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Sugarcorn, a New Bioeconomy Feedstock

Nicol, R., Hinbest, T., Hooker, D., Young, D., Thiruvengadathan, T., Gomez-Flores, R., Morrison, M., Margaritis, A., Reid, L.M., Gilroyed, B. 2017. Sugarcorn, a New Bioeconomy Feedstock. 70th Northeast Corn Improvement Conference, Ottawa, ON, Feb 21-22, 2017. Oral presentation.

Abstract

As demonstrated by the Brazilian ethanol industry, stalk juice from sugarcane is the most efficient biofuel feedstock in the world. Canadian farmers cannot grow sugarcane, but are adept at growing corn. Corn, like sugarcane, is a C4 grass, efficient in utilizing inputs to convert solar energy into sugar which is ultimately stored and then harvested as grain starch. Unlike grain starch, sugarcorn was developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers to produce fermentable sugars in the stalk for temperate and sub-temperate regions of the world where sugarcane cannot be cultivated. Sugarcorn hybrids have been grown at Ridgetown Ontario since 2014. The juice from harvested plants were extracted using a three roller press and this juice, as well as other sugar preparations, have been investigated for production of biofuels and organic acids via fermentation. In terms of ethanol production, this versatile feedstock offers potential advantages over starch including ease of handling via pumping and reduced energy and enzymatic needs during pre-fermentation processes. Although successfully used in other parts of the world, there is currently no industrial use of stalk juice in Canada, and implementation of such an innovative technology requires demonstration of biomass and sugar yields, conversion processes and ultimately the yield and value of product and co-products.

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