Before the bus started moving we were working on plant identification for a client. Then we learned about the status of Emerald Ash Borer among other pests at the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office. By the end of the presentation we were considering getting a meat thermometer and recordable Hallmark card! (will explain later).
Along the way, John Wilson provided an update regarding the flood recovery efforts from the 2011 flood. He mentioned at Gavins Point Dam, the lake would have drained every 25 hrs. when releases were occurring for the flood. He was involved with an effort in putting together a webinar that involved 25-30 agencies and 14 speakers from 5 states. During the recovery there were 2″ to 25′ drifts of sand in fields. One piece of ground that was reclaimed cost $125-150K and needed 7 excavators for a month. One 300 acre piece of ground that wasn’t reclaimed was going to cost $10,000/ac. to reclaim it.
John Hay provided an update regarding wind energy. He pointed out the different types of towers along the way as we passed several wind farms. Facts included: a 1.5Megawatt wind turbine can run 1000 homes each and the gear box is turning 2000:1 compared to the blades. Iowa is #1 in percent of electricity produced from wind power (20%) and it costs $3-6 million each to install a wind turbine (essentially double the cost of how many megawatts). The life span of a turbine is 20 years with a maintenance cost about $0.05/kwh. When considering efficiency, wind turbines are 40-50% efficient vs. coal power (35%), nuclear (35%), cars (25%); so they’re more efficient at converting free energy into electricity but they are less cost efficient than those other energy sources. Windfarms also typically pay for themselves in 5-10 years.
Our first stop was at Hawkeye Breeders where we saw their semen storage facility that essentially had enough semen to fertilize every cow in the U.S. They ship all over the world and their primary customer is the dairy industry. We also toured their semen collection facility and got the coolest pen from there.
From there we stopped at Blue River Organic Seeds and were surprised to learn that all their organic seed research is done conventionally. They provide organic seed for corn, alfalfa, soybean, and various forages and are looking for more growers. We also learned about PuraMaize which was developed by Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer to essentially block pollen from outside sources to maintain purity.
That night we had supper with faculty from Iowa State University talking about programming efforts there, including their manure programming, ag economics, and Roger Elmore spoke of the corn programming there. But before that, a few of us took advantage of the 45 min. of time to get a few geocaches in the area 🙂