Weed stems ripe for biofuel

May 30, 2016 by Robyn Mills, University of Adelaide
Sorghum in Juba, Sudan
A sorghum field in Argentina. The plant could be the miracle crop that provides cheap animal feed and fuel, said scientists working on a pilot farming project in India

A weedy plant found on the roadside in northern Australia has stems ripe for biofuel production.

Scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls at the University of Adelaide have discovered that a variety of growing wild in Australia, Arun, has the potential to yield over 10,000 litres of bioethanol per hectare per year.

In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers assessed the stems of 12 varieties of sorghum for sugar content and ease of conversion to bioethanol. These included cultivated varieties and wild relatives, including Arun, which yielded significantly more bioethanol than other varieties.

"Two key advantages of using stem (rather than leaves or grain) to make biofuel is that we can produce this material in low input systems; and as we do not eat this part of the plant we avoid the food versus fuel debate," says Dr Caitlin Byrt, Postdoctoral Fellow in the University's School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

Despite Arun stem containing high levels of a component thought to inhibit , this appears to be negated by a high level of an easily fermentable sugar.

The researchers say that a large pool of untapped diversity exists in other species and subspecies of sorghum which opens new avenues of research to generate sorghum lines optimised for .

Arcadia Biosciences – a Davis, California-based agricultural technology company – is a partner in the Centre's research and is working with the Centre to commercialise these findings.

"Commercial application of this work could easily extend to production areas outside Australia," said Raj Ketkar, Chief Executive Officer of Arcadia. "We remain keenly interested in collaborating with the Centre and other partners to explore the use of sorghum as an alternative and sustainable energy source."

Explore further: Tequila plant shows promise for biofuel

More information: Caitlin S. Byrt et al. Prospecting for Energy-Rich Renewable Raw Materials: Sorghum Stem Case Study, PLOS ONE (2016). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156638

Related Stories

Tequila plant shows promise for biofuel

October 7, 2015

A desert plant, best known for producing tequila in Mexico, shows promise as a source of biofuel and other biochemical products, according to University of Adelaide research.

Sorghum eyed as a southern bioenergy crop

September 17, 2012

Sweet sorghum is primarily grown in the United States as a source of sugar for syrup and molasses. But the sturdy grass has other attributes that could make it uniquely suited to production as a bioenergy crop, U.S. Department ...

Recommended for you

After a reset, Сuriosity is operating normally

February 23, 2019

NASA's Curiosity rover is busy making new discoveries on Mars. The rover has been climbing Mount Sharp since 2014 and recently reached a clay region that may offer new clues about the ancient Martian environment's potential ...

Study: With Twitter, race of the messenger matters

February 23, 2019

When NFL player Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, the ensuing debate took traditional and social media by storm. University of Kansas researchers have ...

Researchers engineer a tougher fiber

February 22, 2019

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a fiber that combines the elasticity of rubber with the strength of a metal, resulting in a tougher material that could be incorporated into soft robotics, packaging ...

A quantum magnet with a topological twist

February 22, 2019

Taking their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern, kagome magnets are thought to have electronic properties that could be valuable for future quantum devices and applications. Theories predict that some electrons ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.