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Why Sweet Sorghum

Bioethanol Feedstock alternatives, impact on land use

Bioethanol is either produced from sugar-based feedstock such as Sugarcane, Sugar beet or Sweet Sorghum or from Starch-based Feedstock being either grains (Corn, Wheat, Barley or Sorghum grains) or tubers (such as Cassava). As yeast cannot feed on starch, the grain/cassava feedstock production process requires the use amylase enzyme to convert the starches into fermentable sugars.

With the exception of Sweet Sorghum which yields both grain for food and stem sugars for ethanol production, the growing of energy crops for Biofuels inevitably raises land use issues regarding potential competition with food crop production and the diverting of food crops for industrial use.

Sweet Sorghum, the Multi-purpose Crop

    • Sweet Sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] is Sorghum with a sugar-rich stalk, almost like sugarcane.
    • Depending on the hydric regime, Sweet Sorghum can produce 2 crops: a first crop after the main rainy season followed by a ratoon crop after the short rainy season.
    • Sweet Sorghum needs 6.500 to 8.000 M3/ha or 650 to 800 mm of water /ha (over 2crops) while sugarcane requires 22.000 to 36.000 M3/ha.
    • The cost of cultivation is 3 times lower than sugarcane (annual crop, low requirement of fertilizers water and pesticides).
    • Under 2 crops, one hectare of Sweet Sorghum produces 3.500-5.500 liters of bioethanol and 4.0-6.5 tons of food grains (with 800 mm of water) while one hectare of Sugarcane (@ 2.200 mm of water use) produces 5.000 to 6.000 liters of bioethanol only.
    • The presence of reducing sugars in Sweet Sorghum prevents the crystallization in Syrups.
    • 90% fermentation efficiency can be achieved with Sweet Sorghum.
    • Tana 3S, Anhydrous Ethanol operational (variable) projected production cost is 284 US$/M3 while i/corn ethanol costs 550-580 US$/M3 to produce in USA (at corn production cost) and ii/ sugarcane ethanol costs 475- 530 US$/M3 to produce in Brazil.
    • Contrary to Corn or sugarcane, Sweet Sorghum does not generate controversy regarding food to fuel arable land conversion.
    • After juice extraction, the Sweet Sorghum bagasse which is not used as fuel for the juice evaporators and distillation unit can be transformed in pellets or blocks value for cattle feed or fuel for cooking stoves.
    • Ethanols from Sweet Sorghum & Sugarcane (both C4 plants) have the highest energy conversion ratio.