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Sorghum's Sweet Future S


By Lindsay Kennedy


weet sorghum isn’t your average plant. Sure, its 12 foot height may att ract your att ention, but the crop’s


versatility is what has the sorghum industry buzzing. What is sweet sorghum?


Sweet sorghum is a tall, leafy plant that can be grown from as far south as Texas and Florida to as far north as Wisconsin and Oregon. Yields usually depend on where it is grown and the region’s climatic conditions, but it can thrive in warm environments.


It is drought tolerant, uses 60 to 70 percent less water than sugarcane, and requires minimal fer- tilizer. It can also be grown in vari- ous soil types and can be easily rotated with other crops.


Sweet sorghum’s towering height defi nitely contrasts the shorter, more commonly recognized grain sorghum, but has a similar look to forage sorghum. In tropical cli- mates, it also has the capability of being harvested, not just once, but as many as three times a year.


While it has been historically grown for table syrup pro- duction, many products can be produced from sweet sorghum, including ethanol. Its ability to produce com- mercially signifi cant yields of both biomass and sugar give it a promising advantage as an energy crop.


Sweet sorghum is crushed and the sugar extracted to produce ethanol while the remaining feedstock fi ber, or bagasse, can be burned to create steam for power and heat. The excess power can then be sold to an electrical grid.


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SORGHUM Grower Winter 2011


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