March 21, 2008
AMES, Iowa — An international initiative to create guidelines for the sustainable production of biofuels is getting advice from the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University. Mahdi Al-Kaisi (MAH-dee al-KAY-zee), professor of agronomy and extension soils specialist, is one of only two U.S. advisers to serve on the Expert Panel on Soil, a part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. According to an e-mail from Sebastian Haye, a coordinator for the Switzerland-based Roundtable, Al-Kaisi was selected because of his publications and experience in soil management, soil carbon sequestration and agriculture. "We have lively and interesting discussions," says Al-Kaisi, whose first teleconference was in February. "We all have different perspectives based on our area of expertise. Scientists talk about soil differently than farmers or governments or groups who concentrate on policy." The Expert Panel on Soil includes input from scientists, farmers, corporations, governments and environmental groups representing a wide range of countries including Canada, Mexico, South Africa, South America, Thailand and Australia in addition to the U.S. The panel will make its final recommendations by June. The Roundtable is hosted by the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland and seeks to bring together farmers, corporations, experts, governments and non-governmental organizations from across the globe to create multi-stakeholder consensus around the principles and criteria of sustainable biofuels production.