Energy sorghum may combine best of annual, perennial bioenergy crops
Caitlin Moore in a sorghum field at the UIUC Energy Farm
Caitlin Moore in a sorghum field at the UIUC Energy Farm

URBANA, Ill. – Large perennial grasses like miscanthus are a primary target for use as bioenergy crops because of their sustainability advantages, but they take several years to establish and aren’t ideal for crop rotation. Maize and other annual crops are easier to manage with traditional farming, but they are tougher on the environment.

Energy sorghum, a hefty annual plant with the ecological benefits of a perennial, may combine the best of both crops.

A study by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI) found that energy sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) behaves more like miscanthus in the way it efficiently captures light and uses water to produce abundant biomass. It has higher nitrogen emissions like maize, but researchers believe careful fertilizer management could reduce those levels.

Read more from CABBI.