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Sorghum for energy pursued

National Sorghum Producers toured the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, to witness a pilot test at its facilities.

The test showcased NREL research of three years with bioenergy sorghum and was made possible by a DOE grant obtained through NSP efforts.

Terry Swanson, NSP board of directors vice chairman and a sorghum producer from Walsh, Colo., said he is pleased with the NREL research because of its potential nationwide impact on the sorghum industry.

“NSP is excited to be working with NREL analyzing the feasibility and sustainability of using sorghum as a biomass source for renewable energy,” he said. “Renewable energy will play a critical role in the future of our nation’s quest for energy independence, and the work NREL is doing will help the sorghum industry establish itself as a major contributor to that cause.”

Key Points

• National Sorghum Producers works with DOE on renewable energy.

• Sorghum research has potential for a nationwide impact.

• Early research shows energy sorghum could enter farm plans.

Pilot-testing varieties

After working to secure the research dollars, NSP collaborated with NREL to provide almost 100 different sorghum samples for testing, eventually choosing two for pilot testing.

The resulting data shows that high biomass forage sorghum demonstrates great potential to fit into cellulosic ethanol conversion. Data is showing that sorghum has a wide range of basic sugars and structure, thus enabling the industry to construct sorghums to meet the needs of multiple biofuel systems.

NREL hosted the United Sorghum Checkoff Program board of directors and special guests, such as John Stulp, Colorado Department of Agriculture commissioner, at the pilot test.

John Ashworth, NREL team leader of partnership and development, described what the USCP board and other attendees saw at the pilot run, and noted the NREL and NSP partnership has been beneficial. “We provided a tour of the alternative-fuels user facility, which is DOE’s pilot plant for cellulosic ethanol and processes 1 ton a day of feedstock,” Ashworth said. “We’ve very much enjoyed working with NSP on this project and are very excited to have another feedstock to work with; we have found sorghum to be a good fit.”

Sorghum as energy source

NREL’s early but vital research proves the potential for “energy sorghum” to enter farm production plans across the U.S. as commercial scale technology becomes available.

The National Sorghum Producers, with headquarters in Lubbock, Texas, expressed its gratitude to NREL, DOE and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, including Stulp, for all their efforts to further this important research work.

NSP represents U.S. sorghum producers. The organization serves as the voice of the sorghum industry coast to coast through its legislative presence, regulatory representation and education.

To learn more about NSP, go online to www.sorghumgrowers.com. Or you can call the Lubbock headquarters at 806-749-3478.

Arnold is with the National Sorghum Producers, Lubbock, Texas.

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GROWING FUEL: Research indicates sorghum may be an important source for renewable energy. Next is finding the best sorghum for ethanol production.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.