The project SWEETFUEL (Sweet Sorghum: An alternative energy crop) is supported by the European Commission in the 7th Framework Programme to exploit the advantages of sweet sorghum as potential energy crop for bioethanol production.
Sweet sorghum is a C4 plant with the following interesting characteristics: (i) its growth cycle is short (about four months) facilitating double cropping, (ii) it can be easily grown from seeds, (iii) its production can be completely mechanized, (iv) it can produce sugar in the stalk and starch in the grain, (v) it has a high water and nutrient use efficiency, (vi) the bagasse produced from sweet sorghum has high biological value when used as forage and (vii) it has a wide adaptability to different environments.
However, unlike sugarcane and maize, sweet sorghum has little breeding history. The potential of yield improvements through genetic enhancement is thus very high.
The main objective of SWEETFUEL is to optimize yields in temperate, semi-arid and sub-tropical regions by genetic enhancement and improvement of agricultural practices.
In order to achieve this objective, activities of the SWEETFUEL project include to:
The SWEETFUEL partnership comprises 10 partners from research, academia and industry. The partners of SWEETFUEL are CIRAD (France, Coordinator), ICRISAT (India), EMBRAPA (Brazil), KWS (Germany), IFEU (Germany), UNIBO (Italy), UCSC (Italy), ARC (South Africa), UANL (Mexico), and WIP (Germany). The project duration is from January 2009 until December 2013.
Increasing world market prices for fossil fuels, driven by limited reserves, growing demand and instability in producing regions, now render renewable fuels economical. Such fuels are also a pathway to reducing GHG emissions and mitigating climate change.
Bio-ethanol from crop plants is a promising, partial solution to sustainably satisfy the energy demand for road transport. The success of bio-ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil demonstrates proof of concept but cannot be transferred to water-limited or temperate environments. Sweet sorghum, as a source of either fermentable free sugars or lignocelluloses, has many potential advantages, including: high water, nitrogen and radiation use efficiency; broad agro-ecological adaptation; rich genetic diversity for useful traits; and the potential to produce fuel feedstock, food and feed in various combinations. Fuel-food crops can thereby help reconciling energy and food security issues.
The SWEETFUEL project will breed for improved cultivars and hybrids of sorghum for temperate, tropical semi-arid and tropical acid-soil environments by pyramiding in various combinations, depending on region and ideotype, tolerance to cold, drought and acid (Al-toxic) soils; and high production of stalk sugars, easily digestible biomass and grain (WP 1-3 ).
Molecular-genetic and physiological breeding support is given by WP4 , and agro-ecological adaptation and sustainable practices are developed by WP5 . Other WPs provide for integrated technology and impact assessments including economics (WP6 ), dissemination (WP7 ) and coordination (WP8 ).
The SWEETFUEL consortium is composed of 10 members from France (leader), Italy, Germany, Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa.
SWEETFUEL research involves structured participation of stakeholders, including policy makers.
Project outcomes will be new germplasm, sustainable practices and commodity chain concepts adapted to each target region.
SWEETFUEL aims to breed sweet sorghum varieties better adapted to temperate region and semi arid tropics, for bio-ethanol production. To attain that goal, SWEETFUEL includes a major breeding effort, split into 3 work packages according to target environments and production systems.
© Cirad 2009 - All rights reserved - Disclaimer stating