Switchgrass could produce more ethanol than corn

By Peter Kent

men standing in a field of switchgrass, photo by Peter KentInstead of corn, switchgrass could become the source for ethanol fuel produced in South Carolina. Switchgrass can produce as much as 800 to 1,000 gallons of ethanol per acre, compared to 416 gallons for corn. Even more striking, the energy return ratio could be as high as 10 for switchgrass, compared with 0.81 for gasoline and 1.36 for corn-based ethanol.

The SC Bioenergy Research Collaborative has been formed to demonstrate the economic feasibility of using plants, such as switchgrass, trees and sorghum, to make ethanol. The collaborative includes scientists at Clemson, the Savannah River National Laboratory, SC State University and industry incubator SC Bio, as well as industrial partners who are committed to building a biofuels research pilot plant in the state.

A group of Clemson and USDA-ARS scientists, led by agronomist Jim Frederick, is investigating switchgrass production systems at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center in Florence, including soil and crop management, new variety development and measuring environmental impacts.

For more information: Jim Frederick, 843-662-3526, jfrdrck@clemson.edu or http://agroecology.clemson.edu/switchgrass/sg.htm.