New Dual-Purpose Bioenergy, Forage Crop Set for Release
by Kay Ledbette (Texas A&M AgriLife) … Russ Jessup, an AgriLife Research perennial grass breeder in College Station, said he is introducing a new biofuel-biomass feedstock that is a hybrid “similar to seedless watermelons, seedless grapes and other sterile triploid crops.”
Jessup is utilizing two grass species: pearl millet, a grain crop, and Napier grass, which is a very high-biomass crop that can be crossed to make progeny that are sterile triploids in the field.
“This is a dual-use crop with a low seed cost, high yield potential and quality perennial biomass suitable for both forage and dedicated biofuels,” he said. “So in light of current downtrends in oil prices, this crop can stand on its own as a forage crop in the interim, until that reverses.”
The hybrid is not the only product the Texas A&M soil and crop sciences assistant professor intends to provide. He also will be releasing improved lines of each parent stock.
The plants he has growing in fields west of College Station are actual hybrids that can be planted from seed and will grow in a producer’s field as a perennial feedstock, Jessup said. And it will not set seed of its own, so it is sterile and environmentally benign.
He said the crop also would work as a high-value pelleted feed amendment. His current prospects are to develop this in the southern U.S. or regions where high-value feedstocks for dairy cattle and other end uses are needed.
“Both the parental species and the hybrid are extremely heat and drought tolerant, as well as very water-use efficient,” he said. “They are several-fold more efficient than energy cane or sugarcane. And compared to alfalfa for forage, they can produce four to five times the amount of high-quality protein per unit of water.” READ MORE