Sorghum to be used in Ethanol Production

Aug 16, 2012 04:07 AM EDT | By Sharon Robinson

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Those who were worried over having enough corn for the food supply after meeting the ethanol mandate can breathe a sigh of relief. There seems to be a new alternative to corn for ethanol production: sorghum.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be giving its approval for the use of sorghum for producing ethanol.

The U.S. drought has wilted acres of crops in the mid-western farm belt, bringing down the forecast for what was to be a record crop, to a six year low. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the harvest of corn- which is used as feedstock, in ethanol production, and is a core ingredient in many food products - will be 2.2 billion bushels lower than expected.

As a result, the industries depending on corn have been in a slump, especially the food industry. Many have been urging the federal government to reduce the amount of corn devoted to ethanol production, or switch to using another crop like sugarcane. This is the first time in months that the federal government is taking a positive step to decrease corn in fuel production.

Sorghum is believed to be a cleaner option to corn. Bio-fuel production using sorghum requires less water than any other crop. Sorghum is also more drought-resistant than corn. However, even sorghum production is also low this year, with a forecast of 92 million bushels lower than the expected forecast.

 It also yields the same amount of ethanol per bushel as corn, but since corn is usually in surplus, it has been the go-to grain for bio-fuel production.

Sorghum has mainly been used as feedstock in the U.S., but some countries like India have already begun using it in producing ethanol. Plans to use sorghum have been put into action by a plant in Kansas.

If the plant succeeds, it will be a pioneer in using sorghum for producing advanced ethanol in the U.S., which will be a big benefit to the bio-fuel industry, financially speaking.

Moreover, consumers may no longer feel the pinch of food inflation, as there will be more corn in the food industry, bringing down the price.

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