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Researchers make biofuel with sorghum rather -

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ELEANOR HALL: Agricultural researchers in the United States claim to have found a way of producing
biofuel that doesn't damage the global food supply - by using sorghum rather than corn.

This could be good news for Australia, which is on track to produce a record sorghum crop this

Mark Winslow from The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research has been telling
our North America correspondent Michael Rowland, about the research:

MARK WINSLOW: Well sorghum is a crop which is traditionally from Africa but spread all over the
world. Grown for basically two purposes. One is for grain which people eat in the dry areas in the
poorest countries in the world.

The other purpose is to feed to livestock and so now we are trying to see what is the opportunity
for adding a third valuable component to this crop which is the ability to produce ethanol to fuel

MICHAEL ROWLAND: How easy is it to produce ethanol from sorghum?

MARK WINSLOW: It is very much a process like sugar cane. As you know the sugar cane is now
supplying about half of the transportation fuel for Brazil but basically in the stem of the plant
which is about maybe eight feet tall or three metres tall, a very huge bulky crop, there is a juice
in the middle.

About half of the weight is made of the juice which is very sweet in these sweet varieties. There
are special varieties. The normal sorghum is not sweet but in the sweet varieties, you can crush
the stalk, get the juice out and then it becomes a process just like making wine.

You have this sugar rich juice, it is about 18 per cent sugar. You ferment it by adding yeast and
then you distil it to get pure alcohol out of that which is what is blended with gasoline to make
the different types of ethanol.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: What is the benefits of using sorghum for ethanol production compared to corm
which of course, is the most popular way of generating ethanol at the moment?

MARK WINSLOW: With sorghum you can produce both the fuel and the food and as I mentioned the feed
also. Actually the three products whereas with corn, you are making ethanol from the grain so if
you use it for ethanol then you don't have it available for food and this is what caused big
increases in prices world wide so it is a way to basically get around that.

We are not suggesting that it will replace corn because corn is enormously widely-grown crop but
there is urgent need I think everyone is recognising, to get away from using food crops and food
products to make fuel.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: How do we know this works? I mean, have there been trials around the world to show
that sorghum can be produced effectively and economically into ethanol?

MARK WINSLOW: Yeah, there have been studies in different parts of the world. Brazil did a lot of
work on this in the 1970s. It is now in commercial production in India. There is research in China
on this and there is research in the United States on this so it is definitely a proven technology
that works and it is, the economics will depend on the country because the price of biofuel, of
ethanol are controlled in different countries and subsidy policies are different in different
countries so the economic analysis has to be per country.

ELEANOR HALL: That is agricultural researcher Mark Winslow speaking to Michael Rowland in