New gas station in Urbana will have pump with E85

Clean-burning fuel fans, prepare to rev up your engines.

A Marathon gas station under construction in Urbana will have a pump with E85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Small-town festivals going by the wayside

RIDGE FARM – Organizers have high hopes for turning around an annual festival in Ridge Farm.

"We're changing a lot," said committee member Wanda Richardson, who is in charge of vendors. "I've sent out e-mails and letters to get food and arts and crafts vendors, but we'll take everything from Tupperware to flea market. We want to fill up the park."

Blagojevich orders water supply study

SPRINGFIELD – In response to this year's drought and the ever-increasing residential and commercial demand for fresh water, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Monday ordered a statewide water supply study that will likely focus first on East Central Illinois.

"It is critical for Illinois to get ahead of the curve when it comes to water supply planning," Blagojevich stated in a written release. "Last summer's drought demonstrated to us that careful management of our water must be a priority so we always have enough supply for people to drink and use, for our industries like agriculture, and for our fish and wildlife habitats."

Ugly sights; uglier environmental impact

When the trees are bare and the fields down to corn stubble, you can see a lot during the winter in East Central Illinois.

What was otherwise hidden in ravines, fields or wooded groves during the spring and summer is often more visible now: a rusted bus circa 1970; a vintage stove turned on its side; an oil drum; a pile of mattresses.

Corn-fueled stoves causing a real heat wave

Corn is the new king when it comes to heating stoves.

It appears that every manufacturer of corn-fueled stoves in the United States and Canada is facing a backlog of orders because of the huge demand. Both manufacturers and dealers seem to have been caught by surprise by the wave of consumer interest.

Energy prospectors return to area

Dateline: Pesotum, 1966.

"Oil Strike Believed to be Producer" read a headline in The News-Gazette. A few months later: "S. Champaign, N. Douglas County Oil Boom Predicted."

Well, Champaign is no Houston. The boom never came.

But the prospectors are back.

A vested interest

In China, space is tight.

So if a farm can't expand outward by buying more open land, then why not build upward?

Banker's annual report: Farmers had boom year

RANTOUL – The past year wasn't good for Rantoul residents seeking jobs, selling homes or working in retail stores.

But 2005 proved to be a boom year for Rantoul area farmers.

Studies look at why some bugs make it in U.S., while others don't

Argentine ants slipped into the country around 1891 at New Orleans, maybe in the soil of ship ballast or on a load of coffee or sugar cane, and quickly spread through the U.S. Southwest and California.

Today, they're what University of Illinois Professor Andy Suarez describes as a huge agricultural problem, although you don't hear as much about them as their relative the fire ant, another foreign invader.

Members will get close look at projects

Giant grasses that, when burned, help fuel power plants. Vitamin-rich grain, created during ethanol production, that nourishes livestock. Animal identification systems that one day could help track the spread of animal diseases.

Through the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (or C-FAR), state money has funded such research in recent years.