California-Grown Sorghum Used in Ethanol Production

Using sorghum seed provided by Chicago-based Chromatin, Inc., L and R Mussi Farms of Stockton, CA produced 40 acres of sorghum that were harvested and delivered to Pacific Ethanol’s ethanol production plant in Stockton, CA.

“We were pleasantly surprised by sorghum’s flexibility. It’s a high-yielding, easy to grow crop regardless of environmental conditions, and it uses less fertilizer and less water than corn,” said Rudy Mussi co-owner of Mussi Farms. Daphne Preuss, Chromatin’s CEO commented “We were pleased to see that growers were able to plant and produce high quality sorghum with minimal modifications to their current practices and that ethanol plants encountered no difficulties in substituting sorghum for corn. In addition, Chromatin has shown that the residue left over after the harvest of sorghum grain can be used as high quality animal feed, further enhancing the output from the land used in production of this crop.”

Ethanol plants in California have been seeking alternative crops for corn to reduce feedstock costs, improve carbon footprint, and to source feedstock from locally grown energy-efficient crops. While sorghum imported from other regions has been used in California ethanol plants in the past, Chromatin’s program is the first instance of supplying locally grown grain to the Pacific Ethanol plant in Stockton, CA, resulting in greater cost efficiency and an improved carbon footprint. Consequently, by using sorghum grain, ethanol producers may qualify as Advanced Bio-fuel Producers and become eligible for financial incentives.

Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol’s CEO, stated, “During the third quarter, Pacific Ethanol used sorghum for approximately 30 percent of the feedstock at our Stockton plant. Blended with corn, sorghum has similar conversion properties to corn and produces even lower carbon ethanol.”

Chromatin is exploring other opportunities to grow sorghum grain in California and expects to expand its production in 2013.