Researchers explore the future of agriculture

News
Feb 27, 2009
by WLJ

A study by Colorado State University (CSU) researchers on the future of agriculture in the state is seeking input on variables such as economic conditions, commodity prices, water, environmental factors and land use. Details of a study that involves computer modeling were unveiled recently at the annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture in Denver.

The forum, “Learning from our Past, Cultivating our Future,” brought together leaders from around the state to discuss the state of agriculture, including U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett, CSU interim President Anthony A. Frank, and Gov. Bill Ritter. Ritter said agriculture is the third largest industry in the state and is expanding in new and innovative ways. “Agriculture is helping to grow our new energy economy,” Ritter said. The governor pointed to wind energy development in Colorado that was second only to Texas in terms of putting wind generated energy on electrical grids in 2007. Ritter also praised CSU for its alternative fuels research.

“The university understands the benefits of developing these fuels,” Ritter said. CSU is currently involved in extensive research in the areas of biofuels, biomass conversion and bioenergy crop sciences.

Frank told forum participants that the university is Colorado’s agricultural school—and proud of it. “We started as an ag school, we’re still an ag school, and we will be an ag school in the future,” Frank said. CSU’s land-grant mission is vibrant, alive and compelling today, he noted.

The mission of Steve Davies, chairman of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, is to envision the future of agriculture in Colorado and create a dialogue with the agricultural community around the state. Davies intends to do that now that he and several colleagues have developed a simulation model that can help to identify future agricultural needs in Colorado.

“This is an interactive computer model that can be adjusted to incorporate a number of factors such as water, land use and environmental concerns,” Davies said. One of the variables Davies points to is a modeling simulation to address the issue of land that has been set aside in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Nearly 1 million acres of socalled CRP lands will be coming back into production in Colorado in the next two years. Davies said with more land available, there will be new demands to know what kinds of crops to grow, commodity pricing, livestock and grazing issues, water and many other issues.

Davies will engage Colorado’s agricultural community in the coming months with various outreach visits as well as interactive methods. A blog has been developed at http://futureofcolo radoagriculture.blogspot.com. A seminar will be held this summer to review progress made, he said. — WLJ

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