In some regions of Nicaragua, sorghum used to be the poor man

As a war of words rages over biofuels and their impact on world food supplies, researchers in India are promoting sweet sorghum as a crop that combines the best of both worlds. The plants, which grow three metres high in dry conditions, yield grain that can be eaten by people or animals; their stalks provide sweet juice for bioethanol production and a crushed residue that can be burnt or fed to cattle.

A corn-like plant that can grow as high as an elephant's eye on some of Earth's driest farmland shows promise as a "smart" biofuel that won't cut into world food supplies, an agriculture expert said on Monday. Sweet sorghum, used in the United States mostly as animal feed, offers a 10-foot (3 metre) stalk that can be turned into ethanol without damaging the food grain that grows at its top, Mark Winslow said in an interview.

Once, plant breeders dreamed of plumper tomatoes, heartier soybeans and juicier corn kernels. These days, visions of squat poplars and earless corn stalks are dancing in their heads. They are hoping these new fangled crops will make cost-effective biofuels.

One way to cut greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere may be to exploit a particular talent some plants have of locking away carbon. All we need to do is choose the right strains of crops to grow, and they will sequester carbon for us for millennia. That's the idea of two agricultural scientists in Australia, who say the trick is to grow grasses such as wheat and sorghum, which lock up large amounts of carbon in so-called plantstones, also known as phytoliths.

Underlying objective of food security programme in India is to ensure the availability of foodgrains to the common people at an affordable price. The PDS system in India is based on the wheat and rice model, which in many areas were never the staple grains for household consumption. It was millets and pulses which were core to dryland farming and consumption in the country.

Sweet sorghum is a special type of sorghum which accumulates sugars in its stalks. The unique high carbon assimilation capability of sorghum crop coupled with another desirable trait of accumulating high levels of extractable sugars in the stalk can be exploited for extensive use of sorghum as raw material for manufacturing ethanol, jaggery, syrup and paper.However, with the ever increasing demand for industrial and fuel-grade ethanol, the scope of using sweet sorghum in ethanol industry as a supplementary raw material to sugarcane molasses is catching up.

The assessment of energy and greenhouse gas balances is part of a larger effort by UN-Energy to provide decision making tools and aids to Governments and others involved in the planning and implementation of bioenergy development.

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