Tag Archives: agriculture

How science is distilling its message | Times Higher Education

The tongue-in-cheek paper, titled “The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of ‘writer’s block’”, contained no words except the title, the author’s name and affiliation, one self-reference, and words of praise from one reviewer who examined the manuscript “very carefully with lemon juice and X-rays”.

When physicists found that neutrinos travelled faster than the speed of light, a claim that would break Einstein’s universal speed limit, Sir Michael Berry of the of Bristol and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical titled “Can apparent superluminal neutrino speeds be explained as a quantum weak measurement?” Their abstract revealed their stance: it read “probably not”.

Although some may be under the impression that this needed a bit more elaboration, the “probably not” abstract was a “precisely crafted answer to the question posed in the title of the paper”, Sir Michael told Times Higher Education.

The abstract was “perfectly informative”, in light of the title, he said: “not” because of their negative result, and “probably” because they needed a calculation to arrive at this conclusion. A “one-word abstract ‘no’ would not accurately reflect the work we had to do while writing the paper”, Sir Michael added.

In 1974, clinical psychologist Dennis Upper of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Massachusetts, US, published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis the shortest-ever paper.

 

Key leads from this articles:

Data Visualisation

Seal level rise

These days I’m an independent data journalist and information designer. A passion of mine is visualizing information – facts, data, ideas, subjects, issues, statistics, questions – all with the minimum of words.

I’m interested in how designed information can help us understand the world, cut through BS and reveal the hidden connections, patterns and stories underneath. Or, failing that, it can just look cool!

Myself, and the rest of the crack team here at Information is Beautiful, are dedicated to distilling the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams.

@infobeautiful (just infographics)@mccandelish (details of my tawdry life too)This site’s RSS Web FeedFacebook email: pa [dot] david [dot] mccandless [AT] Gmail [dot] com.

I’m David McCandless, a London-based author, writer and designer. I’ve written for The Guardian, Wired and others. I’m into anything strange and interesting.

Curated from Hello | Information Is Beautiful

It’s been a year since I started Draw Science. Can’t believe it. The idea’s come a long way, from just a blog that I started for fun, to an open-access journal in the works. Now, I’m travelling while I set up the journal and doing a study on behalf of my other organization,

 

I’ve already ranted about the problems with science communication. Even when a layperson gets access to a paper despite all the pay-per-view journals, the use of esoteric jargon makes it practically impossible for the public to read fresh-from-the-lab-bench science. For the last few months, I’ve been working on a solution through Draw Science. Now it’s time to take off the band-aid and treat the wound.

 

Curated from Draw Science

Valuable Other Scholarly outputs

“The Winnower is an excellent forum for sharing ideas and rapidly disseminating work that might not otherwise have a great forum. I think it’s an excellent tool to engage a community with a very easy to use interface that generates great discussion between authors and reviewers. In total, it was the most supportive peer review process thus far, and allowed me to engage in great scholarly discussion with my reviewers in an open and transparent way.”

“The Winnower is paving the path to the future of science communication in the most radical, exciting way. Scientists can finally put a name and a story to the research they publish; this is the definition of “open and transparent.””

“The Winnower is one of the first that rightfully recognizes the educational value of both transparent peer reviews and open access scientific material. It is a modern scientific publication in the truest sense of the word”

“Re-imagine scientific publishing, unhindered by external pressures, with the sole focus to communicate science. Don’t be surprised if you end up exactly at what The Winnower is doing.”

“Although I did not ever think I would aspire to have my work highlighted in a section referred to as “The Chaff”, I find the idea of your new journal interesting and likely informative for the scientific community”

Curated from The Winnower | Open Scholarly Publishing

So without further ado….Today we are happy to announce that you can now assign a digital object identifier (DOI) to your WordPress.org blog via The Winnower. This is a first step of many that we are taking towards bringing scientific publishing into the modern era (we’ll soon be releasing an interface for Blogger blogs and WordPress.com blogs).  We hope you’ll help us create this “agora of the modern age” by participating and by letting us know what you think needs changing or improving.  Of course, one way to do that is to publish with us and another is to write a blog post!  Together we can create an archived virtual library that is accessible to not only those that can pay thousands of dollars to publish but to all.

Scientific research requires a free and open dialogue to thrive. Scientists must communicate their ideas through scientific journals for debate, testing, and often retesting. Today, this is the standard process by which new ideas advance in science. Currently, one major barrier to co… …

The 2013 Wolf Prize in , often referred to as the Nobel Prize in agriculture, was awarded earlier this year to Dr. Joachim Messing. Messing’s work over the years has spanned many fields but what may be considered his most important work was the development of a seminal te… …

Science publishing is a multi-billion dollar industry that brings investors and owners a spectacular 30% profit annually. How are they able to maintain such high profits and what does this mean for science? Pretend you’re a scientist who’s made an important discovery. Your next step… …

The value of blogs and bloggers in science is well recognized.  Blogs serve as an excellent form of post-publication peer review and host much of the scientific discussion that occurs on the web today.  Indeed, it is probably true that more interaction between scientists and between scientists and the public occurs away from traditional scientific articles themselves and in “alternative” forums such as Twitter, Facebook, and of course, blogs.  These mediums are becoming increasingly important in scholarly discourse and often times shape what is written in traditional scholarly articles themselves (i.e. they are often cited).  But for all the benefits blogs provide they are not afforded an equal footing.  They are superfluous and can disappear without a trace.  We want to change that. The content of these discussions can sway opinion and act as authoritative sources in their own right.  Blogs are without a doubt valuable and as such deserve to be archived and aggregated, just like traditional scholarly publications are.  They deserve to “count,” to be elevated to a level that is not viewed as something extra but as something integral to scientific communication (Nicholson 2014, Nicholson 2015).  We need to get around the notion that where you publish actually matters.  It doesn’t.  It is the content, not the wrapper, and the sooner we act accordingly, the better.

Curated from The Winnower | Open Scholarly Publishing

The Journal of brief ideas

We think that that there is an inherent inefficiency in scientific publishing due to the quantum (or minimum publishable amount) of research being too large. It can takes many years to do enough research for a publication in a top-tier journal. Meanwhile, all that intellectual capital is tied up solely in the heads of the researchers rather than circulating where it could be doing some good. Also, many research ideas and results are not publishable because they are small, negative, partial, or just don’t fit the criteria of other journals. But many of them can be expressed briefly and could aid other researchers.

Primarily because it is part of being a good scientific citizen but you also might get the feedback you need to improve your research. Entries in the Journal of Brief Ideas are permanently archived, searchable, and citable, so they have the same publication status as in any other journal. That means that you can get credit for your idea as soon as you have it. You can put the entry on a CV, attach it to your ORCID profile, or use it as you would any other publication.

In addition, if you are a good researcher, you have more ideas than you can pursue at length. Wouldn’t you rather be credited for those ideas and see somebody else build on them than have them disappear from the research community completely, or have somebody later come up with the same idea and have them get credit for it?

For something as brief as 200-words, wouldn’t you rather just judge the quality of an idea yourself rather than have that judgement proxied by an anonymous peer reviewer? It is impractical to have 200-word ideas reviewed pre-publication so we choose to have a post-publication review system. There is a rating for each idea and for each researcher so you can judge quality by those ratings if you don’t trust your own judgement.

The Journal of Brief Ideas is a research journal, composed entirely of ‘brief ideas’. The goal here is to provide a place for short ideas to be described – in 200 words or less – for these ideas to be archived (courtesy of Zenodo), searchable and citable.

Curated from The Journal of Brief Ideas

The Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) journal

The Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) journal publishes all outputs of the research cycle, including: project proposals, data, methods, workflows, software, project reports and research articles together on a single collaborative platform, with the most transparent, open and public peer-review process. Our scope encompasses all areas of academic research, including science, technology, humanities and the social sciences.

Curated from Research Ideas and Outcomes

Brevity of Communication

THE UP-GOER FIVE TEXT EDITOR

CAN YOU EXPLAIN A HARD IDEA USING ONLY THE TEN HUNDRED MOST USED WORDS? IT’S NOT VERY EASY. TYPE IN THE BOX TO TRY IT OUT.

Curated from The Up-Goer Five Text Editor

The 1000 Word (or ten hundred word to be exact) Challenge was born out of the XKCD comic strip Up Goer Five, a very successful attempt at using only the 1000 most common words to describe the blueprints of the NASA rocket Saturn V. Geneticist Theo Sanderson created a text editor that tells if each word typed is one of the 1000 most common words (and thus allowable), and soon scientists around the world were challenging each other to describe their own research using only these 1000 words. The Burke Museum was already planning an end-of-the-quarter happy hour and invited FOSEP to hold their 1000 Word Challenge during the event.

FOSEP received almost 40 individual entries from across the campus, from researchers in atmospheric science to biology, from anthropology to applied materials science. David Domke (professor and acting chair for the Department of Communication at the University of Washington (UW)), Alaina Smith (Director of External Affairs at the Burke) and Andrea Cohen (Museology Program Assistant at the Burke) served as the judges for the event.

On Friday afternoon, the judges narrowed down the entries to the top 15. These 15 contestants were then each given an opportunity to share both how they would normally describe their research at a scientific conference and how they describe their research using only the 1000 most common words in the English language. Contestants were judges on three criteria: Language – Does the entry convey the work of the grad student in a clear and concise manner, using the 1000 words in an economical and grammatically correct fashion? Style – Does the entry go beyond clear word choice to incorporate humor, prose, rhythm or other elements of style to good effect? and Presentation – Does the candidate present their entry effectively?   Considerations are enunciation, volume, posture, and dress?

Yasmeen at a scientific conference: I study the link between sperm chemotaxis and fertilization success. Eggs in animals such as sea urchins release chemicals that act as sperm attractants. Sperm use chemotaxis – that is, orientation towards the source of a chemical gradient – to find the eggs. However, it is unknown whether sperm chemotaxis directly contributes to reproductive success.

Last Friday the Burke Museum hosted FOSEP’s inaugural 1000 Word Challenge with fantastic results. Just under 200 people were in attendance, and the grand prize winner by Yasmeen Hussain included, “Some man things are better at listening than others. I want to know if the man things that are better at listening are also better at making babies.”

Curated from Inaugural FOSEP 1000 Word Challenge Was a Great Success! | The Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy

 

Which Journals are best? Who do I cite? Who cites me? 2

Sankey Diagram

This Post follows on from http://www.OR4NR.interdisciplinary-science.net/2015/09/04/which-journals-are-best-who-do-i-cite-who-cites-me/

Citations I've made are on the left. The citations I've made are grouped into subjects. Engineering is in a darker shade. Citations to me are on the right. This shows how I transform science into science of use by stakeholders of agri-environmental systems
I’ve made are on the left. The citations I’ve made are grouped into subjects. Engineering is in a darker shade. Citations to me are on the right. This shows how I transform science into science of use by stakeholders of agri-environmental systems

This shows very clearly how I am an applied Operational Researcher. I draw in the science of my three degrees (, Applied Environmental Science) and produce science of use the the engineer, mangers, scientists and policy makers in the agri-environmental sectors. I get nearly no citations from and Journals.

I’ve used Google Developers tools to produce this and they are far better than anything that Excel can do, but it is still a lot of informations to convey. It is hard to control all the features, but it is easier than a bespoke hand drawn visual.

It is an alternative to the column chart, but is it any clearer?

From Consumer to consumed from
Comparing the science I consume with the place my science gets consumed showing a clear difference in subject categories with less Operational Research and more Engineering, Technology and Multi-disciplinarity.

To Do List: Sankey Diagram

Sankey diagram would be a very good way of mapping the connections between the types of science journals I cite from and the types of science journal where I get cited. It may make this diagram clearer

From Consumer to consumed from
Comparing the science I consume with the place my science gets consumed showing a clear difference in subject categories with less and more Engineering, Technology and Multi-disciplinarity.

That is originally posted in this blog post: http://www.OR4NR.interdisciplinary-science.net/2015/09/04/which-journals-are-best-who-do-i-cite-who-cites-me/. It would be good to do this for a Toastmasters Speech I am preparing that puts the proposal from my election as a Fellow of a Learned Society.

The hard part of Sankey diagrams is doing them as Excel is little use., but I have found one method on Google Developer… and a useful blog site

 

 

 

 

For the curious, they’re named after Captain Sankey, who created a diagram of steam engine efficiency that used arrows having widths proportional to heat loss.

A sankey diagram is a used to depict a flow from one set of values to another. The things being connected are called nodes and the connections are called links. Sankeys are best used when you want to show a many-to-many mapping between two domains (e.g., universities and majors) or multiple paths through a set of stages (for instance, Google Analytics uses sankeys to show how traffic flows from pages to other pages on your web site).

To my opinion, Sankey diagrams are underestimated, and should merit a greater attention. Sometimes they are a better choice than a pie or bar chart to visualize information.

Hi, my name is Phineas. With this blog I would like to share with you my fascination for Sankey diagrams. My goal is to present to you Sankey diagrams I find on the net, and discuss them. I am mainly focusing on the graphical aspect, layout, methodological issues or shortcomings of diagrams. I do not intend to discuss the scientific content or the data behind them. Neither the politics.

Do you have a Sankey diagram you wish to share? Have you seen an interesting Sankey diagram that should be presented here? Or do you have a great idea what Sankey diagrams can be used for?

Acknowledgement: The guys at ifu (e!Sankey) kindly ceded this domain to me. I asked them politely, if I can use it for a blog on Sankey diagrams, and they said ‘yes’. They reserve the right to put up a banner here, but so far this hasn’t happened.

I am using Sankey Helper 2.1, STAN 1.1 and e!Sankey 3.0pro for drawing my Sankey diagrams. I have used test or demo versions of most of the Sankey diagram software tools available, like S.DRAW, or Sankey 3.1. Although I do find some tools better than others, I don’t intend to endorse any of them.

 

Now done using Google Developers tools.

Citations I've made are on the left. The citations I've made are grouped into subjects. Engineering is in a darker shade. Citations to me are on the right. This shows how I transform science into science of use by stakeholders of agri-environmental systems
I’ve made are on the left (Web of Sciences Journal categories). The citations I’ve made are then grouped into subjects. Engineering is in a darker shade. Citations to me are on the right, again by Journal category. This shows how I transform science into science of use by stakeholders of agri-environmental systems, such as engineers.

The live interactive version is here: http://www.OR4NR.interdisciplinary-science.net/2015/09/12/what-journals-do-i-cite-and-which-journals-cite-me/

Project AC0114 – Data synthesis, modelling and management

WP 3 Farm Practice Synthesis

This work package will develop an archive of farm practice or activity data for representative farm systems in the UK, including information on fertiliser inputs; fertiliser and manure management; livestock feeding and breeding practices; and industry trends on the adoption of key mitigation practices such as anaerobic digestion and increased efficiency of nitrogen use.  These data will be key to representing the impact of changes in farm practice on methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Whilst the work package intends to make best use of existing national surveys and industry monitoring data, it is recognised that not all aspects of UK are adequately surveyed. Therefore, we will also scope a UK wide systematic survey of farm practices targeted at meeting the future needs of an improved gaseous emissions calculation methodology.

The first stakeholder workshop was held in March 2011 in Birmingham, with the aim of gathering feedback on the farm systems proposed for inclusion within the inventory and to gather recommendations on the mitigation methods that will need to be captured through the reporting:

Project AC0114 is managed as a collaborative project through an Expert Steering Group made up of the following principal investigators from the project partners:

Dr Steven Anthony (ADAS UK Ltd – Project Manager) Dr Tom Misselbrook (North Wyke Research – WP 1 Lead) Dr Kairsty Topp (Scottish College – WP 2 Lead) Dr Adrian Williams (Cranfield – Science Director and WP 3 Lead) Dr Ulli Dragosits (CEH Edinburgh – WP 4 Lead) Professor Andy Whitmore (Rothamsted Research – WP 5 Lead) Mr Laurence Smith (Organic Research Centre – WP 6 KE Lead) Dr Eileen Wall (Scottish Agricultural College – WP 7 Lead) Professor Pete Smith (Aberdeen University) Dr Catherine Watson (AFBI-NI) Dr Les Crompton (Reading University) The AC0114 project will span January 2011 to June 2015 and is composed of 7 separate work packages:

 

 

CLIMSAVE

CLIMSAVE outputs will inform many policy processes ensuring that decisions on how best to adapt to climate change are based on solid scientific analysis. This includes the EC White Paper on Adapting to Climate Change and national adaptation strategies which have been adopted, or are under preparation, in many European countries. CLIMSAVE’s integrated assessment approach will enable stakeholders to explore and understand the interactions between different sectors, rather than viewing their own area in isolation. This contributes to the development of a well adapted Europe by building the capacity of decision-makers to understand cross-sectoral vulnerability to climate change and how it might be reduced by various adaptation options.

CLIMSAVE is a pan-European project that is developing a user-friendly, interactive web-based tool that will allow stakeholders to assess climate change impacts and vulnerabilities for a range of sectors, including , forests, biodiversity, coasts, water resources and urban development. The linking of models for the different sectors will enable stakeholders to see how their interactions could affect European landscape changes. The tool will also enable stakeholders to explore adaptation strategies for reducing climate change vulnerability, discovering where, when and under what circumstances such actions may help. It will highlight the cost-effectiveness and cross-sectoral benefits and conflicts of different adaptation options and enable uncertainties to be investigated to better inform the development of robust policy responses.

There is widespread acceptance that the climate is changing due to human emissions of greenhouse gases. Such changes in climate will affect all sectors of society and the environment at all scales, ranging from the continental to the national and local. Decision-makers and other interested citizens need to be able to access reliable science-based information to help them respond to the risks of climate change impacts and assess opportunities for adaptation.

CLIMSAVE is a pan-European project that is developing a user-friendly, interactive web-based tool that will allow stakeholders to assess climate change impacts and vulnerabilities for a range of sectors, including agriculture, forests, biodiversity, coasts, water resources and urban development.

Curated from

http://www.climsave.eu/climsave/index.html

Which Journals are best? Who do I cite? Who cites me?

I’ve been pondering the question, as part of my training and academic reputation development plan: If I was to concentrate my building into a subset of journals what might they be? I decided to think about what journals I cite from and what journals I am cited in. To do this I used the bibliometrics from the Web of Science database to analyse my papers. I then used the allied Journal Citations Reports database to explore more about these Journals and their subject categories. I’ve looked in detail at all those journals where there are two or more (about 1/3-1/2 of the total)

Who do I cite?

I’ve charted the results by number of papers that I’ve cited. It is worth noting that over half of the references that I use in any one paper refer to non peer-reviewed sources of data, such as farm management costings books and statistics.

Who I cite
The journals and number of papers that I have cited from. A few journals dominate with quite a long tail. Amongst the titles there are words like systems, , , environment, & ecology.

What strikes me is that I have done two things: 1) drawn in a wide range of underpinning literature on the science of agriculture and the environment, 2) drawn in a lot of scientific literature that has to do with Operational Research and or agricultural/ environmental systems. This is a clue as to how I maybe working as a scientist.

Who cites me?

I’ve repeated the analysis and considered which journals are the source of citations to me.

The journal that are the source of citation to me
The journals and the numbers of papers citing me showing a few dominant journals, a long tail and the words management, systems, engineering, technology, and production  featuring amongst titles

Again there is a subset of dominant journals citing my work. Two of them; Agricultural Systems and Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment; are dominant in both. A noticeable change from the journals that I cite is the absence of Operational Research and the addition of engineering, production and technology amongst titles. This is again another clue about how I seem to be doing ‘science’.

Science consumer to science producer

To get a clear idea about how I map the science I consume into science consumed by others I decided to group all the Journal titles into their subject categories. Where a Journal was categorised over more than one category I split the paper counts equally.  I then compared the two after normalising to 100% to bring both counts onto the same scale . Colour coding and shading helped pick out broad groups. This is all shown in this column chart.

From Consumer to consumed from
Comparing the science I consume with where my science gets consumed showing a clear difference in subject categories with less Operational Research and more engineering, technology and multi-disciplinarity.

The shift in subject categories is quite strong. I am very much an applied Mathematician and Operational Researcher as I consume its science, but don’t produce the science consumed by it. Overall I consume science from all three of my degrees: Agriculture, Applied Environmental Science, and Operational Research (see below). I combine that within a systems modelling framework and produce insights into agricultural and environmental systems that are of benefit to managers, engineers, technologists, applied [multidisciplinary] scientists, and fellow systems modellers and analysts.

My three educational degrees
My educational background showing my three degree of Agriculture, Applied Environmental Science, and Operational Research

This does seem a rational picture in hindsight, but much more telling given this hard data. It does lend support to the idea that the group that I have been part of provided a key service to Agricultural Engineering.  I joined the group at the former Silsoe Research Institute (SRI); a Public Sector Research Organisation specialising in agricultural engineering and its offshoots.

Takeouts

I’ve a much clearer idea of how I work as a scientist and where I make my contribution: The impact and identification of better, newer, or greener on the decisions that shape agricultural and environmental systems.

The shortlist of journals that I should focus on are the ones that I am cited from and that I cite from. This set includes Agricultural Systems, Biosystems Engineers (formerly Journal of Agricultural Engineering Research),  and Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.

A tilt towards where my science is consumed makes sense so International Journal of , Journal of Cleaner Production, Journal of Environmental Management are strong candidates.

I need to consider Journal remits and bibliometric impact factors to really establish a core set.

What could be a fun addition is to consider the subject mappings that includes in a middle column where I’ve published.

 

Physical assessment of the environmental impacts of centralised anaerobic digestion – CC0240

CAD has already been adopted in other parts of Europe and new sites are planned in the UK. Until now, the claimed environmental benefits of CAD could be based only on extrapolation of results from other countries, and are therefore uncertain for UK conditions. Hence, when the first UK CAD site comes into operation in 2002, it will provide an ideal opportunity for this project to complete a of the process, based on physical measurements of actual emissions, so enabling performance and cost comparisons to be made with other manure management strategies.

 

This project will help to meet DEFRA’s policy needs in connection with international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Burden Sharing Agreement. Specifically, it will provide research evidence to determine the true potential of CAD as a cost-effective control option. This will be relevant to meeting the requirements of the Working Group within the European Climate Change Programme. The project will also begin to establish â??bench marksâ? for good practice, so helping with assessments of the possible impacts of other CAD plants that may be proposed in the future.

 

01 To establish a detailed working plan in conjunction with the owners, constructors and operators of the CAD plant to be monitored. This will also include formulation of an outline LCA and the definition of the key process and environmental measurements needed.

 

03 To undertake a period of at least 18 months of plant monitoring, comprising three campaigns, each of at least six months duration. This will include sufficient time for any start-up difficulties to be resolved, and will thus establish a clear picture of true plant performance. The monitoring will also include emissions from the peripheral activities such as collection, transport, storage and land spreading. These will be undertaken on a periodic basis according to process schedules.

 

Stored slurries on UK farms emit substantial amounts of methane. Previous MAFF funded research (e.g. CC 0222), has shown that farm-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) can reduce in these emissions as well as generating useful amounts of heat and electrical energy and assisting in the safe recycling of wastes (in the interests of sustainable waste management). However, despite these benefits, AD is not widely used in UK agriculture. Capital costs and substantial management requirements are obvious dis-incentives to its adoption, although both of these charges can be reduced substantially per unit volume of slurry treated by using much larger, centralised AD (CAD) plants. For instance, co-processing with other wastes can generate revenues from gate fees.

 

 

Citation Alert: The pyrolysis and gasification of digestate from agricultural biogas plant

Google told me about this new citation to my work. It is a short Polish paper that refers to work I did using environmental () on the manures and slurries produced by pig and dairy farm and various technologies for handling, storing and using them.

This new work builds on from results where  I show that following anaerobic digestion (AD) the resulting is far more potent as a , but is also far more likely to lose ammonia by volatilisation if not managed better. The added potency is due to the digestion fermentation step breaking down complex organic structures and releasing nutrients into the liquor whilst releasing the carbon (drymatter) as methane gas.

The high moisture content of digestate is also a transport burden. One way the my Polish friends look at to manage it better is to dry the digestate 10% moisture content and subject it to pyrolysis and gasification. This has the advantage of getting more and producing biochar or ash as a readily transport fertiliser.

What I really like about this work was that they are looking at an important questions and that they are publishing hard analytical data on digestate and its performance in these processes.

To elaborate on the importance of the question. Improvements on environmental performance in systems such as is akin to chasing bubbles in a carpet. As soon as you introduce one technology, such as an you soon or alter have to think out how you are going to mange the digestate with its increased potency, These still in not one right idea about that and an open question on at least one project I am currently involved with. Intervening into agricultural systems (or any system) has to be done systematically at multiple points to avoid environmental burdens moving to another part of the system or one burden swapping for another.  The environmental Life Cycle Assessment method is tool to use in these cases

Life Cycle Assessment

If you want a tip about win wins with an intervention into a complex system then think along the lines of productive efficiency where you are trying to either  a) obtain the same from fewer inputs, or b) obtain more from the same inputs.

Whilst I am glad this paper is published there is an opportunity to set it within the context of systems thinking and LCA. A couple of things make me think so:

  • The author’s mention that the proliferation of large scale plants in areas where there are restricted opportunities to apply digestate leads to active consideration of drying digestate to ease the transport burdens of shipping it.  I suspect that recycling disposal problem already existed in those area as ADs don’t create mass that was not already there. The problem maybe that now that it is being processed in an AD it is officially visible as a ‘waste’ and of course more potent.
  • An important gap in the life cycle thinking is the drying step of the digestate. In this case a thermal step is used, but not detailed. The question is what happens to the ammoniacal nitrogen during thermal drying? They authour’s correctly identify the risk of losing 70 or so percent of the nitrogen following land spreading, but don’t say what happens under thermal drying.
  • If one was to further apply life cycle thinking we would be thinking of the net energy balance with the thermal drying and pyrolysis and gasification steps. We would also want to be sure flue gases and evaporative gases didn’t carry additional environmental burdens. Finally, we would want to know the agricultural fertility value of biochar (carbonizate) or ash especially if there are heavy metals or persistent organic contaminants.

Overall I enjoyed giving this paper a good read. It tackles an important areas, but I suspect we are still chasing bubbles in the carpet.

It went down very well aided by a bottle of real ale from a recently discovered micro brewery called Hornes located about 10 miles from where I sit. 

Hornes Real Ale, From Bow Brick-hill, Milton Keynes

Handbook of Operations Research in Agriculture and the Agri Food Industry| Lluis M. Plà-Aragonés

This book is intended to collect in one volume high quality chapters on Methods and Applications in and considering both theoretical issues and application results. Methods applied to problems in agriculture and the agri-food industry include, but are not restricted to, the following themes:

 

Each chapter includes some standard and traditional methodology but also some recent research advances. All the applications presented in the chapters have been inspired and motivated by the demands from the agriculture and food production areas.

 

Lluís M. Plà-Aragonès is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Lleida (UdL) and a Senior Researcher in the Animal Production Area at the UdL-IRTA Center. His research interests include operational research methods applied in agriculture and forest management, with special reference to simulation, dynamic programming, Markov decision processes and production planning. He coordinates the EURO working group called Operational Research in Agriculture and Forest management. He is also a member of INFORMS and EURO.

 

The scope of this book is Operations Research methods in Agriculture and a thorough discussion of derived applications in the Agri-food industry. The book summarizes current research and practice in this area and illustrates the development of useful approaches to deal with actual problems arising in the agriculture sector and the agri-food industry.

 

 

50 Years of Applying OR to Agriculture in Britain

I helped my boss Eric Audsley produce this paper (link) for the OR Society 50 conference in York 2008.  Luis Pla and I also wrote a related paper on the future prospects that made it to press at the second attempt with help from Andrew Higgins.