impacts of recent population growth.

"If population growth trends continue, per-capita water use will have to decline even more sharply for there to be enough water to meet demand," he said.

The world population is projected to surge to 9.6 billion by 2050, up from an estimated 7 billion today.

"For every new person who is born, how much more water can we supply? The model suggests we may reach a tipping point where efficiency measures are no longer sufficient and water scarcity either impacts population growth or pushes us to find new water supplies," Parolari said.

Water recycling and finding new and better ways to remove salt from seawater are among the more likely technological advances that could help alleviate or avoid future water shortages, he said.


Water systems

A $5 million, federally funded project led by Jane Frankenberger, professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue University, is currently studying the economic, environmental and cost benefits of storing water on farms to improve crop use efficiency and to reduce the amount of nutrients draining into waterways.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture, the five-year research seeks to address issues of farm nutrients draining from fields and causing problems downstream, as well as the need for water in the late summer to irrigate sometimes parched crops.

"Both of these problems are expected to get more pressing with climate change," Frankenberger said. "This research will collect data now that will help farmers make better decisions in the future."

Other universities in the research project, titled "Managing Water for Increased Resiliency of Drained Agricultural Landscapes," are Iowa State University, North Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, the University of Missouri, North Carolina State University, South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota, as well as USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

The objective of the study is to advance three innovative practices — drainage water management, saturated buffers and reservoirs — that can address the problems of crop loss from an increased likelihood of summer drought and the degradation of water quality from drained farmland.

Unlike conventional drainage systems, the researchers explained that drainage water management conserves water by increasing its retention time in the soil profile, thereby delaying or reducing the draining of soil water.

Saturated buffers store water within the soil of field buffers by diverting tile water into structures that raise the water table and slow outflow. Early results of the study indicated that these buffers can be effective in removing nitrate from tile drain water before it is discharged into surface waters such as streams.

By using reservoirs, a "capture and use" system diverts subsurface drainage water into on-farm reservoirs, or ponds, where it is stored until it is needed to irrigate crops, the researchers noted.

The practices have been evaluated at scattered fields across the region, but the research findings haven't been compiled yet, the researchers said, adding that the results will be used to improve decision-making tools. 

RELATED VIDEO: A link to a video clip of Jane Frankenberger explaining the research is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vynOVY0BcFI 

Volume:87 Issue:d1

Robots take to milking parlor

Robots take to milking parlor

RELATED VIDEO LINK - https://youtu.be/HGGxfjWuidI

GEA Farm Technologies was at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Cal., last month to introduce to the North American market a revolutionary new robotic rotary milking system.

The system, called DairyProQ, is the first and only automated rotary parlor of its kind available in North America. Essentially, it works by bringing together many proven and stable technologies found in today's conventional dairies and current rotary platforms in a way that totally automates the milking process.

For the dairy farmer, it means establishing process control throughout the milking process, said Steve Pretz, vice president of large project sales at GEA Farm Technologies. As Pretz explained, consistency each and every time is a good thing for dairy cows.

Along with a more consistent milking experience, the state-of-the-art technology also reduces a dairy farm's dependence on labor, which can be critical for those dairies looking to expand or those with more than 50 employees.

The system offers the same throughput as a staffed parlor, according to Pretz.

From a cow health standpoint, Pretz said most customers see a significant decrease in their herd's somatic cell count with the system.

In the DairyProQ milking process, each stall unit has its own robotic arm with a teat cup attachment. Teat prep (including pre-dipping), fore-stripping, stimulation, the milk harvesting process and post-dipping are done in-liner in one single attachment. In addition, the unit is automatically removed and back-flushed between milking for sanitation purposes. Cows with special needs can still be milked manually or semi-automatically, if required.

GEA Farm Technologies has a fully operational system in Germany and, within the next five months, will have a total of six systems operating in Germany. A system in Canada and one in the U.S. are expected soon as well, Pretz said.

Volume:87 Issue:d1