What is in this article?:
- Grain sorghum could make a California comeback as a feedstock for ethanol and high grade biofuel production.
Market has arrived
The experts say plant to a desired plant population, not seeds per acre, since seeds per pound can range from 13,000 to 22,000. There is a wide range of populations based on variety and time of planting. There is a wide range of maturities in available varieties depending on how a grower wants to produce it as a single crop or double crop.
And, don’t plant with a grain drill; use a conventional planter.
The recommended range can be anywhere from 45,000 to 95,000 plants per acre depending on the variety maturity rating, according to Scott Staggenborg, director of technical services for Chromatin. He added grain sorghum will grow in high pH conditions.
Price said the stalks left after the heads are harvested can make good roughage for non-lactating dairy animals. It can be windrowed and baled.
Overall, Price said he has received favorable responses from growers who would like to grow grain sorghum, but up until now there hasn’t been a market to sell it.
“I saw a lot of ground between Fresno and Bakersfield that was not planted last year where grain sorghum would work,” said Price. “I am optimistic we can get the 30,000 acres.”
Almost all the ethanol produced in the U.S. is conventional ethanol made from corn starch. Critics of the ethanol industry complain that too much corn is routed to energy production, resulting in higher food prices for consumers. Corn affects food prices in multiple ways because it’s a widely used ingredient in food manufacturing and it’s used to feed livestock.
More grain sorghum going to fuel production is unlikely to spark the same complaints, because it is not the main ingredient in a number of foods.
Giving a boost to grain sorghum for fuel, the Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded that ethanol made from grain sorghum can qualify as an advanced biofuel — if it’s made at plants with the proper green technology. Advanced ethanol commands a higher price than conventional ethanol, said Chris Cogburn, strategic business director for the National Sorghum Producers.
Corn ethanol is considered a conventional biofuel with higher greenhouse gas emissions than advanced biofuels.
Advanced biofuels have life cycle greenhouse gas emissions that are at least 50 percent less than baseline GHG emissions. Advanced biofuels result in less lifetime greenhouse gas production than conventional biofuels, measuring from the time a crop is planted to when the fuel is burned in a vehicle.