Wild Grass Unleashed
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - A wild grass found in Asia and Africa could hold the key to dreams of providing an alternative to fossil fuels blamed for global warming, experts said.
The grass, which is used as an ornamental plant in the United States, had produced yields between five and 10 times greater than corn...
"To make a pound of alfalfa or spinach requires about 600 pounds of water, while to grow a pound of Miscanthus requires only about 200 pounds of water," said Chris Somerville, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University.
Somerville was speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting, where climate change and sustainable development are two of the key themes.
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Bush wants the United States to increase production of biofuels to 35 billion gallons (133 billion liters) a year by 2017, roughly seven times the present levels of five billion gallons a year, produced by corn-ethanol refineries.
Critics say Bush's goals are unrealistic because it would mean finding an additional 129,000 square miles of farmland -- about the size of Kansas and Iowa combined -- to plant enough corn to meet the demand.
However, Somerville said Miscanthus-derived ethanol, which is distilled from the fermentation of sugars from the entire plant rather than just the grains, results in a higher yield per unit of land.
Miscanthus produces about twice as much biomass per acre without irrigation as other grasses, and reaching Bush's target of 35 billion gallons of biofuels annually would require far fewer acres of land.
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