Research on alternative fuel sources has been ongoing for many years, and it now appears that in addition to providing the world’s food and fiber, farmers may be able to grow specialty bio-energy crops to make fuel as well.
“Bio-energy crops are crops that are grown specifically for conversion into chemicals or fuels. They are not used as a food product, they are not used as a feed product, they’re not used as a forage. They are grown specifically for bio-energy production of some sort or type.”
Bill Rooney is a Texas A&M professor in the Soil and Crop Sciences Department and works in sorghum breeding and genetics.
“We make 15 billion gallons of ethanol in the U.S. today and we make that out of corn grain. We can’t make much more out of corn grain without impacting our ability to feed cattle, feed people, so we have to go to these alternative sources.”
The U.S. Department of Energy has identified four species that can be used as energy crops.
“Those crops being sorghum, miscanthus, which is a perennial grass, energy cane, which is a version of sugar cane, and switch grass, which is a native U.S. species.”
Rooney says we won’t see farmers who have grown corn and cotton all of their lives suddenly begin to grow bio-energy crops.
“A West Texas farmer who has irrigation land is not going to quit growing corn simply because he can now potentially grow a bio-energy crop. The economics won’t make sense. There are other parts of the region where you can do these things economically and they make more sense than other alternatives.”
And to grow bio-energy crops there will have to be a plant very near your farm.
“Because you’re generating large amounts of bio-mass, they can’t be grown very far from the processing plant, so they’re going to be very location specific. If there’s a processing plant, you probably have a radius of ten to fifty miles around that plant from which you can gather this material and justify the transportation costs to bring it back to the plant and process it.”
I’m Kailey Carey, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.