The continued demand for cleaner-burning fuels has Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas AgriLife Research specialists working to determine which varieties of sweet sorghum will produce the most ethanol.

Dr. Brent Bean, an agronomist with AgriLife Extension and AgriLife Research, recently harvested sweet sorghum plots grown at the AgriLife Research farm near Bushland. Bean's plots are a part of a federal Sun Grant project examining the production of biofuels.

The research plots allow the comparison of different varieties and seeding rates of sweet sorghum, Bean said. With the use of a sorghum mill, which squeezes the juice from the sorghum stalks, he can take measurements that ultimately allow him to see how much ethanol would be produced on a per-acre basis.

Bean said the trial is made up of new sweet sorghum hybrids or varieties developed by AgriLife Research sorghum breeder Dr. Bill Rooney. Varieties are planted under both dryland and irrigated conditions. In addition to comparing varieties, Bean is also comparing five seeding rates or seed populations planted.

In each of the 30-foot-long variety plots, 10 feet of the row is hand-harvested with a machete, he said. The stalks are bundled together and taken out of the field where they are weighed, then six plants from each harvested sample are run through the sorghum mill.