Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What about sorghum? Under-appreciated, drought-tolerant staple crop can also be turned into biofuel

Voice of America photo by Steve Baragona
As the worst drought in decades shrivels U.S. corn supplies, some are seeing the virtues of sorghum, a cereal grain that is a minor part of the U.S. harvest. As the climate changes, experts believe the drought-hardy food and fodder crop may become more popular. Steve Baragona, a Voice of America reporter, found a believer in Nebraska farmer Fred Propkop, above, whose corn and sorghum crops were sown side by side. One is green and lush, the other brown and lifeless.

Years like this one are why University of Nebraska researcher Ismail Dweikat is a passionate advocate for sorghum, an under-appreciated crop. In hot, dry regions of Africa, sorghum is a staple food. Its waxy leaves and deep roots are better suited for dry climates than corn, and Dweikat says that's going to be increasingly important. More droughts are expected worldwide this century as climate change warms the planet.

Sorghum also has potential as a biofuel crop. Dweikat says sweet sorghum, grown for its sugar cane-like stalks rather than for grain, can be turned into ethanol more efficiently than corn. (Read more)

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