U. of I. Receives Bioenergy Federal Grant

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced on Wednesday, June 24 that it had received a $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to enable two years of intensified research on energy sorghum. The grant will help cover the cost of semi-robotic farm machinery that will roll between rows of sorghum plants and sense the genetic information contained within the plants’ stems and leaves. This information will control researchers’ efforts to achieve success in the breeding of improved strains of the potential new crop.

High-biomass sorghum shows potential in carbon capture and green energy production. Plant breeders in Texas have grown sorghum stalks up to 20 feet tall, which can be harvested for distillation into ethanol and other energy products. The plants have to be carefully bred so as not to produce flowers and seeds.

Eastern Illinois was, for many generations, a longtime leader in the production of grains belonging to the sorghum family. The prolific crop, which up until now has often been grown for its small seeds, is used for stock feed, bird seed, and broom grass.