Sorghum studied as bioenergy source

Sept. 17, 2012 at 4:33 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Sweet sorghum, primarily a U.S. source of sugar for syrup and molasses, is uniquely suited to production as a bioenergy crop, a study suggests.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the sturdy grass is an ideal biofuel candidate because of its drought tolerance, adaptability to diverse growing conditions, low nitrogen fertilizer requirements and high biomass content.

The soluble sugar sorghum produces can also be converted to biofuel, while fibers left over from the juice extraction process can be burned to generate electricity, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service said in a release.

The U.S. government is calling for the production of up to 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022, about 15 billion gallons of which will come from grain ethanol, with the remaining 21 billion gallons other "feedstocks" including sorghum, sugarcane, switchgrass and oilseed crops like rapeseed and soybean.

Sorghum and sugarcane would be ideal for production in the southeastern United States, the report authors said, because they are complementary crops that can extend the biofuel production season and utilize the same equipment.

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