Sweet sorghum shows promise as alternative crop

Linda Benedict  |  8/21/2008 8:56:48 PM

Sugarcane farmers heard about alternative crops and cane varieties under development during field days July 24 and 25, 2008 in Iberia Parish.

On July 24, farmers met at the Iberia Research Station to see test plots of new cane varieties and sweet sorghum. Sonny Viator, station director, is participating in a study of sweet sorghum at LSU AgCenter research facilities across the state for its potential as an energy crop.

As fuel prices increase and corn prices remain high, the potential for sweet sorghum to produce ethanol is economically feasible, Viator said. Earlier research had produced 250 gallons of ethanol per acre from sweet sorghum, but a more recent test at Houma resulted in 500 gallons per acre. Sorghum has potential as a rotational crop with cane and rice.

"I think it is going to be very much a complementary crop," Viator said.

The varieties Theis, M81-E and Topper were grown this year at the Iberia Station, but new varieties are expected. Several things have to be learned, including the best planting times and which herbicides can be used for the crop, he said.

Ben Legendre, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist, said a substitute for glyphosate as a ripener on sugarcane will have to be found if Roundup Ready sugarcane is released in a few years.

He said the chemical Palisade, a plant growth regulator, shows promise as an alternative ripener, and the manufacturer, Syngenta, wants more research from the LSU AgCenter.

On July 25, sugarcane farmers met at the farm of Lane Blanchard to hear about soybeans as a rotational crop.

Kurt Guidry, AgCenter economist, said soybean prices have fallen recently for several reasons, including a stronger dollar that has decreased exports and an 11-million acre increase in soybeans from 2007. Prices of $16-$17 a bushel from a few weeks ago have dipped and could get to $11. Wheat prices also have fallen. Bruce Schultz

(This article was published in the summer 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
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