Bioenergy Crops

Corn | Soybean | Crop Residues | Switchgrass | Sweet Sorghum | Canola | Camelina | Sunflower | Miscanthus | Hybrid Poplar

Sweet Sorghum

Forage Millet
Forage millet grown in Lincoln. (Photo courtesy of Ismail Dweikat)


Sweet sorghum is a relative to other common sorghums grown in Nebraska grain sorghum and forage sorghum. Yet instead of harvested for grain or its forage, sweet sorghum is harvested for its sugar content in the stems. The sugar can be directly fermented in ethanol like sugar cane ethanol. This direct squeeze to fermentation provides a benefit in cost as no cook process or costly enzymes needed like in corn ethanol production. 

"Sweet Harvest" article, originally appeared in Ethanol Producer Magazine July 2008 (pdf)
(pdf document, download Acrobat Reader

Other Sweet Sorghum Resources

Sweet Sorghum Research at University of Nebraska

National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association

Sweet Sorghum Ethanol Association

Canola

Mature Canola Photo by Bill Booker

Canola seed has high oil content and produces high quality oil which can be used in food and biodiesel markets

Canola's high quality oil and high percentage oil approximately 40% in the seed makes it a very desirable biodiesel feedstock. Produced throughout Europe and Canada canola can be grown in Western Nebraska.

Growing Crops for Better Biodiesel

by Loren Isom and Bill Booker
Loren is with the Industrial Ag Products Center at UNL
Bill is an Extension educator in Box Butte County
Identifying high oil yield, low water use crops suitable for biodiesel production is a key component of addressing feedstock availability that will support the development of biodiesel production facilities in Nebraska. Expanded oilseed production can develop new economic opportunities for agricultural producers and suppliers in Nebraska.
Read this article. (pdf document, download Acrobat Reader)

Phenology of Oilseed Crops for Bio-Diesel in the High Plains

by Alexander D. Pavlista and David D. Baltensperger
Link to article

Other Canola Resources

Canola Production - North Dakota State University

Great Plains Canola Production Handbook

Soybeans and Oil Crops: Canola Seed, Oil, and Meal - USDA ERS

U.S. Canola Association

Camelina

Green Camelina photo by Bill Booker

Camelina [Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz] also known as gold-of-pleasure or false flax has potential as an oilseed crop and biofuel feedstock


In the United States, camelina is primarily grown as a bio-fuel crop. The seed contains 30–40% oil. Camelina oil is used to produce biodiesel, and the meal co-product can be used as a livestock feed. Camelina oil also has use as a biolubricant and in industrial and cosmetic products.

The oil has a unique composition that may give it even higher value as a food crop. The oil is high in omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid) and also contains antioxidants (tocopherol, vitamin E) that give it a longer shelf life than flaxseed oil. Camelina oil contains 35–40% alpha-linolenic acid, compared to 50–60% for flaxseed oil. It may be used as cooking oil or as an additive to increase the nutritional value of bakery products or other foods. (Camelina Production -  SDSU).

Hybrid Poplar

Hybrid Poplar Photo by F. John Hay

Hybrid Poplar is a woody tree grown for it biomass. Planted using small cuttings. It is usually grown for one year then cut to stimulate multiple stems then harvested after three or more additional years of growth. Midwestern yields have been in the 15 tons per acre range after three years growth.

Other Hybrid Poplar Resources

Hybrid Poplar - University of Minnesota

Miscanthus

Miscanthus Photo by F. John Hay

Miscanthus giganteus is native of asia and is a natural hybrid. Grown from rhizomes it does not produce viable seed. First inroduced to Europe as a bioenergy crop it has become a crop of high interest for its biomass yield potential in the U.S.  Test yield between 10 and 20 tons per acre are common.

Other Miscanthus Resources

Miscanthus Production - Iowa State University

Sunflower

Immature Sunflower Closeup photo by Bill Booker

Sunflowers produce high quality oil which is used in food and biodiesel markets


Sunflower production is relatively well established as an oilseed crop in the broader region of the Great Plains. For the most Nebraska producers the distance for delivery has limited production. Current plans for additional oilseed processing facilities in Nebraska could greatly reduce transportation costs for a large production area in Nebraska. The state of Nebraska only harvested 31,000 acres of oil type sunflowers in 2006 with an average yield of 1,200 pounds.3 Sunflowers have a typical oil content of 40%, but it will vary based on production conditions. Typical dry land yields will range from 800 to 1,500 pounds per acre, while irrigated yields are often targeted above 3,000 pounds per acre. The national average yield for oil type sunflowers is 1,267 pounds per acre. At 40% oil content, that is approximately 507 pounds of oil per acre available in the seeds. This is reduced to 431 pounds of extractable oil per acre with mechanical extraction. by Bill Booker Extension Educator Box Butte County NE

Nebraska Crop Budgets

Track revenue and costs for various cropping systems with the Nebraska Crop Budgets and Energy Conversion Worksheets.

Other Sunflower Resources

Sunflower Diseases - UNL department of Plant Pathology

Sunflower Variety Tests - University of Nebraska Extension

National Sunflower Association

High Plains Sunflower Production Handbook