"We've been focused on yield - on bushels per acre," Doane said, in an interview Thursday. "But it's past time that we have an equally important metric of success - that's bushels per gallon."
The land in the Mississippi floodplain is among the most agriculturally productive in the world. That means the demands of agriculture and those of the river often compete.
At the Washington University conference, held in connection with the Royal Netherlands Embassy, attendees will consider new approaches to the river - to improve river flow, in part, by addressing how water is managed in floodplains. If it's managed better, the thinking goes, drought and flood conditions won't take such a toll.
Roughly two-thirds of the Netherlands is at or below sea level, and over centuries the Dutch have become the world experts at managing water infrastructure. So, the hope is Dutch engineers and experts can help their counterparts here develop measures that help balance the uses of the river, the needs of farmers growing in floodplains and river ecology.
"The Dutch have, over the years, levied up the rivers so that they have these high levees and narrow channels, because they need to farm the land," said Morris, a Washington-based engineer for the Dutch embassy. "Sound familiar? We're coming out there to look at how the landscape is functioning - to explore all the things that have been done by the Americans and suggest Dutch interventions."
With climate change and variability - and global food demands on the rise - those measures will become especially important. So, too, Morris says, will the health of the river.
"Rivers are usually seen as something for commerce and navigation and something to control," he said. "But they can be so much more than that."