September 15, 2006
Cowley students tour Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla.
Several Cowley College students recently had an opportunity to tour the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla.
The students joined area farmers and ranchers on the tour. Members of the Cowley County Farm Bureau Agency, The Farm Service Agency of Cowley County, and local financial institutions were also part of the group that toured the Noble Foundation.
The tour of the companies greenhouses and outdoor growing plots lasted three and a half hours. Brett Butler, Cowley College career and technical education/agriculture instructor, assisted in planning the trip.
“The trip helped us learn more about switchgrass production,” Butler said. “It was very informative and educational. Switchgrass is something that is on the horizon and will be very big in the future involving agriculture to divert the U.S. from being so oil dependent.”
The federal government, particularly the Department of Energy, is interested in finding alternative sources of fuel to reduce the United States’ dependence on imported oil.
In President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 31, 2006, he stated that a strong candidate to assist in meeting this goal is switchgrass.
Switchgrass is a perennial, warm-season grass native throughout North America, which can be used to produce ethanol. Switchgrass is recognized as having abundant carbohydrates, which are broken down to sugars for fermentation in the ethanol production process.
The Noble Foundation has received United States Department of Agriculture funding to conduct lignin research in switchgrass. While the primary research will be conducted on the Noble foundation campus, they will collaborate with the Bioprocessing Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Ever since President Bush mentioned switchgrass in his State of the Union address, there has been considerable discussion with a number of different organizations regarding the role the Noble Foundation might play in this switchgrass initiative.
Right now the United States government spends six times the net farm income on oil imports. The net farm income was $56 billion last year, while the U.S. oil imports totaled $328 billion. Switchgrass can produce 800 to 1,000 gallons of ethanol per acre.
“Switchgrass will be an alternative in the near future that agriculture producers can plant instead of corn, wheat, soybeans and traditional crops once there is a market for switchgrass to support these ethanol plants,” Butler said.
The Tour of the Noble Foundation was sponsored by Union State Bank, Home National Bank, Eastman National Bank (Newkirk, Okla.), Waldeck Fertilizer and Chemical Service, Ed Crittenden of Two Rivers Coop, and the Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce.