Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Sorghum research identifies bioethanol potential

Applied research has revealed that certain types of sorghum grass possess excellent qualities for bioethanol production, and that these plant types can also be successfully integrated into existing agricultural cycles to extend annual crop production seasons.

Researchers conducted field tests in Zimbabwe and Thailand using a number of sorghum varieties, both sweet and grain sorghum types, which already had grown successfully in these countries, as well as in Europe and the USA. Each plot was monitored to establish yields of sugar, residues and juice quality under normal and nitrogen-stressed/water-stressed conditions. In addition, an 'energy balance' was established and a feasibility study carried out, which examined the agricultural and economic potential for integrated cropping of sorghum with other indigenous crops. Careful control of expenditure and the prior experience of the partners ensured the success of this project. The sorghum varieties tested required a low input of water and, at the same time, had a short growing season of about three months. The greater water-use efficiency of sorghum compared to sugarcane produced a much lower water requirement per unit of ethanol produced, an obvious benefit in areas of low rainfall. The field tests also showed that after sorghum had been grown, sufficient nutrients remained in the soil for subsequent crops to grow effectively, however, careful monitoring and management are essential to ensure sustainability.

Reported by

King's College London
W8 7AH London
United Kingdom