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Australian researchers find wild-type sorghum that can yield more than 10K liters ethanol per hectare

Scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls at the University of Adelaide have discovered that a variety of sorghum growing wild in Australia—Arun—theoretically has the potential to yield some 10,344 liters of bioethanol per hectare (1,106 gallons US per acre) from stem tissues alone.

In an open-access study published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers assessed the stems of 12 varieties of sorghum for sugar content and ease of conversion to bioethanol. These included cultivated varieties and wild relatives, including Arun, which yielded significantly more bioethanol than other varieties.

Two key advantages of using stem (rather than leaves or grain) to make biofuel is that we can produce this material in low input systems; and as we do not eat this part of the plant we avoid the food versus fuel debate.

—Dr. Caitlin Byrt

Despite Arun stem containing high levels of a component thought to inhibit bioethanol production, this appears to be negated by a high level of an easily fermentable sugar.

The researchers say that a large pool of untapped diversity exists in other species and subspecies of sorghum which opens new avenues of research to generate sorghum lines optimized for biofuel production.

Arcadia Biosciences—a Davis, California-based agricultural technology company—is a partner in the Centre’s research and is working with the Centre to commercialise these findings.


  • Caitlin S. Byrt, Natalie S. Betts, Hwei-Ting Tan, Wai Li Lim, Riksfardini A. Ermawar, Hai Yen Nguyen, Neil J. Shirley, Jelle Lahnstein, Kendall Corbin, Geoffrey B. Fincher, Vic Knauf, Rachel A. Burton (2016) “Prospecting for Energy-Rich Renewable Raw Materials: Sorghum Stem Case Study” PLOS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156638



I am not a huge biofuels fan, but this looks good.
It is better than anything referenced in wikipedia.

My worries would be the amount of water required and soil exhaustion.


Could become a good solution for airlines?


What is so attractive about this ethanol feed stock?

1. Sorghum grows better than corn in hotter climates and requires less water.

2. The leaves provide field organic matter

3. The seed head provides for animal feed

4. The stem provides cellulosic and sugar feed stock for ethanol production. This is calculated to 1,000 g/acre approximately.

The crop as complementary to corn crops. Sorghum is gaining popularity in grow zones with less rainfall. This is a good story on the continued quest to engineer or evaluate feed stocks. We will continue to read of improvements within the feed stock supply and one reason when evaluating biofuel one should look to the most forward leaning data as it is all headed that direction. So much of the EPA data is 15 years old or so. Very out of date and useless for evaluations. Soil fertility has more to do with modern adaptation of agronomics and not avoiding farming of crops. Modern practices improve fertility such as low till and no till. Also, the science is exploiting the fungi for improved soil conditions as well as the utilization of cover crops, co-plantings, rotations,and the GMO hybrids. Soil chemistry including root growth is currently be evaluated as a big carbon sink. Charcoal soil additive being attractive per locking up carbon for 1,000s of years and improvement in soil fertility. Plain compost layer may increase in use since avoiding tilling is so attractive. This would drastically improve fertility, lessen water need, and magnify carbon sequestration. The drone technology will play a very big role in future farm production. Greatly reduce soil compaction, improve accuracy, improve flexibility to farm even small land parcels, and reduce equipment cost.

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