WC-21 Food, Energy and Water in the Corn Belt

The purpose of this session is to explore the complex relationships among Food, Energy and Water in the Corn Belt and discuss opportunities to optimize societal benefits while minimizing negative consequences.

It reports on major new findings of the USDA funded “Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems CAP (CSCAP or “Corn Cap”)” – a transdisciplinary partnership among 11 institutions creating new science and educational opportunities. The CSCAP seeks to increase resilience and adaptability of Midwest agriculture to more volatile weather patterns by identifying farmer practices and policies that increase sustainability while meeting crop demand. The team’s vision is to create a region-wide coordinated functional network to develop science-based knowledge that addresses climate mitigation and adaptation, informs policy development, and guides on-farm, watershed level, and public decision making in corn based systems.

Moderator: David Blockstein, Senior Scientist, National Council for Science and the Environment


  • Robert Anex, Professor, Biological Systems Engineering, University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Gordon Arbuckle, Associate Professor, Iowa State University
  • Rattan Lal, Director, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, The Ohio State University
  • Kristi Lekies, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, The Ohio State University
  • Dennis Todey, Extension State Climatologist, South Dakota State University
  • Lois Wright Morton, Professor of Sociology, Iowa State University

Dr. David Blockstein is a member of the education team of the USDA-funded “Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems CAP (CSCAP or ‘Corn Cap’),” which is a transdisciplinary partnership among 11 institutions creating new science and educational opportunities. He is the Executive Secretary of the Council of Energy Research and Education Leaders (CEREL) and Advisor to the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS). (202-207-0004; David@NCSEonline.org)

Robert Anex is a Professor of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Anex’s research is focused on developing and assessing systems for producing energy, fuels and products from biorenewable resources. For example, Dr. Anex’s research group is studying economic and environmental feasibility of biorenewable chemicals being developed in the Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC), nutrient recovery and cycling in biofuel systems, and impacts of biomass production on the hydrologic cycle. Dr. Anex’s research combines process development in the laboratory with large-scale model-based assessment of agricultural-industrial systems. Key tools used to evaluate the economic efficiency and environmental sustainability of biobased products are Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Techno-economic Analysis (TEA). Dr. Anex and his students have been working understand the interdependencies among agricultural and industrial systems with the goals of ensuring food, water and energy security for an ever-growing population.

J. Gordon Arbuckle is an associate professor and extension sociologist at Iowa State University. He centers his research and extension efforts on increasing the resilience and adaptive capacity of agricultural systems. He has expertise in survey research, with a primary focus on farmer decision-making, especially as it pertains to soil and water quality. He is lead social scientist for the Climate Change, Mitigation, and Adaptation in Corn-Based Cropping Systems (CSCAP) project, a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)-funded effort to develop and promote more resilient agricultural systems in the U.S. Corn Belt. He is also Director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, an annual panel survey of Iowa farmers. (515-294-1497; arbuckle@iastate.edu),

Rattan Lal is the Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at The Ohio State University. The center studies soil carbon sequestration, soil and water conservation and management, soil structure improvement through conservation agriculture, mulch farming, cover cropping and integrated nutrient management. He also focuses on soils of the tropics in relation to food and nutritional security, and adaptation and mitigation of climate change. (614-292-9069; lal.1@osu.edu)

Kristi Lekies is Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. With a background in human development, her work focuses on human-nature interactions across the life span, including individuals’ experiences in natural settings, school and community gardens, and environmental education and outdoor recreation programs. Over the past five years, she has served as evaluator for the courses, climate camps, and other educational activities developed for teachers and graduate students as part of the USDA Corn-Based Cropping Systems project.

Dennis Todey is an Extension State Climatologist at the South Dakota State University. He has a PhD and BS from Iowa State University and an MS from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, all in Meteorology. His research focuses on gathering data from different observation networks and comparing the data from them for consistency and comparability; understanding climate effects on yield trends in the Midwest; relationships of Pacific sea-surface temperatures and changes on Midwest climate and agriculture; natural and human-induced changes in the water balance at the atmosphere-land surface interface; and South Dakota climate trends.

Lois Wright Morton received her PhD in Development Sociology at Cornell University. She is currently a Professor of Sociology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. Dr. Morton directs the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Climate & Corn-based Cropping System Coordinated Agricultural Project (CSCAP), a $20 million research-extension-education transdisciplinary project involving 140 scientists from ten land grant universities and the USDA Agricultural Research Service in the nine-state upper Midwest region. Dr. Morton’s areas of research include civic structure; social relations and human dimensions of natural resource management; performance-based agricultural environmental management in local watersheds; and impacts of long term weather change on agricultural land use management, rural communities, and rural quality of life. (515-294-2843; lwmorton@iastate.edu)


  • National Council for Science and the Environment
  • The Ohio State University

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