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Big year for ethanol

Published October 6, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – Ethanol production, consumption, and stocks data are typically reviewed on a calendar-year basis because Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) are established for calendar years.  However, according to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, because corn is the major feedstock for domestic ethanol production, ethanol data on a corn marketing year basis (September to August) are important for monitoring and anticipating marketing-year corn consumption.

Darrel Good reported that for the 2013-14 corn marketing year, monthly estimates of domestic ethanol production and stocks are available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) through July 2014.  Weekly estimates are available for August. Census Bureau estimates of ethanol imports and exports are available for the entire marketing year. Based on these estimates, domestic ethanol production for the year totaled a record 14.15 billion gallons, 1.3 billion gallons more than was produced during the 2012-13 marketing year and 354 million gallons more than the previous record production during the 2011-12 marketing year.

“Ethanol imports during the 2013-14 marketing year are estimated at 275 million gallons, 509 million gallons less than were imported during the previous year when domestic ethanol production was limited by a short supply and the high price of corn,” Good said. “The vast majority of imports are from Brazil. Exports of U.S. ethanol during the 2013-14 marketing year are estimated at 788 million gallons, 227 million gallons more than were exported last year, but nearly 300 million gallons less than exports during the 2011-12 marketing year.  Exports were exceptionally large in 2011-12 resulting from a sharp decline in Brazilian ethanol production due to a small supply and high price of sugar. Ethanol is exported to a large number of countries, with Canada being the largest customer by a wide margin. The exception was the unusually large exports to Brazil in 2011-12.”

Good continued that domestic stocks of ethanol during the 2013-14 corn marketing year increased by an estimated 35 million gallons, following a decline of 94 million gallons during the previous marketing year. “The estimates of production, imports, exports, and stocks imply that domestic consumption of ethanol during the 2013-14 marketing year totaled 13.6 billion gallons, 443 million gallons more than the previous record consumption in 2012-13,” he said. “The 3 percent increase in consumption was supported by a modest increase in motor fuel consumption and a modest increase in consumption of higher ethanol blends, primarily E85.” 

The USDA has forecast that a record 5.125 billion bushels of corn were used to produce ethanol during the 2013-14 corn marketing year that ended on August 31. That forecast will be revised as EIA ethanol production and stocks estimates are finalized. “Based on current estimates for August, corn consumption may have been slightly larger than the current forecast,” Good said.

On a side note, Good noted that a large quantity of corn used for ethanol production results in a large quantity of the co-product of distillers grains.  Those distillers grains are mostly fed to livestock, domestically or in importing countries, and substitute for other feed ingredients, mostly whole corn and soybean meal. During the 2013-14 marketing year, a larger portion of those distillers grains were exported than was the case in the previous two years. The Census Bureau estimates that 13.2 million tons of distillers grains were exported during the 2013-14 marketing year, about 50 percent more than in each of the previous two years. China was the largest importer of distillers grains, followed by Mexico. 

“Chinese restrictions on import of some GMO products have raised concerns about future U.S. exports of distiller’s grains to China,” Good said. “A slowdown in those exports, however, might have a minimal impact for the current year. Smaller Chinese imports could alter the mix of feed ingredients consumed, but it would not likely alter the global demand for total feed ingredients.  That is, China would presumably replace U.S. distillers grains with some other feed ingredient that in turn would make room for more U.S. corn or distillers grains in other markets.

“With a record-large U.S. corn crop this year, the magnitude of ethanol production will be important in determining the extent of the buildup in domestic corn inventories by the end of the current marketing year,” Good said. “With only limited potential for growth in domestic ethanol consumption, expansion in production will be dependent on continued small or declining imports and growth in exports of ethanol. Export potential is enhanced by the current low price of ethanol relative to gasoline, but increases are not yet evident in monthly Census Bureau export estimates.” 

Good concluded that the weekly estimates from EIA indicate that ethanol production in September 2014 was about 6.5 percent larger than in September 2013. “The large increase, however, reflects the relatively low level of production in September 2013 so that rate of expansion will not likely be maintained,” he said. “Growth in ethanol production alone will not be sufficient to prevent a substantial build-up in corn inventories but may be helpful in limiting the magnitude of the buildup.”       


Are leaders born or made? New study shows how leadership develops

Published October 6, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – Hardly a day passes without pundits crying for leadership in the NFL commissioner and team owners, among high-ranking government officials, and in other public figures. If University of Illinois experts didn’t have evidence that this valuable trait can be taught, they might join the collective swoon that’s engulfing much of the country.

But a new U of I study supports the idea that leaders are made, not born, and that leadership development follows a specific progression.

Past research suggests that leadership is 30 percent genetic and 70 percent a result of lessons learned through life experiences. Given these percentages, U of I professors Kari Keating, David Rosch, and Lisa Burgoon suggest a more efficient pathway to leadership development.

“In only 15 weeks in our introductory class, students reported significant gains in three important components of leadership: self-efficacy, or confidence in their ability to lead; skills; and motivation to lead,” said Keating, who teachers leadership courses in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ agricultural leadership education major.

The new study shows that science is involved in teaching leadership development, Rosch said.

“It’s a three-legged stool: we call it being ready, willing, and able. Students first become ready to learn about being a leader; then they become willing to learn the skills necessary to practice leadership; and finally they’re able to lead because they have the skills and the motivation to do it. You can’t really move on to the other legs of the stool until you’ve achieved a certain amount of this readiness,” he explained.

If students enter the course with low levels of self-efficacy—saying ‘I don’t really think of myself as a leader’ or ‘I’m not confident in my abilities’—they don’t increase in being willing and able in 15 weeks, but they make big increases in readiness, he added.

“It’s like a math class. You’re not ready to do calculus if you don’t know the basics of algebra,” he noted. “This shows us we need to work on readiness so students can make the most of advanced leadership courses.”

Students who come into the introductory class with leadership readiness saying, “I’ve got this, I’m a leader” have a different learning experience. They become willing to lead people even when it’s not a big resume builder, Keating said.

So what is leadership? “Historically, leaders have been viewed as being male and power oriented. It used to be if you were tall, articulate, and well-schooled, you were a leader in other people’s minds,” Burgoon said.

And students often take a positional view of leadership. “But, just as a year in a cave doesn’t make you a geologist, being senior class president doesn’t make you a leader,” Rosch said.

But leadership is more than that, he said. “The definition we use in the course is that leadership is an individual influencing a group of people toward a common goal. So how do you influence people? You can lead through your interactions, your relationships, your communication, the way you express thanks, your ethics,” he said.

“Leadership isn’t done in a vacuum. It’s done with others,” Keating added.

Students in the class complete 10 to 12 self-assessments to learn where their own strengths and weaknesses as a leader lie. By the end of the semester, they may say: “I don’t do any of this relationship stuff. I’m mainly authoritative in the way I lead. Maybe I need to alter what I’m doing so our team can get better results,” she said.

Rosch said every semester a dozen students come back to him from job interviews in which they advanced because they were able to demonstrate and talk about leadership. He added that academic advisers are beginning to recommend leadership courses to students who aren’t in the leadership major or minor.

“If we could pre-test students for leadership proficiency in much the same way we test for chemistry placement, we’d be able to make our resources more efficient and maximize the learning potential that we have in our program,” he noted.

Keating, David Rosch, and Lisa Burgoon co-authored Developmental Readiness for Leadership: The Differential Effects of Leadership Courses on Creating “Ready, Willing, and Able” Leader. The study was published in the summer issue of Journal of Leadership Education. The study was partially funded by a grant from the U of I Provost’s Office.

Mississippi River Watershed Education Symposium Nov. 14 and 15

Published October 2, 2014
National Great Rivers exterior

URBANA, Ill. - The National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRREC℠) will host the Mississippi River Watershed Education Symposium Nov. 14 and 15 on the Lewis and Clark Community College campus in Godfrey. This two-day symposium will combine professional development workshops with speaker presentations and area field trips.

“The Mississippi River Watershed Education Symposium will bring together educators who have an interest in infusing watershed topics into their programming with other professionals to provide an opportunity to learn and develop unique collaborations on important topics around watersheds,” said Environmental Education Manager Natalie Marioni.  

Keynote presentations will be made by Sean O’Connor of National Geographic and Chad Pregracke of Living Lands & Waters.  

O’Connor is the program manager of educational mapping for National Geographic Education. His experience with educational mapping includes designing maps and interactive map technologies for a range of audiences. His work also involves a strong outdoor education component, helping educators understand best practices in using technology inside and outside of the classroom to enhance field learning experiences.

Pregracke is the president and founder of Living Lands & Waters (LL&W), the world’s only “industrial strength” not-for-profit river-cleanup organization.  Pregracke formed LL&W 16 years ago at the age of 23. His crew and approximately 70,000 volunteers have removed more than 7 million pounds of garbage out of our nation’s rivers. Most recently, he was named the 2013 CNN Hero of the Year.

The registration fee of $55 includes keynote presentations, concurrent sessions and lunch both days, as well as a reception and dinner Friday, Nov. 14. Some workshops may require an additional fee. Registration is available online at

MRWES co-sponsors include Little River Research & Design, Madison County Planning and Development, Missouri Botanical Garden, National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Lewis and Clark Community College, Office of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, Southwestern Illinois College, and the University of Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

For more information, contact Environmental Education Manager Natalie Marioni at 618-468-2783 or


News Source:

Louise Jett, 618-468-3220

These legs were made for walkin'

Published October 2, 2014

URBANA, Ill. - A globally recognized observance, October 8 is International Walk to School Day, said a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator.

“Ensuring that their children are happy and healthy is at the forefront of all parents’ minds. Staying physically active and able is a large part of that. For parents, becoming involved in their child’s activity can ramp up your activity level as well. You’ll kill two birds with one stone. As you encourage your children’s health, you’ll be getting some low-impact, high-result cardio exercise. It’s a win-win situation if I’ve ever heard one!” said Mekenzie Riley. 

Regular exercise is a major factor in reducing or preventing obesity and obesity-related chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers, she said.

“The USDA suggests that adults get at least 2-1/2 hours each week of moderate aerobic physical activity or 1-1/4 hours each week of vigorous aerobic physical activity. Unfortunately, less than half of the American adult population currently gets this recommended amount of physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” she noted. 

The good news is that by simply adding daily walks to your routine­—like walking to the bus stop or to school with your child, you can begin to achieve these recommended activity levels, she said.

“Walking is a great form of exercise for many reasons,” she added. “One of the many advantages about walking for fitness is that you can go at your own pace. It’s a simple way to begin a physical activity program. Whether you are a beginner who is casually strolling, or at an intermediate fitness level, looking to increase the intensity of your exercise with hand weights and inclines, or beginning to run at vigorous pace, walking is a customizable activity.”

According to Riley, walking burns calories and improves heart health by improving blood flow, lowering blood pressure, and increasing muscle strength. In addition, walking burns calories, increases bone strength, and reduces stress, which has a positive impact on weight and body composition.

“The most important health benefit of walking is that it increases life expectancy so the more you walk, the longer you’ll live!” Riley said.

The best news is that the government is supporting these small ways to get more exercise in daily activity, such as walking to school. In August 2005, federal legislation established a National Safe Routes to School Program that provided $612 million toward developing new, safe ways for children to get to and from school by foot or bike, she said.

“For the health of you and your child, walk to school on October 8 and let that be the first day of a new tradition. What you start doing today might improve your life tomorrow,” she said.

Funding for mobile digital labs brings technology to the public

Published October 2, 2014
DigiTech Hub
Photo courtesy of the C-U Community Fab Lab

URBANA, Ill. – DigiTech hubs, sometimes called “makerspaces,” will soon be available in Illinois due to special initiative funding from University of Illinois Extension. The mobile laboratories, which will rotate among U of I Extension sites throughout the state, will serve as high-tech inventor workshops equipped with tools for participants to learn about digital technology—from audio production to 3D printing. 

“Members of the community will be able to make podcasts, experiment with soldering, create small robots, and learn how to do 3D design using the latest digital tools,” said Jon Gant, director of the Center for Digital Inclusion, professor at the U of I’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and principal investigator of the project. “Enabling this kind of innovation and creativity is key to twenty-first century technological and economic development.”

The hubs are just one component of a larger Illinois Digital Innovation Leadership Program that is designed to increase opportunities for entrepreneurship, economic development, and innovation through the expansion of digital manufacturing, digital media production, and data analytics.

Digital Innovation Leadership staff will work with 4-H clubs, public libraries, and public schools to develop permanent community-based and -supported studios, creating a network that will build statewide capacity in digital design, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.

This is one of six collaborative projects led by interdisciplinary faculty and staff from across the U of I campus to further Extension’s education and outreach mission. It is a special partnership between Extension, the dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, and the Office of the Provost. The six projects were selected from a pool of 71 pre-proposals from 16 different campus units. The Extension and Outreach Initiative is aimed at establishing new collaborations between Extension and departments and units across campus.

For more information, visit or






News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Meeting Food Processing Challenges through the Physics of Food

Published October 2, 2014

When considering a slice of pizza, most would see cheese, sauce, crust, maybe a topping or two. What Dr. Pawan Takhar sees is movement of fluids through a porous matrix, a structure undergoing constant change and requiring consideration of concepts such as mass exchange, viscoelastic properties, fluid transport and other physico-chemical processes. In sum, what Dr. Takhar sees in food is physics. And seeing food through the lens of physics has allowed Dr. Takhar to address significant challenges in food processing, with significant results for food quality and industrial efficiency.

The uncommon approach taken to addressing food processing challenges reflect Takhar’s own unique background in food science. On the path to obtaining degrees in Agricultural Engineering from India’s Punjab Agricultural University, Post Harvest and Food Processing Engineering from Thailand’s Asian Institute of Technology, and ultimately a Ph.D. in Food Engineering from Purdue University, Takhar also held positions as a software programmer for an information technology consulting firm, and as a design engineer for a refrigeration and food machinery company. Now an Associate Professor in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Dr. Takhar brings a unique blend of physics and computational modeling to the analysis of food and food processing methods such as drying and frying.

Takhar’s approach stems from continuum mechanics, a body of physics for studying laws of mechanics and material behavior by treating matter as continuous. Foods are not simple materials where simple statements of physics laws easily apply; foods are continually changing (due to temperature, pressure, etc.), and need examination at micro-, meso-, and macro- scales. However, studying all the changes starting at the smallest micro-scale level and applying it for the whole food material would require an impractical level of computing resources and microscale material properties. To remedy this need, Takhar and his group use (and improve upon) hybrid mixture theory (HMT), which scales up from the micro level to higher scales to generate mathematical laws specifically for food and biomaterials, and which are more general than laws produced for simpler materials. In practice, the researchers combine HMT and macroscale or microstructural experiments (using data from X-ray tomography, scanning electron microscopy, etc.) to investigate a particular science challenge.

Demonstrations of the strength of Takhar’s approach in improving food quality, nutrition, and industrial energy are found across multiple industrial food processing settings. In the soybean oil industry, the amount of oil extracted from soybean flakes results from the equipment used and the physical, thermal, and viscoelastic qualities of the soybeans in the feed stream. Takhar’s group was able to model the factors involved to produce soybean drying profiles and flaking roll performance adjustments that ultimately saved $2 million for one industrial producer. Stress cracks in corn are a problem for the corn processing industry, as cracked grains are a source of inferior quality products, produce more dust, and are more prone to insect and microbial damage. Typically, stress cracks arise from moisture fluctuations and drying times, but experimentally identifying the best combination of moisture and drying time would take a great deal of experimentation. By simulating the moisture/drying process, Takhar’s group was able to generate a graph of intermittent drying times, resulting in 50% less stress cracks in a food material. For industrial frying of rice crackers and potatoes, Takhar has been able to find the frying conditions at which both products are at the most desirable level; any further frying only results in excess oil absorption, which represents waste, poorer food quality, and even a greater risk for obesity in consumers.

Currently, Takhar and his group are applying their approach to biopolymer expansion in the form of starch extrusion, with the goal of finding the optimal moisture and temperature distributions of a variety of starch-using products, ranging from cereals and snacks to lubricants for gloves. Looking to the future, Takhar sees a wealth of research possibilities on applying porous media theories to solve transport problems in foods such as frying, drying, freeze-thaw cycles etc.. In the next step Takhar will also be using molecular-scale simulations with food and bio materials via molecular modeling, molecular visualization tools and supercomputing resources. Please see Dr. Takhar’s website ( for more information. 

News Source:

Pawan Takhar