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hotrod

Ethanol from sweet sorghum

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  They're only talking about processing the stalk.  They haven't mentioned

  what's done with the seed, or leafy portion of the plant. I like the part

  about the portable still. Now  the farmers can be sending finished product

  to market instead of raw material...

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Good to see this work go forward. The oldtimers in WWII where i grew up raised it and made sugar from it during ration periods- i suppose they could of used part of their sugar

(maple) camp equip to hold and cook it down to concentrate it but i think most of it was done on very small scale where i was.

 

It might not be all bad to leave the leaves in the field for organic matter (soil health) depending on how wet or dry the climate is. As far as the seed goes- is the seed even fully formed at max sugar content?

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From the pix in the link, it looked like the crop was just starting to tassle.

 

They're saying this is being done in Okla.  Wonder how it would work on the

eastern plains of Colorado?? We have a number of farms about to lose access

to their well water, due to water rights issues. If these farms are close enough

to the dry-line , this might be an acceptable choice for them. They grow alot

of corn now, and are about to have the rug pulled out from underneath..

Places like Burlington and Wray and Yuma are along the Kansas border, but they

seem to have plenty of days where the humidity is quite high.

It might be an option for them .....

 

 

 

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I also wonder if the suger beet may come back in Colorado, although I am not sure of the water needs for beets, they are a proven hail resistant crop, much better suited to this climate than corn I suspect.

 

Larry

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I spent a couple of hours searching the web at University and industry sites- i could not come up with water requirements for either sugar beets or sweet sorgum. I did find that at least in China they take both the grain for feed/ food and the stalk for sugar when growing sweet sorgum- it appeared in the research that max brix and total sugar/ acre was when the grain was also mature. It also appeared to be like sugar cane in that the the leaves had little sugar and thus were not used.

 

All the beet research i saw was in arid climates- N. Dakota, Idaho, and Colorado and it was irrigated as would most crops would be there- could not determine how drought tolerant it would be as compared to potato, corn, or other crops. I do not recall discussion of this in my old college agronomy classes other than "sorgum" being more tolerant than corn but that may have been forage varieties. (there are forage, grain only, and sweet types)

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  Yep,

 

      I think the key for sweet sorghum is the stalk needs to be processed quickly after harvest.

      Seed can probably just be stored. The leaf matter can just be returned to the field as cover.

 

      For sugar beets,  there is a significant amount of irrigation required, but most of the places

    where sugar beets are grown in Colorado are outside of the area where well pumps were to be

      shut down.  If sorghum were to be an alternative in Colorado, it would probably be that area

      near the Kansas border. I saw alot of corn out there both last year and this year, and it is one

      of the most productive areas in the country as far as yield per acre , if I remember correctly.

 

      One problem with this change would be convincing folks who have been growing corn forever

      to change to something else. Maybe this is where incentives would need to be placed. I don't

    think there would be time to get the portable distillation scheme ready to go . There are a number

    of ethanol plants nearby in eastern Colorado , but again we're talking about transporting product,

    and moving it to a facility that isn't really set up to accept it. More incentives for this, too ???

 

      That's the thing with an industry just getting off the ground... LOTS of growing pains ..

 

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I talked to a guy that farms near Breckenridge MN and he told me it takes a lot of energy to get sugar from the beets.

 

Yes I think that would only apply to the process of reducing the beet syrup to pure sugar. In ethanol production you don't need to boil down the syrup but just ferment it, then pull off the alcohol. Some of the newer ethanol plants are also using more sophisticated energy recovery systems where they use waste heat from one cycle to pre-heat the incoming syrup. Our beet sugar industry dried up and blew away back in the late 1970's or there abouts when energy costs went up and imported cane sugar drove the prices for sugar so low it could not compete.

I have heard that there are some sugar beet varieties that have lots of fermentable sugars but they are not all sweet tasting sugars suitable for food usage.

 

I'm sure we will see mulitiple different feed stock cycles, --- process the sweet sorgum in the field ship a portion of the stocks to a cellulose plant for processing, plow the remainder back into the field, plant it with alfalfa, let it set fallow for a year and recharge the soil with the nitrogen fixation from the alfalfa, harvest the alfalfa, then plow and plant sorgum etc. etc. etc.

 

As mentioned above it will take lots of experimental cycles for folks to work out the most sustainable crop cycle to yield the best return for the water money invested.

 

Larry

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Guest colchiro

I talked to a guy that farms near Breckenridge MN

 

That's where I grew up....  ;D

 

Beat season will be starting soon (sometime after first frost I think).

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