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Biofuels Update

October 28, 2008
By: Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer Editor

Sweet Potatoes Outyield Corn

Researchers have often speculated that sweet potatoes may rival corn in carbohydrate yield for ethanol. Now, recent experiments prove that sweet potatoes yield two to three times as much carbohydrate for fuel ethanol, according to the USDA–Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

In fact, sweet potato carbohydrate yields approach the lower limits of those produced by sugarcane, the highest-yielding ethanol crop. Lew Ziska, a plant physiologist at the USDA–ARS

Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., says another advantage of sweet potatoes is that they require much less fertilizer and pesticide than corn.

Sweet potato production disadvantages, however, still outweigh the carbo-hydrate benefits. In particular, sweet potatoes require higher start-up costs than corn, particularly because of increased labor at planting and harvest.

If economical harvesting and processing techniques could be developed, the data suggests, sweet potatoes in states like Maryland and Alabama would have greater potential than corn as ethanol sources, Ziska says.


Bioeconomy Institute Breaks Ground

Moving one step closer to its goal of being the world center for the emerging bioeconomy, Iowa State University (ISU) recently broke ground for its Biorenewables Research Laboratory.

The lab is the first phase of the $99 million Biorenewables Complex to be built on the ISU campus and will serve as the new headquarters for the university's Bioeconomy Institute.

"We have tremendous momentum in the area of biorenewables at Iowa State, and this new facility will add greatly to that momentum," says ISU President Gregory Geoffroy.

Once completed, the Biorenew- ables Complex will allow ISU to bring most of its agricultural and biosystems faculty and classrooms together at one central location, provide students with classrooms and laboratories for the study of biorenewables, increase graduate student enrollment and improve faculty recruitment and retention.

"Biorenewables are creating hundreds of jobs and ag schools are prospering, keeping young people here and bringing back the brightest and best who left," said Iowa state Sen. Jack Kibbie at the groundbreaking.


Indiana Ramps Up Ethanol

In three years, Indiana has gone from little ethanol production to placing within the top five states for producing alternative fuel. That's great news for rural Indiana, small towns, the environment and the entire country, says Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Daniels spoke recently at the grand opening of the Poet Biorefining ethanol facility in North Manchester, Ind. The facility is the eighth ethanol plant in Indiana and the third Poet plant in the state.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - November 2008
RELATED TOPICS: Agronomy, Biofuels

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