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almost complete almost complete a puzzle a puzzle by Jennifer Blackburn I 16

Where are these hybrids being grown? Right now, sweet sorghum hybrids are being grown in

magine a giant puzzle. The box is new and all the pieces appear to be there, but you can’t quite fi gure out how they all fi t together. The same can be said for the sweet sorghum industry. Many seed companies have a vision,

but each are missing a few pieces that time and ingenuity can hopefully solve to piece together a sweet new market.

A new venture for many companies, sweet sorghum hy- brids are on the rise. Until this point, only open pollinated varieties have existed, but as our nation moves toward a desire for more alternative fuel sources, some companies are taking a long look at breeding sweet sorghum hybrids.

What’s the targeted market? Companies like Advanta, Chromatin, Ceres,

NuFarm and Coff ey Seeds all currently have test plots in various locations to improve upon current sweet sorghum varieties to make hybrids that are more desirable for utility in the biofuel and biochemical industries.

Larry Lambright, director of sorghum breeding for Chro- matin, said Chromatin began evaluating products this year, looking at not only yield potential for biomass but also sugar yield, juice extraction, adaptation to diff erent environments and more. Chromatin has also been work- ing with end users and bioprocessers by providing end samples for evaluation.

“Chromatin is very interested in being vertically integrated with biomass,” said Lambright. “We have a great desire to provide the sugar from sweet sorghum as a biomass material to end users.”

areas that have a sugarcane presence. According to Jerry O’Rear, global research director for Advanta, a lot of inter- est is being driven out of central and South America, while most enthusiasm in the U.S. originates from the Louisiana, Florida and Coastal Bend regions of Texas.

What are the industry’s missing pieces?

“Sweet sorghum is a viable option for farmers if mechanical technology catches up to where a producer can grow sweet sorghum in non-sugarcane producing areas and then have the infrastructure to process the product,” said O’Rear.

An important piece of the sweet sorghum puzzle, South East Renewable Fuels will be the fi rst commercial sweet sorghum to ethanol facility that expects to break ground in the fi rst quarter of 2011 in Hendry County, Fla.

Where is the future of sweet sorghum? Until then, companies like Advanta will strive to produce

a hybrid that can be contracted and grown to produce a reliable source of seed. O’Rear said sweet sorghum must be converted to a hybrid platform just like forage sorghum, grain sorghum, and all other types created in the past.

“Our hopes are that the technologies will catch up and we’ll be able to raise sweet sorghum for ethanol in places like the middle of Kansas, Nebraska and West Texas,” said O’Rear, “but you’ve got to have the ability to go through the fi eld and haul the juice to a facility that can refi ne it fi rst. I think that will come. Where there is a market, there is going to be interest.”

SORGHUM Grower Winter 2011

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