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An evaluation of cassava, sweet potato and field corn as potential carbohydrate sources for bioethanol production in Alabama and Maryland

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The recent emphasis on corn production to meet the increasing demand for bioethanol has resulted in trepidation regarding the sustainability of the global food supply. To assess the potential of alternative crops as sources of bioethanol production, we grew sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) and cassava (Manihot esculentum) at locations near Auburn, Alabama and Beltsville, Maryland in order to measure root carbohydrate (starch, sucrose, glucose) and root biomass. Averaged for both locations, sweet potato yielded the highest concentration of root carbohydrate (ca 80%), primarily in the form of starch (ca 50%) and sucrose (ca 30%); whereas cassava had root carbohydrate concentrations of (ca 55%), almost entirely as starch. For sweet potato, overall carbohydrate production was 9.4 and 12.7 Mg ha−1 for the Alabama and Maryland sites, respectively. For cassava, carbohydrate production in Maryland was poor, yielding only 2.9 Mg ha−1. However, in Alabama, carbohydrate production from cassava averaged approximately 10 Mg ha−1. Relative to carbohydrate production from corn in each location, sweet potato and cassava yielded approximately 1.5× and 1.6× as much carbohydrate as corn in Alabama; 2.3× and 0.5× for the Maryland site. If economical harvesting and processing techniques could be developed, these data suggest that sweet potato in Maryland, and sweet potato and cassava in Alabama, have greater potential as ethanol sources than existing corn systems, and as such, could be used to replace or offset corn as a source of biofuels.
Ziska, Lewis H. , Runion, G. Brett , Tomecek, Martha , Prior, Stephen A. , Torbet, H. Allen , Sicher, Richard
Includes references
Biomass and bioenergy 2009 Nov., v. 33, no. 11
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
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