Giant grass can boost ethanol output 250 percent

July 31st, 2008 - 3:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 31 (IANS) After the biggest field trial of its kind, researchers in the US have found that giant perennial grass Miscanthus can boost ethanol production by 250 percent per acre, compared to existing biofuels. Consequently, Miscanthus as a feedstock for ethanol production could significantly reduce biofuel acreage while meeting production goals, the researchers reported.

Using corn or switchgrass to produce enough ethanol to offset 20 percent fossil fuel use would lock up 25 percent of cropland out of production.

However, obtaining the same quantity of ethanol from Miscanthus would require only 9.3 percent of acreage. “What we’ve found with Miscanthus is that the amount of biomass generated each year would allow us to produce about two and a half times the amount of ethanol we can produce per acre of corn,” said Stephen P. Long, who led the study.

Long is the deputy director of the BP-sponsored Energy Biosciences Institute, a multi-year, multi-institutional initiative aimed at finding low-carbon or carbon-neutral alternatives to petroleum-based fuels.

In trials across Illinois, switchgrass, a perennial grass which, like Miscanthus, requires fewer chemical and mechanical inputs than corn, produced only about as much ethanol feedstock per acre as corn, Long said.

These findings will soon appear in Global Change Biology.

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