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Is sweet sorghum on horizon for Louisiana?

Using sweet sorghum and sugarcane as biofuels has generated significant interest among members of the Louisiana sugarcane industry.

Allen Hogan, LSU AgCenter county agent in Jefferson Davis Parish, presented information on his sweet sorghum demonstration plot to more than 40 representatives of the LSU AgCenter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, the American Sugar Cane League, the Louisiana Agricultural Consultants Association and Entergy at the LSU AgCenter's Sugar Research Station at St. Gabriel, La.

Sweet sorghum attracted the attention of Louisiana sugarcane farmers when Louisiana Green Fuels began building a biofuels production facility to complement a new sugar mill at Lacassine, Hogan said.

Louisiana Green Fuels is a company owned by Andino Energy and a group of Lake Charles sugarcane farmers, according to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.

The plant will use molasses from sugarcane and sweet sorghum for feedstock and have a capacity of 22 million gallons per year.

“When they made the comment that they were interested in looking at sweet sorghum as a crop to increase operation at the plant, we wanted to see what it would do,” Hogan said of the LSU AgCenter's sweet sorghum trials.

Hogan said though the sorghum program started later than he would have liked, the demonstration has answered many questions, such as would sugarcane equipment have any problem harvesting the sorghum and could a sugar mill handle the crop? Both questions had positive answers, he said.

Sugarcane, however, continues to be the primary crop for many South Louisiana growers.

“The situation is not where we would like, even with last year's yields the second best on record,” said Ben Legendre, LSU AgCenter sugarcane specialist. “Yields were there; price was not. Yet the input costs have gone up dramatically, especially fertilizer and fuel.”

Ken Duhon, right-of-way agent with Entergy, discussed the importance of farmers burning sugarcane with care around power lines. He said the certification training farmers have taken in past years has helped to decrease the number of outages caused by burning cane under high-voltage power lines.

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