Sorghum is more than just sweet syrup

By Peter Kent

Image depicts Feltus studying sorghum.South Carolina uses nearly 2.5 times more energy than it produces, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration 2005 data. While the state does not have oil, natural gas or coal resources, biofuels from crops show promise as renewable energy sources that can be produced here.

Grass genomicist Alex Feltus is analyzing 400 varieties of sorghum, seeking the ones most easily converted into fuels. Using computer programs he helped develop, Feltus searches the plant’s genes for the ones that make sugars that can become ethanol and hydrogen. Identifying the genes is only the first step. Through collaborations with other scientists he is involved in sorghum plant breeding and in helping bio-energy producers improve the sugar-to-fuel conversion process.

In addition to aiding development of renewable energy in South Carolina, his discoveries of genetic information in sorghum – such as drought tolerance, pest resistance and improved yields – will also benefit producers of related crops, including corn, rice and turfgrass.

For information: Alex Feltus, 864-656-3231,