A sweet source for ethanol could be a smart choice for food and fuel that can grow almost anywhere.
According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), sweet sorghum may be the perfect crop for ethanol production. It grows in dry conditions, tolerates heat, salt and waterlogging, and provides steady income for poor farmers.
ICRISAT Director General Dr. William Dar says, “We consider sweet sorghum an ideal ‘smart crop’ because it produces food as well as fuel.”
Unlike sugarcane, sweet sorghum can be grown in many different areas. It is the world’s fifth largest grain crop—behind rice, corn, wheat and barley – grown on more than 107 million acres in 99 countries with United States, Nigeria, India, China, Mexico, Sudan and Argentina being the leading producers.
Last year, ICRISAT helped to build and operate the world’s first commercial ethanol plant using sweet sorghum as a feedstock, together with farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India. Scientists from ICRISAT and from India’s National Research Centre for Sorghum (NRCS) have developed varieties of sweet sorghum that would contribute to a reliable and steady supply of sweet juice for ethanol production.