Sorghum promoted as biofuel source

June 19, 2012 at 4:00 PM
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., June 19 (UPI) -- Sorghum for biofuels can be environmentally sustainable, easily adopted by producers and use existing agricultural infrastructure, U.S. researchers say.

Sorghum, a grain crop similar to corn, could benefit from the rail system, grain elevators and corn ethanol processing facilities already in place, scientists from Purdue University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Illinois and Cornell University said.

While no single plant crop is the answer to biofuels, sorghum should be a larger part of the conversation than it is today, they argue.

"In the near future, we need a feedstock that is not corn," Cliff Weil, a Purdue professor of agronomy, said. "Sweet and biomass sorghum meet all the criteria. They use less nitrogen, grow well and grow where other things don't grow."

"The Midwest is uniquely poised to get the biorefining industry going on cellulose," researcher Nick Carpita said in a Purdue release Tuesday. "As we move to different fuels beyond ethanol, the ethanol plants of today are equipped to take advantage of new bioenergy crops."

Farmers might be more willing to grow sorghum, a crop they're familiar with, because it is an annual, compared with feedstock perennials such as switchgrass or Miscanthus that would take up a field for a decade or longer, researchers said.

Sorghum would fit in a normal crop rotation with food crops rather than tying up valuable cropland, they said.

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