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Bioethanol production from sorghum : interchange of research experience between EC and two developing countries (Zimbabwe and Thailand)


EC researchers will work in the developing countries to understand their field research and the practical processing problems. The extensive small scale trials have given good yields and indicated how agronomic practices in Europe could be adapted for Sorghum production. The output being ethanol, electricity, feedstuff, CO2 and fertilizer.

The objective is the interchange of research and experience between the EC and developing countries (Zimbabwe and Thailand) where ethanol production from Sorghum has reached a more practical stage than in Europe. Zimbabwe intends to plant 600 ha of Sorghum on a sugar estate which currently produces 40 M. liters of sugar-cane ethanol. This offers an ideal opportunity to monitor how this ambitious project develops after 4 years of trials and selections.

Work plan :
- Start up
- Research and monitoring
- Field trials
- Contractors meetings
- International meetings
- Final analysis and reports
Results ?

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.
Sorghum lends itself to these aims through the production of relatively high yields requiring low inputs
growth season (about 3 months). The greater water-use efficiency of sorghum compared to sugarcane results in lower water requirements per unit of ethanol produced. Therefore trial plots of sorghum have been organised in Zimbabwe and Thailand
sweet and grain sorghum types). These trials use varieties which have already been selected by indigenous trials in both the developing countries
trials carried by commercial sugar estates in both Thailand and Zimbabwe. Yields of sugar and residues and juice quality will be monitored for each cultivar under nitrogen and water-stressed conditions.
Extending the growth season by cultivating sorghum immediately before or after the primary crop offers economic
Close collaboration with the Sweet Sorghum European Network allows this project to benefit from research into temperature tolerance
processing and storage
countries. Links have also been fostered between this project and CNR (Monterotondo
productivity parameters.
There is considerable potential for the techniques developed by this project to be used for the economic production of bioethanol for use as a fuel

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


King's College London
WC2R 2LS London
United Kingdom

Participants (1)

Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
Route De Thiverval
78850 Thiverval-grignon