Even before the 7.0 earthquake in 2010, deforestation in Haiti was a huge problem. Over the past 50 years, forested land in the country has fallen from 60 percent to a mere 1 percent. This situation creates all kinds of problems including soil erosion to the tune of 15,000 acres of topsoil washed away each year.
Without forests, Haitians also face a dilemma when it comes to cooking; they have no fuel. The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment recently teamed up with Community Development International, a nonprofit organization that is working to find alternative cooking and heating fuels and soil amendments in Haiti.
Sue Nokes and her colleagues in the colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, and Arts and Sciences can picture a day when farmers not only grow the crops needed for biofuels, but also do much of the processing on their own land.
The Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering department chair leads a multidisciplinary team of UK researchers and scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service’s Forage Animal Production Research Unit on UK’s campus, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, and North Carolina State University. The scientists are in the thick of a four-year project, funded by nearly $7 million from the USDA and more than $2 million in cost-sharing from CNH America, H&R Agripower, and Miles Farms, to study each stage of the biofuels system. Starting with the agronomics of growing a crop for energy and ending with a tanker truck filled with liquid alcohols as it pulls away from the farm, Nokes’ team is refining each step in the process.
“With energy crops, the thinking is they can be planted on marginal ground,” Nokes said, “so we’re looking at best management practices and environmental impacts of growing plants, such as the perennials switchgrass and miscanthus, to see if that’s true. It may be that farmers can grow crops in places they never have before.”
University of Kentucky educators and others will be honored with teaching and public service awards today in UK’s second annual Founders Day Award Ceremony at 4 p.m. in Worsham Theater in the UK Student Center. Members of the campus and local communities are invited. A reception will follow in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Cultural Center.
The university was created by legislative act on Feb. 22, 1865. While Founders Day has been celebrated in various ways over those years, the Founders Day Award Ceremony was established last year to recognize outstanding teaching, research and public service among faculty.
The Provost’s Awards for teaching and service, the Sullivan Medallions for community service, the Sturgill Award for contributions to graduate education, and the Kirwan Prize for outstanding research will be presented in today’s ceremony.
The award winners in the different categories are as follows…
Dean Thomas W. Lester announced on Friday, May 20, 2011 that Dr. Sue Nokes, Ph.D., P.E. has been appointed as chair of the biosystems and agriculture engineering department.
“Dr. Nokes has compiled an excellent record as a teacher and scholar,” said Dean Lester in his announcement, “and has served as director of undergraduate studies. She will assume her position this summer following the departure of Dr. Scott Shearer, who has accepted the same position at The Ohio State University. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Nokes on her new appointment.”
The University of Kentucky has received a $6.9 million federal grant to help reduce America’s reliance on imported oil, one of eight awards issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.
As part of the Obama Administration’s comprehensive plan to address rising gas prices, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced yesterday a total of $42 million to fund eight research and development projects that will support the production of biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products from a variety of biomass sources.
The purpose of UK’s project is to improve the economics for biorefineries by using on-farm processing to convert biomass to a mixture of butanol, ethanol, acetone and organic acids. The product can then be easily transported to a biorefinery for further processing. The project will integrate input from experts in a variety of disciplines, including plant and soil scientists, horticulturists, chemical engineers, and economists.
Principal investigator Sue Nokes, professor in the UK Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering department, says the bulk of the grant will be used to study the process of growing switchgrass and miscanthus to create biofuel for farm machinery. Switchgrass and miscanthus are commonly used as feed, but it’s already known that those plants can be grown, stored and used for fuel. This grant will allow researchers to see whether they can be used on a large scale.