Biofuels Update

October 28, 2008 10:59 AM

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.
"This new facility means more good jobs and an important market for our Hoosier farmers,” Daniels said.

The plant will make a difference in Wabash County, Ind., where nearly all of the corn has been trucked out of the area for years. The Poet Biorefining–North Manchester facility will use 22 million bushels of corn from the area to produce 65 million gallons of ethanol and 178,000 tons of Dakota Gold Enhanced Nutrition Distillers Products per year.


New FFVs Available
Approximately 50 flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV) will be available in 2009, including models such as the Lincoln Navigator, Buick Terraza, Toyota Sequoia and Toyota Tundra.

"We've come a long way since the introduction of the E85 compatible Ford Taurus in 1995,” says Phil Lampert, executive director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC). Automakers say that additional 2009 models that are E85 compatible should be announced in future months.

The NEVC Web site at offers unique information pertaining to E85 and FFVs. The site includes an up-to-date list of all E85 fueling locations, information on how to sell E85 and frequently asked questions.

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