Researchers Looking Into Sugar Beets as Fuel Source

Ethanol from sugar beets has potentially higher output per acre.

Published on: Sep 20, 2011

Research is underway in Western North Dakota to produce a sugar beet fit for processing into an alternative fuel. Farmer Steve Knorr says the search is on for high value crops and that beets are definitely a high value crop in North Dakota.

The groups working together on the sugar beet research includes North Dakota State University. The groups hope to create an advanced biofuel using locally grown energy beets, which are sugar-type beets not produced for food. Ron Holth is with the Green Vision Group.

"You can produce about twice as much ethanol out of an acre of sugar beets as you can out of an acre of corn," said Ron Holth of Green Vision Group. "The end product, the ethanol that comes out of the plant is the same thing as corn ethanol. The difference is in the value, beets actually will qualify as an advanced biofuel because they have over a 50% reduction of greenhouse gasses, so it makes it a more valuable product, right now to the tune of 70 cents a gallon."

Currently seven test plots are being utilized in the research.  Knorr says the cost of producing sugar beets is similar to corn.

"It's very comparable to corn," Knorr said. "The seed obviously is probably your biggest cost, not quite as much as a potato crop but it's more than a traditional grain."

As for equipment costs, Holth says you can estimate spending about $1,000 per acre in capital costs but your revenue per acre could be higher.