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, firstname.lastname@example.orgSources: Nick Carpita, 765-494-4653, email@example.com
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
New insight into why Pierce's disease is so deadly to grapevines
11.06.2018 | University of California - Davis
Where are Europe’s last primary forests?
29.05.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.
Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...
Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...
Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.
Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...
The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.
Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.
An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.
Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...
13.06.2018 | Event News
08.06.2018 | Event News
05.06.2018 | Event News
22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences
22.06.2018 | Life Sciences