Oklahoma State University


Sugarcane as a Biofuel Crop

Sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) is a proven source of biofuel, especially in Brazil where a high proportion of fuel for cars and trucks is already from sugarcane processed into ethanol.  Increasing the acreage of sugarcane in Brazil has caused environmental problems where natural grasslands and forests are replaces with cane fields.

Sugarcane is a genus of several species of tall perennial grasses (family Poaceae, tribe Andropogoneae), native to warm temperate to tropical regions of the Old World. They have stout, jointed, fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar and measure two to six meters tall. All of the sugarcane species interbreed, and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

Sugarcane is a tropical species and cannot survive in areas with cold winters resulting in limited production area in the U.S.  Primary production for sugarcane is Hawaii, Florida, and Louisiana, with limited production in Texas and other Gulf coast states.   Most of the area suitable for sugarcane production in the U.S. is already in production; therefore, using sugarcane for biofuel would be in direct competition with sugar production.

Almost 200 countries grow sugarcane to produce 1,324.6 million tons (more than six times the amount of sugar beet produced).   The world's largest producer of sugarcane is Brazil followed by India.  Uses of sugarcane include the production of sugar, molasses, rum, soda, cachaça (the national spirit of Brazil) and ethanol for fuel.  Bagasse, the material that remains after sugarcane crushing may be burned to provide both heat, used in the mills, and electricity.

Web sites about sugarcane as a biofuel crop:





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