Sweet Sorghum Pilot-Sites in the Philippines

Sweet sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] is similar to grain sorghum with sugar-rich stalks. Being a water-use efficient crop, sweet sorghum has the potential to be a good alternative feedstock for ethanol production.

“Sweet Sorghum production is a job-creation investment.” Thus stated Director General William D. Dar of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) during the field visit to some farms in Northern Philippines spearheaded by Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agriculture Research (DA-BAR) from 15 to 19 January 2007.

Dr. Dar, together with Dr. Belum S. Reddy (ICRISAT principal scientist on sweet sorghum), Dr. K.B. Saxena (ICRISAT principal scientist on pigeon pea), Dr. Rosanna Mula (Benguet State University), Dr. Santiago R. Obien (DA-BAR) and staff from DA-BAR Management Information System Division (MISD) visited the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Batac, Ilocos Norte and some farms in Pangasinan and Ilocos Region. MMSU serves as the pilot-site for seed trials on sweet sorghum.

The group first visited Rosales, Pangasinan, under the leadership of Mayor Ricardo Revita. Mr. Rod Valentine from Biofuel Energy, a private sector in Australia, is eyeing Rosales for an establishment of the first distillery in the Philippines. He looks forward to improving the quality of life of people in Rosales through the project. The distillery developed in the community will also provide them health and educational needs. Another LGU counterpart showing interest in the project is former Rep. Eric P. Acuna of Villasis, Pangasinan.

One promising intervention in Ilocos Norte is the village-based mill located in Barangay Bungon, Batac, Ilocos Norte. A commissioning was held on the Barangay-based sweet sorghum cane mill. Products include ethanol, vinegar, jaggery, syrup, cookies, and popgrain. These would later be tapped for seed production. The LGUs also extended their support to the project.

Dr. Flora Gagni, DA OIC-regional executive director for Region I, presented the current status of the Ilocos region. Dr. William D. Dar looks forward to the inclusion of sweet sorghum, pigeon pea, and peanut in the list of priority commodities under the high-value commercial crops.

In an interview with Dr. Dar, the ICRISAT official shared that local farmers benefit the most from this “joint-venture model” to be established by the investors. These farmers, the smallholders, will serve as partners of the investors. “Farmers will benefit tremendously because with two cropping seasons of sweet sorghum a year, they can generate a minimum of P50,000 net income and a maximum of P65,000,” Dr. Dar said.

With the existing techniques on the adoption and testing activities with regards to sweet sorghum, two varieties that have good potentials for commercial venture have been identified.

This is where the national research systems come into picture. DA-BAR, MMSU, and PCARRD in tandem with the local government units (LGUs) along with ICRISAT will develop promotional strategies to expand sweet sorghum production in the country. With this, Dr. Dar said “In the end, we want our smallholders to benefit from this project not only the investors.” The requirement for labor will create jobs in the area. As has been said, it is a “job-creation investment” which helps farmers increase their income.

“I am a Filipino, and I want Philippines to benefit after India and Uganda,” Dr. Dar concluded.

Benefits of Sorghum

  • Soaring prices of fossil-fuel and environmental pollution associated with its use, have resulted in increased worldwide interest in the production and use of bio-fuels. Both developed and developing countries have a common concern, which has triggered public and private investments in bio-fuel crop research and development, and in production of bio-fuel.
  • Many developing countries including India have made it mandatory to blend petrol with ethanol. Large quantities of ethanol are needed to meet current and future blending requirements.

Comparative economics of sweet sorghum-based ethanol production Cost of producing one liter ethanol from sweet sorghum is lower than that from sugarcane molasses (the most commonly used feedstock for ethanol production in India and other countries).

  • In addition to sweet-stalk cane yield, sweet sorghum provides a grain yield of 2 to 6 t ha-1.
  • The stillage from sweet sorghum after extraction of juice has higher forage value (rich in micronutrients and minerals). Thus, food/fodder requirements of small-holder farmers will not be compromised if sweet sorghum is used for ethanol production.
  • Ethanol production process from sweet sorghum is less polluting than sugarcane and the resulting ethanol has clean burning quality with high octane rating.

For more information, contact:

Bureau of Agricultural Research – Department of Agriculture
3/F RDMIC Bldg., Visayas Ave. cor. Elliptical Rd., Diliman, Quezon City 1104
Tel. No: (63-2) 928-8505 loc. 2043-2044
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.bar.gov.ph

author: Ma. Eloisa E. Hernandez and Dr. Belum S. Reddy, ICRISAT

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