Sorghum Poised for Bigger Role in Ethanol Production

Today, about 1/3 of the sorghum crop goes into ethanol production. An interesting little piece of information I picked up when I spoke with Gerald Simonsen, the Chairman of the National Sorghum Producers during Commodity Classic. Sorghum is a good feedstock for ethanol production for several reasons. First, it uses half the amount of water used in corn production and second, the sugar-based sorghums, like sweet sorghum and energy sorghums produce more ethanol per acre than other starch-based feedstocks.

Simonsen told me that his organization is very focused on the ethanol industry not only from a research, development and marketing standpoint, but also policy. The RFS2 rules were recently announced and Simonsen said that while they were happy to be included, they do have a few issues with some of the things said about sorghum. Therefore, his organization is working with the USDA and EPA to “iron out some of the rough edges and make sure sorghum has a viable future in ethanol.”

Currently, you can produce the same amount of ethanol from a bushel of corn or ethanol. However, Simonsen noted, you can also make sugar-based ethanol out of sweet sorghum and in terms of cellulosic ethanol, energy sorghum and forage sorghum are feedstocks that the US Department of Energy is excited about. These types of feedstocks produce more ethanol from a bushel of sorghum than what we’re seeing today.

“We have a three-way punch. We’ve got the whole ethanol thing surrounded. We just have to bring it together and move forward,” concluded Simonsen.

You can listen to my interview with Gerald below.