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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Developing Technologies that Enable Growth and Profitability in the Commercial Conversion of Sugarcane, Sweet Sorghum, and Energy Beets into Sugar, Advanced Biofuels, and Bioproducts

Location: Commodity Utilization Research

Project Number: 6054-41000-110-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 22, 2014
End Date: Sep 21, 2019

The overall objective of this project is to enhance the value of sugarcane, sweet sorghum, and energy beets, and their major commercial products sugar, biofuel and bioproducts, by improving postharvest quality and processing. Specific objectives are: 1. Develop commercially-viable technologies that reduce or eliminate undesirable effects of starch and color on sugar processing/refining efficiency and end-product quality. 2. Develop commercially-viable technologies that reduce or eliminate undesirable effects of high viscosity on sugar processing/refining efficiency and end-product quality. 3. Develop commercially-viable technologies to increase the stability and lengthen storage of sugar feedstocks for the manufacture of sugars, advanced biofuels, and bioproducts. 4. Develop commercially-viable technologies for the biorefining of sugar crop feedstocks into advanced biofuels and bioproducts. 5. Identify and characterize field sugar crop quality traits that affect sugar crop refining/biorefining efficiency and end-product quality, and collaborate with plant breeders in the development of new cultivars/hybrids to optimize desirable quality traits. 6. Develop, in collaboration with commercial partners, technologies to improve the efficiency and profitability of U.S. sugar manufacturing and enable the commercial production of marketable products from residues (e.g, bagasse, trash) and by-product streams (e.g., low purity juices) associated with postharvest sugar crop processing. Please see Project Plan for all listed Sub-objectives.

There are currently two major trends in the U.S. with respect to sugar crops: (1) the manufacture of higher quality raw sugar for supply to sugar refineries, and (2) the production of biofuels and bioproducts at new, flexible biorefineries. In recent years, mostly because of the increased harvesting of green sugarcane with leaves and tops, higher concentrations of starches and color have tended to occur. Some U.S. sugar refiners have placed a penalty for high starch concentrations in raw sugar. The occurrence of larger concentrations of insoluble starch in downstream factory products have exacerbated viscosity problems and reduced the efficiency of amylase enzymes to control starch. In close collaboration with industrial partners ARS scientists will develop new enzyme systems and other commercially viable technologies to control starch, viscosity, and color in factory and refinery streams, while also developing a method for measuring both insoluble and soluble starch in sugar products at the factory and refinery. Stable, storable, easily transportable, and available year-round supplies of sugar crop feedstocks, including sweet sorghum and energy beets, are needed for the conversion of sugars into substitute biofuels and bioproducts normally manufactured from fossil products. In close collaboration with industrial partners, ARS scientists will develop commercially-viable technologies for the extraction, stabilization, concentration, and fermentation of juices and syrups from sweet sorghum and energy beet feedstocks that will enable the deployment, growth, and profitability of new commercial biorefineries. Commercially-viable technologies will also be developed that are crucial to mitigate cultivar, seasonal, and environmental quality variations on feedstock performance.

Last Modified: 06/22/2017
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