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Bright future seen for grain sorghum

02/28/2013 @ 12:46pm

Grain sorghum just doesn’t have potential in biofuel production; it has a very bright future that could put it in a position to take over other feedstock sources for ethanol product.

"Sorghum has been greatly undervalued as a feedstock for biofuels in the future,” says Daphne Preuss of Chromatin Inc., a research and development corporation.

Preuss spoke at the National Sorghum Producer’s general session held this morning at the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Florida.

"Consider that sorghum is a high-yielding, nutrient-efficient and a drought tolerant crop that can be cultivated on over 80% of the world’s agricultural land,” Preuss told growers.

The crop’s drought tolerance alone puts sorghum in a premier position for huge growth in the future for ethanol production.

“Now we have heard a lot about other feedstock sources such as perennials (like miscanthus). But unlike most perennial crop alternatives, sorghum produces both starch, sugar and cellulose . . . all of which can be used for biofuel production. Plus, milo can be used as livestock feed, takes just four months from seeding to harvest to produce a crop, is a high-yielding hybrid and enjoys a well established infrastructure and solid agronomics for it to sustain rapid growth in the future.”

When sorghum is compared to other biofuel feedstocks (like corn and sugarane), the crop has the advantage of requiring fewer nutrient inputs and less water. 

“And as water resources, in particular, become more valuable and as growing populations require more productivity from low-quality land, sorghum is in the position to meet the growing needs for more biofuels,” Preuss adds. “For example, the water use for a 50,000 acre project using sorghum, instead of irrigated sugarcane, to create a biofuel feedstock saves enough water to meet the needs of a 1 million-plus size city for one day.”

And what is the potential in biomass feedstock growth in the future? “That demand is projected to be 600 million tons by 2020,” Preuss said. “This represents a four time expansion from where we are now.”

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