Effects of planting date on sugar and ethanol yield of sweet sorghum grown in Arizona

Valerie H. Teetor, Denise V. Duclos, Elisabeth T. Wittenberg, Kelly M. Young, Jeerawan Chawhuaymak, Mark R. Riley, Dennis T. Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) is an annual crop currently being investigated for biofuel production in the arid southwest United States (U.S.). Sweet sorghum is an ideal candidate because it can be grown under reduced inputs (water, fertilizer) and responds more efficiently to stresses than traditional crops. Many varieties have been bred for high sugar, syrup, and forage production, but much biodiversity still remains to be utilized.Studies performed in 2006 and 2007 found that high biomass and percent juice extracted were the best predictors of potential ethanol yield per area. This investigation was undertaken to determine what effects planting dates have on overall sugar and predicted ethanol yields.Four varieties (Dale, M81E, Theis, and Topper) were planted in April, May, June, and July of 2008. They were harvested at physiological maturity, with dates ranging from August 26 to December 2. Biomass, juice weight, and Brix of the juice were recorded in the field. Samples were analyzed in the laboratory by High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) for fructose, glucose, and sucrose.Theoretical ethanol yields were calculated based on biomass, juice weight, and percent sugar. These were compared to actual yields obtained from laboratory-scale fermentations of the harvested juice, which ranged from 7.4% to 11.2% (58.1-88.6gL-1). Since our predictive model uses the maximum conversion rate of sugar to ethanol and this was not reached in the lab, the predicted yields were always higher than the actual yields. However, the model can be a useful tool for estimating ethanol yield per area.Total sugars and predicted ethanol production were influenced by planting date, but the degree of the effects depended on the cultivar planted. Overall a May planting date at this location is preferable due to consistently higher values for the yield components analyzed, and Theis is not recommended due to its high susceptibility to heat. Sweet sorghum juice has been successfully fermented into ethanol, which indicates this crop may be able to play a transitory role in the emerging biofuel market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1300
Number of pages8
JournalIndustrial Crops and Products
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Biomass
  • Ethanol
  • Fermentation
  • Planting date
  • Sugar
  • Sweet sorghum
  • Yield

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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