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Researchers examine the efficiencies and environmental impacts of growing sorghum for ethanol

Researchers at Iowa State University examined 12 varieties of sorghum grass grown in single and double cropping systems (the latter with winter triticale) in an experiment designed to test the efficiency of double cropping sorghum grass to increase its yield for ethanol production.

Goff et al. found that although the single-cropping system produced slightly higher biomass yields, there were no significant differences in total production between the two systems for several of the sorghum varieties. However, when the chemical composition of the crops was considered, the theoretical ethanol yield of the single-cropping system was greater than the double-cropping system for all sorghum varieties. Although triticale was capable of offsetting any potential loss in dry matter, as an ethanol feedstock it was inferior to sorghum.

The authors theorize that these altered chemical compositions could be attributed to the different cropping systems.

They recommend that further research on double-cropping systems for ethanol production should focus on efforts to maximize production of sorghum, such as incorporating a winter crop that matures earlier in the season. This would allow planting of the sorghum closer to its optimal date and capitalize on its ability to produce greater and higher-quality biomass over a greater portion of the growing season.

This study was funded by the Iowa Energy Center and published in the November/December 2010 issue of Agronomy Journal from the American Society of Agronomy.


  • Ben M. Goff, Kenneth J. Moore, Steven L. Fales and Emily A. Heaton (2010) Double-Cropping Sorghum for Biomass. Agron. J. 102: 1586–1592 doi: 10.2134/agronj2010.0209



Keeping in mind that the expansion of flex-fuel ICE in the light duty fleet will further incentivize farmers to grow biofuel crops - these studies are useful. By replacing foreign fossil fuel with domestic renewable fuel - we cut the addiction to oil, create new JOBS, enhance energy security, improve the environment, and move further down the path of Energy Independence.

Ethanol need only be a transitional clean fuel while the EV industry scales up battery production and technology to fully replace all combustion engines in the passenger vehicle category. A blink in time.


Corn, Jatropha, Sorghum don't have high enough fuel yield required to feed our gas guzzlers. Sugar beets and Sugar canes have about twice the yield per acre. Combining sugar/starch feed stocks with cellulosic feed stocks, some species may be more advantageous and could provide some of the aviation fuel and chemicals required. Ground vehicles should be progressively electrified.


Sweet sorghum can be made into animal feed much like DDG by removing the sugars. The sugars can be fermented and distilled to make ethanol. The real benefit is the 10 foot high stalks that can be made into cellulose ethanol and then gasified to make synthetic ethanol.

E85 may not run all cars and trucks, but it can reduce imported oil in a big way. Just make the ethanol from cellulose and not corn grain. We have talked that topic to death and it seems like there is a consensus. No sense continuing to go back to an old resolved topic just to get something most people can agree on.

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