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Biofuels Update

November 13, 2009
By: Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer Editor

Sugar beets have the potential to be the next biofuel source.
Biofuels Develop a Taste for Sugar Beets

The simple sugar beet could be the country's next big biofuel source if research from Iowa State University (ISU) pans out.

Although the research on sugar beets is still in the early stages, the crop is efficient at making sugar, the primary ingredient converted to ethanol, says Vince Lawson, superintendent of ISU's Muscatine Island research farm in Fruitland, Iowa, where some of the field trials are under way. Research is also being conducted on ISU's Southeast Research and Demonstration Farm near Crawfordsville, Iowa.

Research at the Crawfordsville farm has found that on average, 5.5 tons of sugar can be extracted from 35.4 tons of beets. Those 5.5 tons of sugar would make 898 gal. of ethanol. Similarly, the Muscatine Island research farm produced an average of 4 tons

of sugar, which were extracted from 24.7 tons of beets. 

Lawson says the next step is to fine-tune some fertility and production problems that were identified in 2008.

Heartland Renewable Energy and Syngenta provided the funding and support for the research project. Heartland Renewable Energy plans to build an ethanol plant in Muscatine in 2011.

Syngenta provided seed for four types of sugar beet varieties.


More Ethanol Hurts Water

A controversial study out of Purdue University suggests that more of the fertilizers and pesticides used to grow corn would find their way into nearby water sources if ethanol demand leads to more corn acres.

The study of Indiana water sources found that those near fields that practice continuous-corn rotations had higher levels of nitrogen, fungicides and phosphorus than those near fields with corn–soybean rotations. Results of the study by Indrajeet Chaubey, a Purdue associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, and Bernard Engel, Purdue professor and head of agricultural and biological engineering, were published in the Journal of Environmental Engineering.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Mid-November 2009
RELATED TOPICS: Crops, Biofuels

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