Growers Eye Energy Crops to Diversify Land Use

Growers Eye Energy Crops to Diversify Land Use

Sorghum - CC license by Flickr user cyanocorax

 Farmers are willing and able to grow more switchgrass and other crops that will be used solely to produce energy and biofuels.

Ceres, a company that develops energy crops, says more than 70 percent of U.S. growers they surveyed are interested in growing energy crops and also have under-utilized land that would work for switchgrass, sorghum, miscanthus and other crops.

The use of dedicated energy crops — as these plants are called since they can only be used to make fuel or burned to provide energy — is more appealing than making fuels from corn or palm oil since those crops also provide food. In addition, biofuels made from dedicated energy crops have half the carbon emissions of corn ethanol or palm oil biodiesel.

The most appealing aspects of energy crops to growers are that they'd help farmers diversify their operations, better utilize under-performing land and use fewer inputs, according to Ceres.

Since anyone buying energy crops would want to be assured they'd get a reliable supply, Ceres also asked growers about long-term contracts. Again, more than 70 percent are interested in growing energy crops under contract, and almost 50 percent expect they'll have at least half of their acreage in long-term contracts.

Although growers are mostly interested in energy crops, Ceres says there is also some frustration due to what farmers see as delays in biofuels funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $3.4 billion for research into biofuels as well as building cellulosic biofuel refineries.

Sorghum - CC license by Flickr user cyanocorax