Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers: Sorghum Should Be in the Biofuel Crop Mix

21.06.2012
Sweet and biomass sorghum would meet the need for next-generation biofuels to be environmentally sustainable, easily adopted by producers and take advantage of existing agricultural infrastructure, a group of researchers led by Purdue University scientists believes.

The scientists from Purdue, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Illinois and Cornell University believe sorghum, a grain crop similar to corn, could benefit from the rail system, grain elevators and corn ethanol processing facilities already in place. Their perspective article is published early online in the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining.

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

The scientists argue that no single plant is a silver-bullet answer to biofuels, but sorghum should be a larger part of the conversation than it is today. Cliff Weil, a Purdue professor of agronomy, said some types of sorghum would require fewer inputs and could be grown on marginal lands.

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

The ability to minimize inputs such as nitrogen could be a key to sorghum's benefits as a bioenergy crop. Carpita said corn, which has been bred to produce a maximum amount of seed, requires a lot of nitrogen. But sorghum could be genetically developed in a way that maximizes cellulose, minimizes seeds and, therefore, minimizes inputs.

"If you're just producing biomass and not seed, you don't need as much nitrogen," Carpita said.

Farmers may also be more willing to grow sorghum - a crop they're familiar with - because it is an annual, compared with perennials such as switchgrass or Miscanthus, that would take up a field for a decade or longer. Sorghum would fit in a normal crop rotation with food crops rather than tying up valuable cropland.

"If we're talking about planting switchgrass, that's a 15-year commitment," said Nathan Mosier, a Purdue associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering. "You can't switch annually based on the economy or other factors. You are committed to that crop."

Conversion processes for turning biomass into fuel need to be scalable and take advantage of existing infrastructure for grain production, said Maureen McCann, a Purdue professor of biology and director of the Energy Center and the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels. Sorghum could be harvested and transported using existing rail lines to collection points such as grain elevators, where the crop could be processed to a higher-value, more energy-dense product before being transported for further processing in a refinery.

"Biomass has roughly half the energy content of gasoline - even if it's very compressed and tightly packed. The issue is really how to increase the intrinsic energy density by preprocessing conversion steps that could be done on farm or at the silo so that you're transporting higher-energy products to the refineries," McCann said.

Farzad Taheripour, a Purdue research assistant professor of agricultural economics, said bringing sorghum back as a biofuel crop could have an economic impact on poorer rural areas of the country.

"Given that sorghum can be produced on low-quality, marginal lands in dry areas, producing sorghum for biofuel will significantly improve the economy of rural areas that rely on low-productivity agriculture," Taheripour said. "This could improve welfare in less-developed rural areas and increase job opportunities in these areas."

Purdue Agriculture researchers are continuing to look at how bioenergy crops could be deployed into the agricultural landscape. Work in the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels continues to develop a knowledge base for chemical and thermal conversion technologies that might be able to take advantage of the Midwest's transportation infrastructure.

Writer: Brian Wallheimer, 765-496-2050, bwallhei@purdue.edu

Sources: Nick Carpita, 765-494-4653, carpita@purdue.edu
Cliff Weil, 765-496-1917, cweil@purdue.edu
Nathan Mosier, 765-496-2044, mosiern@purdue.edu
Maureen McCann, 765-496-1779, mmccann@purdue.edu
Farzad Taheripour, 765-494-4612, tfarzad@purdue.edu
ABSTRACT
Envisioning the Transition to a Next-Generation Biofuels Industry in the U.S. Midwest

Ismail Dweikat, Clifford Weil, Stephen Moose, Leon Kochian, Nathan Mosier, Klein Ileleji, Patrick Brown, Wendy Peer, Angus Murphy, Farzad Taheripour, Maureen McCann, Nicholas Carpita

Corn grain ethanol production is a mature industry built on a Midwestern agricultural infrastructure. Second- and third-generation biofuels and bio-based products industries could take advantage of this robust framework. Significant but not insurmountable barriers remain for grower acceptance of bioenergy crop plants and capital investment in transitioning from grain to lignocellulosic biomass at scale. The existing infrastructure in the Midwest provides a model for implementing an environmentally responsible and sustainable next-generation biofuels industry into the agro-economy.

Brian Wallheimer | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New data unearths pesticide peril in beehives
21.04.2017 | Cornell University

nachricht New rice fights off drought
04.04.2017 | RIKEN

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>