Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research scientists just released a new study showing how “bioenergy sorghum “could be a huge player in removing larger amounts of carbon dioxide from the air and putting more carbon back in our soils. In fact, research is showing the crop can improve soil fertility and potentially earn carbon credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions. The research also shows that bioenergy sorghum’s unusually deep root system can reach sources of water and nutrients untapped by other annual crops, meaning the crop can help manage fertilizer runoff from other annuals in a crop rotation. I encourage everyone to read the full study ” Bioenergy sorghum’s deep roots: A key to sustainable biomass production on annual cropland“
The group has been working for 15 years to develop this bioenergy sorghum. From what I understand, the hybrid used in the recent study creates high yields of biomass for fuel, power, and bioproduct generation and also has excellent drought resilience, good nitrogen-use efficiency, and a deep root system.
According to the study, an acre planted with a bioenergy sorghum hybrid accumulates about 3.1 tons of dry root biomass over the crop’s 155-day growing season with roots going down as deep as six and a half feet over their growing season. Keep in mind, these numbers are also important for understanding the crop’s potential to improve soil fertility and water-holding capacity by replenishing soil organic carbon, not an insignificant matter when you realize that over the last 100 years, soil organic carbon levels have fallen by -50% in land planted with annual crops.
Moral of the story, “bioenergy sorghum” is a crop some of us might want to take a deeper look at. I think there is going to be very strong interest in the years ahead for growers in certain locations. Early on there might be some hurdles to clear in regard to infrastructure and places producers can easily sell this crop after growing it. Perhaps there will be more “contracted” type plays for growing the crop. Bottom line, bioenergy sorghum may have found a sweet spot with some growers. Clearly, this isn’t an option for all growing regions, but definitely, something to be considered in the right areas, especially as we move deeper into carbon sequestration and the markets that are still developing. Very interesting crop! (Source: agrilifetoday, phys.org)