Successes & Failures In Realization Of Economic Potential Of Biofuels
Successes & failures in realization of Economic Potential of Biofuels:
Sugarcane Success in India:
Indian Sugar Industry has made a turn around in last 5 years from being a seasonal and
Cyclic Industry to a Biorefinery model. Here Sugar, Distillation, Cogen and Biofertilizer are
produced optimizing their resources.
With CDM taking shape since 2004 some of these also have utilized opportunity of Cogen by
enhancing Boilers and generating additional Power to be sold to Grid and also benefit
CER / VER realization. Few of them have also realized CDM for Distillation (Methanation). If
UNFCCC provides benefit of CDM realization to Ethanol manufacturers then there is
additional benefit that accrues to existing.
Indian sugar industry operates in Zone area allocated to them; they are well networked with
farming community of that zone sharing on all areas of inputs from seeding, Crop management,
harvesting, and logistics and even in Loan disbursal from banks.
So for two crop years once planted farmer is relieved of sale and pricing of produce and is
attracted to this crop as long as it does not pinch his wallet. Harvesting Cost of Sugarcane is of
growing concern and its timeliness, as Sucrose content deteriorates if not done at appropriate
time. There has been marked improvement in farm equipment too in this segment.
Using water shoots and Tops as Fodder has been prevalent for centuries.
Indian sugar industry’s success is also due to contribution from Sugar Breeding Institute
(Coimbatore), vasant Dada institute, Regional Bodies in Sugarcane research and others. SBI is one
of the two World repositories (the other being at Miami, Florida state, USA) of sugarcane
India is the world’s largest consumer of cheap liquor and is a major revenue source of state
Govt’s, with potable alcohol growing above 10% each year and its impact on Social fabric
catastrophic and not taken seriously; Energy & Chemical value addition has lot of relevance that
need to have support of all. There is another menace of Illicit Liquor from Jaggery and if this
curtailed will make more available cane for Crushing.
India occupies 40% of Global sugar mkt. Of the total cane produced 12% to go in to seed
production, 5% to chewing and Juice, 25-30% to Khandasari (jiggery).Only 60%would be used for
actual sugar production. Percapita consumption of sugar in India: 20kg and 5Kg Jaggery.
Plant/Ratoon ratio is usually 45/55 to 55/45, but almost after 3 decades it’s shifting to 30/70
and to overcome this additional 14-15 milling plantation is required for Sugar alone.
Moving towards Tran genetic sugar for alcohol manufacture also would enhance yields.
Most of Mills have gone for Semi automation of Milling and Honeywell, Echogoa, Rockwell, OA,
ABB, Siemens and several entered this Domain. As future is unfolding to smart grid and Plug-in
technologies this Industry would see more of development.
With CNG being produced of spent wash and this also being worthy template for CDM, we would
see rural landscape buzzing with Flex fuel vehicles and vibrant innovations.
Biofertilizer of spent wash is a must for all distillations and is still better to Incernation as to
totally burn residues we need high energy and Biofertilizer would enhance soil fertility.
Today most Molasses trading Companies like UMC, SVG, Peter Cremer, and Toepfer have no
sellers at all and Domestically Present Indian Molasses Prices are above 7000 INR, so factories
without distillation too are generating Good Revenues.
Bagasse is also being completely utilized for self Cogeneration and as future is moving to whole
cane crushing with Sugars induced in cane leaves no Trash would go waste or burnt in field.
Bioplastics is another area which is catching the attention of Industry and Bagasse is the raw
material with Sugar as binder and this also Generated CDM. Some have been using Bagasse for
paper and particle board manufacturing.
With Agronomy being the prime focus to bring better yields, Crop Sciences have also taken
Centre stage and companies like Syngenta, Monsanto, and DuPont and several others conducting
lot of research. Indian Companies like NFL, Nuziveedu Seeds have also seen Success.
Traditional Practices like Black Gold agriculture which enhances carbon content and Soil health
have again come back to centre stage. VAM fungus has also seen Success in Sugarcane
cultivation. Optimizing Fertilizer, water, Insecticides, Pesticides, Herbicides and mapping Crop
has also taken precedence. For Seed Treatment of Cane Renewable resources like Solar Power for
steam and Temperature are being utilized. Future Cultivation should enable more ratoon years to
bring down cost as well stop soil erosion.
Manpower in Harvesting being Critical Semi and full harvesting is being studied and also to
optimize cost. Mahindra Tractors is working on Solutions around Tractor suiting Asian needs.
In Sugar manufacturing saving steam, minimizing usage of Lime, HCL, Sulphur and also moving
towards refined Sugar has caught up attention of Industry. Using Fondant for Crystallization is
visible in all plants. Sugar the Commodity is moving from being a sweetener to Fortification and
Low GI Sugar bringing in value addition and take cognizance of Health & Diet.
With Distillation rapidly moving towards Second generation and Stable prices for Alcohol as Fuel
and also Potable usage, Sugarcane’s 50% revenue stream would be from Sugar and 50% from
Alcohol and Cogen.
Manufacturing Costs at Sugarcane factory:
A 5000TPD Sugarcane Crushing mill, 9 MW Cogen and 60 KLPD Distillation would cost around
300 Crores INR.
Sugar Manufacturing Cost:
Steam 35% Rs.15/Mt
Gunny Bag Rs.15/Mt
Chemicals Rs. 30/Mt
Sulphitation/Ca/ juice settlement Rs. 50/Mt
Wear & Tear Rs.100/Mt
Working capital int Rs.175/Mt
Conversion (Total of Above): Rs.385/Mt
Salaries & wages Rs.130/Mt
Sale of Bagasse & Molasses Rs.150/Mt
Total Cost of Sugar manufacturing: Rs 365/Mt Appx.
Variable: Raw material + salaries +O&M +Int +Depreciation
Fixed: Project Cost
For One unit of Power 3 kg of Bagasse is consumed (1MW:3.2 Mt of Bagasse Consumed)
Unit generation Cost: Rs 2.37/Unit
Revenue on Cogen estimated on CER realization per annum : <40 paise/Unit
Season: 151 days
Off season: 70 days
Export: 3.625 MWH/export (Long-term Contract)
Internal usage: 4.2 MWH/season
Sale to Govt Rs 6.50/Unit (Spot)
Rectified Spirit Production Costs:
Raw material @ Rs 4000/Mt Rs/Bl 16.00
Excise Duty on Mol (Rs772.50/Mt) 3.09
Yeast, Enzyme, water treatment chemicals, Euchem/Nutrients for Digester,
Antifoam (Turkey redoil), Urea+DAP@ Fermenters, Misc
Steam cost for 30 days without biogas generation @ Rs 950/Mt Bagasse 0.14
Power Cost @ 5500 KW/day (Rs 2.63/Kwh) 0.72
DM Water cost for boiler 0.04
Man power cost 0.33
Total O&M Cost for Biocomposting Rs.1.82
Total O&M Cost for decanter @ Rs 280Kwh/day 0.04
Total Expenditure: Rs.22.91/Bulk liter.
The conversion of Rectified spirit to Ethanol: Rs 1.25/lt (Anhydrous alcohol)
Total Ethanol Manufacturing cost: Rs.24.16/lt.
Present Ethanol Purchasing cost by Oil Companies is Rs.21.50/lt ex mill, so none supplying.
Using Cane Juice directly would further enhance feedstock cost almost by Rs.2/lt but effluent
production is lowest and non polluting (Rs.26/lt).
Alcohol based chemical Industries: 1,100 million Lts.
Potable Alcohol requirement: 1,000 million Lts.
@5% ethanol Blending : 600 million Lts.
@10% ethanol Blending : + 600 million Lts.
3,300 Million Lts.
India produces 1.3 billion Lts and requires almost 2 billion Lts if it has to cater 10% blending.
Petrol Consumed in 2006-07: 9,295,000MT.Only 0.64% of petrol is replaced with Ethanol.
Alcohol at 10% level requires another 10-15 million, so a possible acreage growth of
25-30Million ton based on price rewarded to farmer.
Cane-Juice- Alcohol conversion:
A MT of Cane produces 65-70Lts of alcohol.
30-33% pure molasses gives a yield of 250 Lt Alcohol.
Molasses percentage in cane: 4.4%.
Sweet Sorghum Alternate Dry land Crop under Propagation:
A dry land-adapted Bioethanol feedstock yielding both grain and fuel
Bioenergy has become a priority research and development area worldwide. Nations are investing
heavily to increase their energy security and reduce their fossil-fuel carbon emissions and
pollution. However, they are also justifiably concerned that the Bioenergy revolution could
marginalize the poor, raise food prices and degrade the environment.
Sweet sorghums are similar to grain sorghums, have rapid growth, wider adaptability and high
biomass producing ability with sugar-rich stalks, known to have good potential for ethanol
production (Reddy et al., 2005). The brown midrib sorghums (bmr) are also similar to grain
sorghums and produce both grain and stover. Sweet sorghum is more profitable (23%) to the
farmer than the grain sorghum (Table 1).
Table 1. Economics of sweet sorghum production
Sweet sorghum Grain sorghum
Grain yield (t ha ) 1.6 2.5
Stalk yield (t ha-1) 20 4 (dry)
Grain value (US$ season-1) 234 365
Stalk value (US$ season-1) 293 50
Total value (US$ season-1) 527 415
Leaf stripping (US$ season-1) 15 -
Net value (US$ season-1) 512 415
Gain from sweet sorghum 97 (23%)
(US$ season-1 ha-1)
Adapted from Rajasekhar (2007), UAS, Dharward
Sugarcane molasses is currently the main raw material for ethanol production in several
countries. The sweet sorghum growing period (about 4.5 months) and water requirement (8000
m3 over two crops) (Soltani and Almodares, 1994) are 4 times lower than those of sugarcane
(12−16 months duration and 36,000 m3 of water per crop). The cost of cultivation of sweet
sorghum is four times lower than that of sugarcane. Sweet sorghum juice is better suited for
ethanol production because of its higher content of reducing sugars as compared to other sources
including sugarcane juice. These important characteristics, along with its suitability for seed
propagation, mechanized crop production, and comparable ethanol production capacity vis a vis
sugarcane molasses and sugarcane makes sweet sorghum a viable alternative raw material source
for ethanol production (Table 2). The per day productivity of sweet sorghum is twice than that of
sugarcane 416 vs. 205 kg/ha respectively. Also, the cost of ethanol production from sweet
sorghum is more economical as compared to sugarcane molasses at the prevailing prices.
Table 2. Comparative advantages of sweet sorghum vs. sugarcane/sugarcane molasses for ethanol
production in India.
Crop Cost of Crop Fertilizer Water Ethanol Av. Per day Cost of
cultivatio duratio Requireme requirem productivit Stalk biomas ethanol
n (USD n nt y (liters yield s producti
(month (N-P-K Kg/ (t/ha product on (USD
s) ha.) ) ivity
4000 year-1 50
Sweet 435 over 4 80 - 50 - 40 8000 over 416.67 0.32(d)
sorghum two crops two crops over two
Sugarcane 1079 12-16 250 to 400 36000 6500 75 205.47
crop-1 crop-1 crop-1(b)
Sugarcane - - - - 850 - - 0.37(e)
(a)50 t ha-1 millable stalk per crop @ 40 l t-1 (b) 85- 90 t ha-1 millable cane per crop @ 75 l t-1 (c)
3.4 t ha-1 @ 250 l t-1 (d) Sweet sorghum stalk @ US$ 12.2 t -1 (e) Sugarcane molasses @ US$ 39 t-1
Source(d,e): Dayakar Rao et al. 2004
In addition to sweet stalks, grain yield of 2-2.5 t ha-1 can be obtained from sweet sorghum that
can be used as food or feed. The Bagasse (stalks after crushing) from sweet sorghum
After the extraction juice has a higher biological value than the Bagasse from sugarcane when
used as feed for cattle, as it is rich in micronutrients and minerals. The Bagasse is as good as
stover in terms of digestibility. The Bagasse can also be used for generation of electricity similar
to the co-generation facility in many of the sugar factories or can be converted to Biocompost in
decentralized syrup making units. Additionally, the pollution level in sweet sorghum-based
ethanol production has 25% of the biological oxygen dissolved (BOD), i.e., 19,500 mg liter -1 and
lower chemical oxygen dissolved (COD) i.e., 38,640 mg liter-1 compared to molasses-based
ethanol production [as per pilot study conducted by Vasanthadada Sugar Institute (VSI), Pune,
CO2 absorption and energy inputs and outputs of sweet sorghum:
Due to its high productivity (20-40 dry ton/growing cycle) and fast plant cycle (120-150 days)
sweet sorghum has an impressive capacity to absorb a large amount of CO2 from the atmosphere
during the 4-5 months growing cycle, with a small amount of CO2 (~ 4 % of the total absorbed),
emitted for the use of conventional energy during its cultivation. During the pre-treatment,
conversion and utilization (combustion), further CO2 emission is produced, but sweet sorghum
closed schemes are CO2 neutral presenting a total CO2 balance = 0. The details of CO2 emissions
by sweet sorghum are given in Table 3. The data (unpublished) from Institute for Energy and
Environmental Research (IFEU) shows that utilization of sweet sorghum first generation ethanol
saves 11 t greenhouse gasses (CO2 equivalents) yearly per ha. This wide variation is attributed to
changes in crop management, fertilizer dose and extent of mechanization etc.
Table 3. CO2 absorption and emissions by sweet sorghum.
CO2 absorption CO2 emission
~1, 5 t CO2/ha (growing cycle)
~8,5 t CO2/ha for conversion
By the crop ~45 t CO2/ha
during the growing cycle ~35,0 t CO2/ha for utilization (combustion)
~45 total tons CO2/ ha
One ha of sweet sorghum plantation can substitute ~11 TOE of net energy without
any negative CO2 emission into the atmosphere. Source: LAMNET and EUBIA, 2001.
As per the studies by LAMNET and EUBIA, the energy utilized for cultivation and the energy
produced in the form of feedstock is another important factor. The estimated energy inputs for
cultivation of 1 ha sweet sorghum is 4850 Mcal/ha compared to the energy out put 74500 Mcal/ha
from the total biomass.
Digestibility studies on sweet sorghum: Comparison of commercial feed blocks (normal sorghum
stover + concentrates, 50:50 by weight) with Bagasse block (normal sorghum replaced by Bagasse
while the concentrates remained the same) and sorghum stover alone showed no significant
differences in intake and body weight gain between Bagasse block and commercial feed block
Table 6. Intake and body weight gain for different feed blocks.
Treatment Intake (g/kg live weight) Weight gain (kg/day)
Commercial feed block 3.64
Bagasse-leave feed block 3.76
Sorghum stover (chopped) 1.24
Source: Michael Blümmel et al (unpublished)
Sweet sorghum research at ICRISAT
Development of hybrid parents and hybrids: Considerable progress has been made in breeding for
improved sweet sorghum lines with higher millable cane and juice yields in India. ICRISAT, has
developed several improved lines of sweet sorghum with high stalk sugar content that are
currently being tested in pilot studies for sweet sorghum-based ethanol production in India, the
Philippines and Uganda. A few of these cultivars like SSV 84, SSV 74 and CSH 22SS have already
been released in India. Some of the varieties or restorer lines developed with Brix greater than
19% are ICSR 93034, ICSV 700, ICSV 93046, E36-1, SPV 422, NTJ 2, Seredo and Entry#64 DTN.
Some of the promising female lines for combining ability for high Brix are: ICSA 38, ICSA 264,
ICSA 474, ICSA 321, ICSA 480, ICSA 479, ICSA 453, ICSA 73, ICSA 271 and ICSA 487. The
performance of some of the varieties in Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) is given in Table
Table 7. Performance of sweet sorghum varieties at MMSU, Illocos Norte, The Philippines.
Stripped stalk yield (t ha-1) Grain yield ( t ha-1)
Main Ratoon Main crop Ratoon
crop crop crop
NTJ 2 45-50 48-55 3.62 4.40 18.5
SPV 422 55-60 57-65 3.28 3.92 19.0
ICSV 700 43-48 45-50 3.46 4.11 18.0
ICSV 93046 47-52 48-55 3.40 4.08 15.0
ICSR 93034 46-52 47-53 3.46 4.25 18.0
Research experience at ICRISAT and elsewhere has shown that hybrids produce relatively higher
biomass, besides being earlier and more photo-insensitive when compared to the varieties under
normal as well as abiotic stresses including water-limited environments. Therefore, the
development of sweet sorghum hybrids is receiving high priority to produce more feedstock and
grain yield per drop of water and unit of energy invested. Data for ethanol related traits for the
selected sweet sorghum hybrids are given Table 8.
Table 8. Performance of selected sweet sorghum hybrids, Patancheru, AP., India.
Hybrid Days toBrix Cane yieldJuice yield Sugar Grain yield Per day
(t ha-1) (kl ha-1) (t(t ha-1)
50% (%) yield ethanol
ICSA 749 × SSV 74 85 18 57.75 27.15 9.15 3.28 18.48
ICSA 511 × SSV 74 88 17.97 49.25 22.7 7.84 5.79 15.39
ICSA 474 × SSV 74 82 16.33 52.25 25.42 7.57 7.19 17.13
SSV 84 (control) 94 15.65 35.18 16.84 4.98 2.67 10.5
NSSH 104 (control) 91 15.65 35.17 16.84 4.98 4.12 10.74
1. Ethanol productivity estimated at 40 liters per ton of millable cane yield.
a) Season specificity of hybrids: Some of the hybrids do well in the rainy season, Therefore it
appears that selection of the hybrids is season specific (Table 9)
Table 9. Selected sweet sorghum hybrids performance in rainy season and post rainy season for
Brix, sugar yield in stalks and grain yield.
(%) Sugar yield (t ha-1)2 Grain yield (t ha-1)
Hybrid R3 PR4 R Rank PR Rank R Rank PR Rank
ICSA 675 × SSV 74 16.6 10.3 6.3 1 1.1 9 6.7 8 7.1 8
ICSA 675 × SPV 422 17.3 11.7 6.1 2 0.9 14 6.6 9 6.7 10
ICSA 324 × SPV 422 16.5 16.1 4.8 13 1.7 2 4.9 17 3.9 20
ICSA 474 × E 36-1 13.5 14.3 4.8 14 1.7 3 6.3 14 6.2 15
NSSH 104 (control) 18.5 19.8 5.9 3 1.2 8 4.2 18 7.2 3
1. Trial entries: 20; RCBD; 2 years and 2 seasons testing.
2. Calculated as the product of Brix and juice volume (kl ha-1).
3. R = Rainy season; 4. PR = Post rainy season
b) Trade-off between food and fuel: It is generally debated that sweet sorghum cultivars do not
produce grain yield and if they produce, the grain yield is less. At ICRISAT, however, the
comparison of sweet sorghum and non sweet sorghum hybrids in the rainy season showed that
they produce higher sugar yield (21%) and higher grain yield (15%) than non sweet sorghum
hybrids indicating that there is no trade off in hybrids. On the other hand, in the varieties during
the rainy season, there is some trade off between higher grain yield and sugar yield, but the loss
in grain yield is far less than the gain in sugar yield (Table 10). Similar trends are noted for both
varieties and hybrids during the post rainy season. These results are handy to prove a point for
sensibility in cultivation of sweet sorghum over corn, palm oil and rapeseed in the context of
environmental damage and present food crisis.
Table 10. Trade-off between food (grain) and fuel (sugar yield) based on studies at
Patancheru in Andhra Pradesh, 2005 and 2006.
Stalk sugar yield (t ha-1) Grain yield (t ha-1)
Sweet Non- Sweet Non- %
sorghum sweet sorghum sweet gain/loss
% gain in
(SS) sorghum SS (SS) sorghum in SS
Rainy Variety 5.8 (7) 4.1 (15) 42 3.4 (7) 4.2 (15) -18
Hybrid 5.5 (7) 4.6 (10) 21 7.4 (7) 6.5 (10) 15
Postrainy Variety 2.0 (5) 1.3 (17) 53 4.1 (15) 5.2 (17) -21
Hybrid 1.6 (6) 0.9 (11) 78 6.0 (6) 7.2 (11) -16
C) Photoperiod- and thermo-sensitivity of hybrids vs varieties:
Sweet sorghum hybrids and varieties sown at different dates (representing different photoperiods
and soil and air temperatures) to evaluate them under different photoperiods and thermo-
sensitivity. The results clearly showed that the hybrids matured earlier than varieties (meaning
less water use). Also variation in days to 50% flowering of hybrids was minimal compared to those
of varieties sown in different dates (Fig. 1) indicating relatively less photoperiod- and thermo-
sensitiveness of hybrids. The photoperiod- and thermo-sensitiveness is required to predict
maturity period, which in turn helps in timely scheduling the supply of sweet stalks distillery
units as and when required.
Days to 50% flowering
95 ICSA474xSSV 84
70 SSV 84
Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
Figure 1. Response of sweet sorghum hybrids vs varieties in different dates of planting.
Date of sowing
Considering the aspects—early maturity, high biomass, ethanol and grain yield potential and
photoperiod-and thermo-insensitivity of hybrids vis-à-vis varieties, the hybrids are best suitable
for sweet sorghum-based ethanol production technology.
we are evaluating 56 hybrids in elite hybrid trial and 45 hybrids in advanced hybrid trial in this
kharif 2008 season for sugar as well as grain yield. Hundreds of populations in different
generations meant for development of elite hybrid parents are under progressive evaluation. It is
found that for obtaining maximum sugar yields in sweet sorghum, an optimum dosage of 64 N
ha-1 (half as basal and half as top dressing) can be applied. Our data also shows that juice yield
has predominant effect on sugar yield in comparison with that of total soluble solids alone.
Potential of lingo-cellulosic biomass for ethanol production: With the development of
biocatalysts including genetically engineered enzymes, yeasts and bacteria, it is possible to
produce ethanol from any plant or plant part known as lingo-cellulose biomass including cereal
crop residues (stovers). Sorghum stover also serves as an excellent feedstock for cellulosic
ethanol production. Currently, a few countries with higher ethanol and fuel prices are producing
ethanol from lingo-cellulose feedstocks (Badger, 2002). Stover contains lignin, hemi-cellulose and
cellulose. The hemi-cellulose and cellulose are enclosed by lignin (which contains no sugars),
making them difficult to convert into ethanol, thereby increasing the energy requirement for
processing. The brown midrib (bmr) mutant sorghum lines, which were originally described by
Porter et al. (1978) have significantly lower levels of lignin content (51% less in stems and 25%
less in leaves). Research at Purdue University, USA showed 50% higher yield of the fermentable
sugars from stover of certain sorghum bmr lines after enzymatic hydrolysis
(www.ct.ornl.gov/symposium/index_files/6Babstracts/6B_01.htm). Therefore, the use of bmr
sorghum cultivars would reduce the cost of biomass-based ethanol production. The potential of
ethanol yields for some of the feedstocks are given in Table 11.
Table 11. The potential of ethanol yields for some of the feedstocks.
Feedstock Liters ethanol ton-1
Maize/sorghum/rice stover 500
Forest thinnings 370
Harwood sawdust 450
Mixed paper 420
*Source: Planning commission.nic.in/reports/genrep/ cmtt_bio.pdf
With several bmr mutant sources available, ICRISAT has a comparative advantage to develop high
biomass-yielding bmr sorghum hybrids suitable for enhancing ethanol production from stover.
Hybrid parents and hybrids based on the brown midrib phenotype are currently under evaluation.
Public-private partnerships and Consortia
Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) at ICRISAT is a technology commercialization wing of ICRISAT. ABI
supports perspective entrepreneurs to commercialize agro-technology through business
facilitation support. ABI facilitated Rusni Distilleries Pvt. Ltd, promoted by a non-resident Indian
for sweet sorghum based ethanol production. M/s. Rusni Distilleries (P) Ltd set up a 40 KLPD
distillery, a multi feed stock unit near Hyderabad, India. It produces fuel ethanol (99.4% alcohol),
Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) (96%) and pharma alcohol (99.8%) from agro-based raw materials
such as sweet sorghum stalks (juice) and molded grains, cassava and rotten frutis. Nealy 1000
farmers grew sweet sorghum (800 ha) during 2007 rainy season entering in buy-back agreement
with RUSNI. ICRISAT supplied the the sweet sorghum seed and provided technical back stopping
for enhanced productivity. Buoyed with the success, more and more famres are coming forward
to take up the crop in 2008.
Table 12. Rusni Distilleries Ltd.- plant production capacity.
Ethanol/day (kL) 35-40
Sweet sorghum cane required day-1 (t) 800-875
Cane required for 105 days (t) per season 84000-91875
Area required (rainy season) ha 2300-2600
Area required (postrainy season) ha 3700-4200
Total sweet sorghum area required (ha) 6000-6800
No. of small farmers1 to be involved 3000-3400
1. Small farmers: 2 ha holdings in India; Source: Rusni Distilleries.
ICRISAT has created two platforms for a holistic, pro-poor approach to public-private partnership
so that both the needs of industry for sustainable supplies of feedstock, and the needs of the
poor for a fair sharing of the income, are met for mutual benefit. The first one is the ICRISAT-
Private Sector Sweet Sorghum-Ethanol Research Consortium (SSERC) has been established at
ICRISAT to meet current and future demands of the sweet sorghum-based ethanol distillery units.
As of now four companies are partners to this consortium. The second one is ICRISAT-Private
Seed Sector Sorghum Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (SHPRC) operating with about 17
members. The overall goal of these consortia is to strengthen sweet sorghum research at ICRISAT
and its partners to improve the livelihood options of the smallholder farmers in the SAT. The
research outputs to be generated by ICRISAT under the consortia are as follows:
i) Improved sweet sorghum cultivars (varieties and hybrid parents) for ethanol
production for supplying to members
ii) Strategic research on heterosis, photoperiod and temperature insensitivity,
earliness, yield stability, planting dates, fertilizer application, harvesting,
iii) Socio-economic and institutional research-for-development to innovate pro-
poor, win-win partnership arrangements that ensure that the large revenue
flows into the Bioethanol sector help reduce poverty, hunger and
environmental degradation through sustainable, profitable enterprises.
iv) Building the human resource capacity of the consortium members and the
national partners associated with the consortium members in sweet
sorghum cultivar testing, and seed production.
Decentralized crushing and syrup making units
The biggest challenge in use of sweet sorghum for ethanol production is availability of feed stock
for longer periods. Owing to the short harvest window (one month per season) it is difficult to
supply the feed stock with the centralized model (farmers supplying stalks to the distillery
directly). To increase the feed stock availability for extended periods, ICRISAT is working for
development of cultivars with different maturity durations and promoting sweet sorghum
planting in wider areas, establishment of decentralized syrup making units and harvesting the
stalks one week after cutting the panicles to increase the harvest window. Also an innovative
decentralized model is worked out at ICRISAT. Under decentralized model, the crushing and
syrup making units are established in villages it self. The harvested sweet sorghum stalks are
crushed in the village and the juice is boiled to produce syrup (concentrated solution with 70%
Brix). The syrup is transported to distillery that can be used as feed stock for ethanol production
in the lean season. Thus a combination of both centralized and decentralized models augment
the distillery’s feed stock requirement for ethanol production. In decentralized model, the
farmers can harvest the grain; take Bagasse after crushing stalks for use as animal feed/compost.
Impacts and risks
Impacts are several folds. Besides reducing pollution problems, dependence on non-sustainable
fossil fuels, and total water demand (when compared to corn and sugarcane feed stocks; refer
Table 2), sweet sorghum cultivation fetches farmers an additional net income of US $ 97/ha (per
season) as indicated earlier (refer Table 1) over the traditional system of grain sorghum
cultivation. There is no trade off with food if the farmer harvests the crop at physiological
maturity. The risks from cultivating sweet sorghum are negligible in the sense, even during the
drought years, farmer can harvest more fodder from sweet sorghum compared to grain sorghum.
He can get additional income from sweet sorghum cultivation when there is a tie up with the
industry. If for some reason the tie up fails, the farmer is not the looser because the crop
provides grain, similar in quantity and quality to grain sorghum. Furthermore, he/she gets more
fodder when compared to normal grain sorghum and the quality of fodder in terms of digestibility
is better than normal grain sorghum fodder.
ICRISAT has also tied up with Praj to take ahead Distillation of Sweet Sorghum.
Commercial Scale and acceptability is slow from Agronomists. This can be propagated along
with Cane if Sugar Industry believes in its Ethanol substitution. That would give impetus to
this Crops propagation.
Reddy BVS, Ramesh S, Sanjana Reddy P, Ramaiah B, Salimath PM and Rajashekar Kachapur. 2005.
Sweet Sorghum-A Potential Alternative Raw Material for Bio-ethanol and Bio-energy.
International Sorghum and Millets Newsletter 46:79-86.
India is yet to see Commercialization of Tapioca Ethanol like Thailand, most of Tapioca is used by
Domestic Sago Industry, Textiles, Pharmacy, Paper, Drilling, feed Industries as filling agent and
Scale is low and visible in dry lands in few southern states of Kerala, TN, AP.
Success from Thailand and China need to be replicated with focus to develop seed and milling
Tapioca Distillation produces more effluent and consumes more water and this has been
detrimental. India may not see much of Tapioca Distillation in near future too as Dry land
farmers are looking at Commercial Horticulture crops and Processing.
Thailand has seen several success stories in Cassava distillation, which to extent china has
replicated and Africa is looking at.