September 18, 2009

Sorghum tested as alternative fuel

Varieties of drought-resistant, fast-growing sorghum are being studied in Maryland as a renewable source of fuel, scientists at Salisbury University said.

The eight varieties of sweet sorghum are attractive because they require little water, mature quickly and have low nutrient and fertilization requirements, researchers from the university and Solar Fruits Bio Fuels said in a release Friday.

Producing ethanol from sorghum costs less and is more energy efficient than making ethanol from corn, said Samuel Geleta, who is leading the project for the university's Biological Science Department.

Since sweet sorghum juice contains simple sugar, producing ethanol from it simply requires extracting the juice and fermenting, Geleta said. With corn, you have to hydrolyze the starch to simple sugar before fermenting.

Sorghum also can be grown on marginally productive farm land, where other crops fail to thrive, he said.

The project is supported by the Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board and the Delmarva Sweet Sorghum for Ethanol Group.