The millet could face a great future as an energy crop, believe US researchers. Photo: USDA-ARS
Read aloud The perennial switchgrass is particularly suitable for the production of bioethanol, which can be used as fuel for vehicles. The ingredients of US domestic sweet grass can be easily converted to sugar and fermented, resulting in more than 540 percent more energy than was spent on biofuel production. This is what Marty Schmer from the University of Nebraska and his colleagues found out in a study. In their investigation, the scientists focused primarily on the question of the energy efficiency of the millet. In 2000, they selected ten farms in Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota, where the herbaceous plant should be grown in monocultures. Farmers spent a number of years accounting for seed, fertilizer, herbicide and tractor diesel expenses and the resulting crop yield.

Fears that spending would go far beyond profit did not come true: after a two- to three-year start-up period with higher costs and less crops, the crops later consistently yielded high yields of 3, 500 liters of ethanol per hectare. Energetically particularly favorable suggests here that the woody remains of the plant, which are not used for sugar production, which can fuel the necessary to produce ethanol biorefineries alone and no additional energy supply is needed. There is even electricity left for sale in the market.

Not only compared to gasoline, but also to other suppliers of biofuel, the sweet grass cuts well: Since it is perennial, rarely has seed to be procured and applied, unlike corn, canola or grain. Also, rodent millet fixes more carbon dioxide in the soil than this and thus has a much better greenhouse gas balance. With extended cultivation and careful breeding, the yield of the millet millet could easily be increased by 20 to 30 percent, the agronomists believe. In a few years, it could cover nearly one-third of US fuel needs.

Marty Schmer (Institute of Agriculture, University of Nebraska, Lincoln) et al .: PNAS, Volume 105, p. 464 ddp / science.de? Livia Rasche advertisement

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