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Jackson – In mid-September, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead hosted leaders from around the world at the Wyoming Global Tech Summit to talk about technology in many aspects of science today, ranging from information security to medicine.

Among the speakers was Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University, who looked at carbon recapture and the potential for the future.

“If we think of it like a bank account, we have to figure out how to literally balance the carbon budget, so I started working on how to put carbon dioxide away,” Lackner said. “If we think of having a carbon credit card on which we are drawing, we’re already on overdraft, or we will soon be on overdraft.”

Carbon excess

Lackner said that, whether people believe in climate change or not, carbon dioxide (CO2) is building up in the global atmosphere.

“CO2 literally builds up in the atmosphere like garbage,” he described, noting that some of the CO2 is reabsorbed back into the ocean, but the majority of it persists in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. “As we put CO2 into the atmosphere, we have to get at least half of it back. But in the end, carbon dioxide also produces a disposal problem.”

Currently, the atmosphere consists of approximately 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2.

He added that most climate scientists agree that CO2 in the atmosphere increases by two to 2.5 ppm per year.

“Currently, we put 36 billion tons of CO2 back into the atmosphere, and 15 billion tons adds a part per million,” Lackner said. “Climate scientists will also tell us that when we hit 450 ppm, the planet will also warm by two degrees Celsius.”

To decrease the rate of CO2 being released into the atmosphere, Lackner said that the U.S. must recapture more carbon than we release into the atmosphere.

“Every person uses 30 tons of carbon in their lifetime,” he said. “It’s time to balance the carbon budget.”

Negative emissions

In balancing the carbon budget, Lackner noted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) touted negative emissions at their recent meetings.

“We have to put back more than we put out because we are in an overdraft situation,” he explained. “We have to make sure we don’t overrun the 450 ppm, and there’s not question we will at this rate.”

If the globe maintains its level of carbon use, before the end of the century, the atmosphere is predicted to hit 800 ppm CO2.

“If we reduce emissions by 10 percent, we have pushed the problem into the future,” Lackner said. “If we got to 30 percent of current emissions, we will push the problem into the distant future, and that’s good for right now.”

Challenges

Lackner sees huge potential in capturing CO2 from the air to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

“The technology of air capture is technologically and conceptually very simple,” he said. “I have a device that we blow air through, and it takes the CO2 out.”

At the same time, he added that air capture has the potential to actually reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere below it’s current level, beyond only compensating for future output.

Secondly, Lackner sees potential in completing the carbon cycle by utilizing captured CO2 and hydrogen to make gasoline, methanol, dimethyl ether and more.

“We can make plastic. We can make carbon fiber, and we can use them,” he said. “I can create a circular carbon economy without ever touching fossil fuels.”

Finally, he noted that those using fossil fuels are responsible for returning the carbon removed from the ground from the atmosphere.

“Over the next 20 or 30 years, I think we’ll see regulatory frameworks where dumping CO2 into the atmosphere is outlawed,” Lackner commented.

Air capture

Two things make carbon capture from air challenging – the fact that CO2 in air is “tight” and there is a lot of water in air.

“There is far more water vapor in air than CO2, and the problem is, anything that binds CO2 loves water,” Lackner explained. “We have to figure out how to get around that problem.”

Additionally, the technology is currently very possible, though he likens the argument against air capture because of the expense to arguments made by locomotive engineers against flight made at the turn of the century.

“It’s not physical law that says air capture of carbon is impossible, it’s a lot of work,” he said. “It’s feasible to do air capture.”

At the same time, Lackner noted that the technology is expensive now, but all renewable technologies were initially very expensive.

Currently, estimates with other processes are that capture costs $600 per ton to capture CO2 from the air.

“I think it can cost, practically, $100 per ton, to do air capture,” he said.

He added, “Photovoltaic panel costs dropped 100-fold from 1960 to today. Wind plants have dropped in price 40-fold. We can see that cost will decrease.”

New technology

Lackner noted that the CO2 content of air is quite small.

“There is a liter of CO2, or about two cups, in every cubic meter in air,” he said.

They have figured out how to capture CO2 from the air passively, only utilizing wind and natural air movement to capture CO2.

“We use an anion exchange resin, which has the remarkable feature that, when it’s dry, it loves CO2,” he said. “When it’s wet, it gives it back.”

Lackner continued, “We load up the resin, and by the time we reach 40 kilo-Pascal, which is full. Then, we make it wet, either by exposing it to 100 percent relative humidity or spraying water on it.”

Then, the resin is dried and can be reused.

“We need to figure out how to utilize this best,” he said. “It is extremely powerful, and mass production will get us there.”

He further added that he estimated three years before the technology is ready to be readily disseminated.

“As we fast forward, we need to convince the public that CO2 disposal is also necessary,” Lackner said, noting that there is a challenge in disposing of captured carbon. “Negative emissions is going to be a huge, huge business opportunity in the future, and I’m pretty sure air capture technologies will be a part of that future.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..





The 2007-2008 cloud seeding season has already contained several seeding events, according to Cloud Seeding Project Manager Barry Lawrence.

“All the permitting is complete that was necessary to get the generators in, so we’ve got more operating this year, with 24 in all,” he says. In addition to the added generators, he says overall conditions have been favorable for seeding.

Eight generators have been placed on the western flanks of each of three mountain ranges: the Sierra Madres, the Medicine Bows and the Wind Rivers. Crews are based in Rock Springs and Saratoga, with aircraft also based in Rock Springs.

“We’re doing weather balloon launches when necessary, which is one or two times per day, depending on the weather fronts that are moving through,” explains Lawrence. “We’ve also got high-resolution precipitation gauges deployed in both target and control areas.”

In addition to the data collection that directly relates to the cloud seeding, Lawrence says the project presents unique opportunities for other scientists’ research, including projects such as snow sampling and Wyoming cloud radar.

“We have radiometers deployed that look like overgrown mailboxes. They look for super-cooled liquid water coming off the mountain ranges and help determine if conditions are right for a seeding event. The Desert Research Institute out of Nevada is doing snow chemistry sampling and we’re also working with the Center for Atmospheric Research in refining the experimental design in our equipment, since this is still a pilot project,” he explains. The University of Wyoming is also very involved in the monitoring of cloud seeding.



Because the cloud seeding is a five-year pilot project with the goal of building up a number of cases for research, randomized seeding events are conducted in the Medicine Bows and the Sierra Madres. “The meteorologists look at the conditions and decide to call a case and they indicate which generators should be used and pass that information on to a technician, which receives a seeding decision,” explains Lawrance. A seeding case is only called if conditions are similar on both mountain ranges.

If the decision to seed is made, the generators are turned on remotely and run for four hours. “We don’t want to bias the scientists for calling the next case, and we don’t want the meteorologists to know which range was seeded. They try to see the signature for themselves through snow chemistry sampling, precipitation gauges, etc.,” he says.

The research strategy is called a “crossover” design. By running both mountain ranges at once, the project doesn’t have to have hundreds and hundreds of cases. “It reduces the number of cases we need to have to see a signature,” says Lawrence.

The Wind River Range is on more of an operational basis, but is still being evaluated through snow chemistry sampling and precipitation gauges.

As with the 2006-2007 season, this winter’s seeding season will run through early spring, whereupon the researchers will wait again until the next winter to begin running tests again.

Christy Hemken is assistant and crop editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Worland — “There are third parties actively sampling water on grazing allotments in this state,” says Nephi Cole, Watershed Coordinator for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD). “Are they going to find E. coli? Yes, in some cases they certainly will.”
    “E. coli can be found in many streams within the state at any given time. So what can we as land managers and users do?” asks Cole. “You can know what the possible sources of E. coli are, implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) to address issues, record what you are doing, and do it in good faith. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important.”
    “If you are proactively managing to address non-point source pollution, chances are that people looking for problems will move on to someone who isn’t,” says Cole.
    Western Watersheds Project (WWP), a group that opposes domestic livestock grazing on federal lands, is sampling water with the intention of removing livestock grazing from all federally managed lands. The State of Wyoming accepts water quality information submitted by WWP, if they follow their sampling and analysis plan and pass quality assurance and quality control. There are no specific credentials required of an individual or organization that wishes to have their water quality data accepted by the State of Wyoming, however, they must possess “specialized training and have field experience” as defined by the state’s credible data statutes. In general, anyone with a Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) approved sampling and analysis plan can submit water quality data to the state for review.
    So what is the problem with E. coli? Environmentalists are challenging grazing permit renewals based on water quality, range data, and other factors. A lack of data opens the door for a challenge. That’s why Cole says implementing BMPs and keeping a written record is so important.
    E. coli is a bacteria commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals, including humans, livestock and wildlife. Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some, such as serotype 0157:H7, can cause serious illness in humans. Most waterways have some levels of E. coli with the level varying from season to season, day to day and even at different times of day. “In some instances we have seen that depending on the time of day sampled, you had a huge level of variation,” comments Cole.
    Livestock are often blamed, however, waterways like Dry Creek and Johnny Creek in the Big Horn Mountains have tested high for E. coli despite the fact that livestock have not grazed there for three or more years.
    If high levels of E. coli are found the Clean Water Act requires the development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant’s sources, according to the EPA. Each TMDL is different, depending on the size and nature of each waterbody.
    In 1996, citizen organizations brought 40 legal actions against the EPA in 38 states, seeking listing of waters and development of TMDLs. Under court order or consent decrees in several states, the EPA was required to ensure that TMDLs are established.
    “How does litigation like the Pole Mountain case fit into this picture, and what are the possible ramifications, both good and bad, for the permit holders,” Cole asks. “The Pole Mountain lawsuit was based inpart on the Clean Water Act, and the judge ruled the U.S. Forest Service was in compliance because they were implementing BMPs in good faith, which is what the law requires. The law does not require that you necessarily solve the problem, just that you address it through the best possible management. It is important to keep a record of your actions so that if a question arises, you have that information.”
    He continues, “In a recent EPA presentation, they noted that non-source point source pollution would be a priority for them in the future. They also said that in their estimation, roughly 80 percent of non-point source pollution is related to agriculture. Not all of us agree with that sentiment, but that gives a fairly strong indication of the EPA view of responsible parties. In Wyoming, around 70 percent of our impairments are related to E. coli. Livestock are one of the many contributors, as are all warm-blooded animals.”
    Cole says, “It is a mistake to assume that livestock, or any one use can or should be singled out. When it comes to non-point source pollution, the main culprit is gravity. When rain falls on the earth and flows over land, you will have erosion, and thus, pollution. What can you do about it? There are practices that we can use to minimize our impacts in a given area. These are BMPs, like water gaps, off-site water, and managed grazing. The NRCS and local conservations districts play an integral role in assisting with this E. coli issue by conducting water sampling and analysis, planning and assisting producers in the implementation of BMPs.” Funding is available through a variety of sources, by working with the NRCS, local conservation districts, and others.
    Cole further explains most waters are classified as primary contact recreational waters by default, and held to a standard of 126 colony-forming units (cfu’s) per 100 ml of water. A process exists to petition the DEQ for a change to secondary use classification if a stream is not going to be used for recreational activities like swimming or other full body contact recreation. These “secondary streams” are held to a slightly lower standard of 630 cfu/100 ml.
    Cole addressed about 50 attendees at the Guardians of the Range annual meeting in Worland on Feb. 7. WACD will be host a training on water quality assessment, including stream classification, during the week of March 23 in Riverton. Interested parties should talk to their local conservation district for more information. Echo Renner is a correspondent for the WLR, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As the world becomes smaller and smaller as a result of technology, agriculture must keep pace with the digital age, and CoBank said, “Online competition will continue to intensify and pressure margins for traditional ag retailers in the years ahead.” 

Will Secor, grain and farm supply economist with CoBank, noted agriculture must embrace e-commerce, increased competition and price transparency to continue to be successful. 

“Traditional ag retailers that successfully embrace the challenges introduced by e-commerce will succeed as tomorrow’s cutting-edge ag retailers,” Secor explained in a recent publication from CoBank. 

At the same time, Secor said e-commerce platforms present many challenges for farmers.

Challenges of e-commerce

E-commerce platforms lack a physical footprint, said Secor, which is a challenge for farmers, particularly since the industry operates under tight, uncertain timeframes. 

“Some traditional ag retailers have already begun responding to the challenge by doubling down on their service and distribution capabilities while building their online presence,” he continued. “Traditional ag retailers are undergoing a transformational change from manufacturer mergers, farmer consolidation and technological advancements along the agricultural supply chain.”

Further, the changes have forced these traditional retailers to adopt new practices in online markets. 

“However, it will not change the basic business model of ag retailers, which is grounded in product distribution and service provision,” Secor said. “Instead, e-commerce will pressure traditional ag retailers to add online options for their customers while better differentiating themselves from online-only retail outlets.” 

Farmers online

At the same time agriculture retailers are being forced to expand online, farmers are looking to e-commerce for their purchases, as well.

“In 2017, USDA figures show 25 percent of crop farmers purchased inputs online, up from just 16 percent in 2013,” Secor explained. “The total number of farmers purchasing inputs online increased by 40 percent over these four years.”

“The trend is likely to continue,” he added. 

In particular, larger farming operations have moved toward online purchasing, with data showing 39 percent of farms with $250,000 or more in sales have leaned towards online purchase of their inputs, compared to only 24 percent of farms with sales of $10,000 to $99,999.

“Research by Purdue University indicates, on average, a new generation of farmers will be taking over decision control of the farm in the next eight years,” Secor said. “These younger farmers will likely be more comfortable with technology and may prefer e-commerce options.”

Threat to brick-and-mortar

E-commerce also threatens brick-and-mortar establishments, CoBank emphasized. 

“First, any new competitor will erode sales and margins to some degree, and second, e-commerce sites increase transparency for product prices,” Secor noted.

E-commerce sites encourage easy price comparisons farmers can leverage in brick-and-mortar retail outlets. However, the e-commerce outlets don’t have to account for costs that brick-and-mortar stores do. 

“The e-commerce channel allows cost-sensitive farmers to eliminate service costs like custom application and product warranties,” he said. “Traditional ag retailers that bundle products and services together under the product price are losing some customers to e-commerce sites that provide only the product.”

Secor continued, “To remain profitable and respond to this price pressure, traditional ag retailers will need to better communicate the value of services they provide with the product, or separate the service offerings from the product and lower the product price.”

Competition

However, traditional ag retailers are not at a complete disadvantage to e-commerce. 

As an example, online retail stores can’t provide immediate solutions to unexpected challenges on the farm or ranch, and they aren’t equipped to provide support as a result of pest pressure and weather. 

“However, an omnichannel strategy will likely be necessary for traditional ag retailers to succeed and grow in the digital age,” Secor said. “This strategy provides farmers multiple avenues to interact with an ag retailer.”

“Focusing on the competitive advantage traditional ag retailers have in distribution and service, as well as investing in their own online services, will allow them to succeed in the changing environment,” he added.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

When it comes to food security, the United States is a world leader, according to the Global Food Security Index, but around the world, many countries struggle to ensure they have enough to eat. 

On Oct. 17, a webinar titled, “ICT4Ag: The New Technologies that will Achieve Food Security” discussed different technologies and the challenges and distribution technology faces in agricultural programs. 

Digital Solutions

Jacob Korenblum, Souktel Digital Solutions CEO, discussed recent efforts taken to promote food security through multi-channel digital solutions.

“Multi-channel digital solutions involve interacting with members of the agriculture community through different mobile and web-based messaging,” Korenblum explained.

Farmers and ranchers can send videos, images and audio on mobile phones using Facebook Messenger and text messaging to ask questions.

“Offering a spectrum of services, like Facebook Messenger or basic mobile audio to reach agricultural members is important because people have different access to technology and usage habits,” he said.

Catholic Relief Services Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist Kathryn Clifton believes needs versus wants, models of scale, marketing, communications and program cycle transitions should be considered when developing food security solutions.

“A pull is the need or want for a product, and push is a product or service that satisfies the need,” Clifton explained, adding producers with products need to realize there has to be pull in the market.

Marketing and communications are also important, she noted, and require extensive communication to develop problem solutions.

“Producers need to ask who is reaching their target audience and what assumptions they have for potential partnerships to successfully market their product,” Clifton stated, encouraging producers to maintain accessibility and online presence.

New technology

Souktel developed two technologies for agriculturalists in developing countries – Chatbox Extension Services and Buyer and Seller plus Payment Solution.

“Chatbox focuses on connecting farmers through Facebook or text messaging to provide real-time advice and answer questions,” Korenblum stated.

Live experts provide advice, and information is downloaded to automated content robots, which respond to questions using prior material drawn from a database, he continued.

“Chatbox aims to provide ongoing, personalized support that creates case histories for individuals to offer better advice in the future,” explained Koreblum. 

Additionally, Buyer and Seller Matching plus Payment Solution enables groups of small farmers to collectively sell products, set prices, connect with buyers and receive payments, using existing money platforms.

“For farmers, this technology increases selling power and allows for high-value products to be sold at a better price,” Korenblum added.

In areas where internet is unavailable, mobile devices have allowed agriculture to prosper and improve advisory services, market information, financial services and insurance services. 

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) generated the e-Agriculture Community Practice, an online center for exchanging knowledge and project experiences that involve agriculture and rural development ICTs.

“E-Agriculture provides access to information, financial services and connections with other communities,” said Alice Van der Elstraeten, FAO e-Agriculture information management specialist.

Digital agriculture models

Brian King of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) discussed digital agriculture models and their potential to develop better interactions with farmers.

In India, an interactive voice response-based advisory system was used to research agronomic advice value from an interactive voice system.

“This research is interesting because it demonstrated that agronomic advice is valuable,” King said.

Another program in West Africa used scratch-off cards to deliver financial advice, so farmers could save money to buy better seeds and fertilizer.

“Access to quality inputs and advice provided visible gains in yields and farmer incomes,” he noted.

The last model in Colombia dealt with site-specific advice for farmers. CIAT combined data from rice crops and formed a hypothesis on why rice yields were declining.

“This is a big data approach used to figure out what factors were affecting rice crop yields. Results from the data unlocked the ability to deliver site-specific advice to farmers,” King commented.

When analytic-driven, value chain coordination-driven and digital channel-driven models are combined, ways to develop true interactivity with rural, low-income farmers over multiple digital channels are evident, he stated.

Capacity development

Digital literacy and literacy for individuals should be addressed, while more development learning activities are important for organizations to incorporate.

“E-Agriculture strategies can be applied to help national governments develop agricultural information and communication technology (ICT) strategies to ensure sustainability, scalability and coordination between stakeholders,” Van der Elstaeten commented.

As a community, agriculture is focusing on capacity development activities through webinars and discussion forums, she said, adding farmer-centered designs are also a main focus. 

“It is essential to get to know farmers and the design programs with them, not for them,” Van der Elstaeten stated.

“It’s very important to address capacity development at all levels to answer questions farmers have about new technology,” she added, noting, it is essential for ICT projects to work, as well.

The ICT4Ag webinar was hosted by Catholic Relief Services to stimulate discussion on strategies for improving food security.

Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.