Assessing Maturity in Sweet Sorghum Hybrids and its Role in Daily Biomass Supply
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Sweet sorghum is a highly versatile C4 grass noted for its improved drought tolerance and water use efficiency relative to sugarcane. Sweet sorghum is well suited for ethanol production due to a rapid growth rate, high biomass production, and a wide range of adaptation. Unlike the 12-18 month growth cycle of sugarcane, sweet sorghum produces a harvestable crop in three to five months. Sweet sorghum and sugarcane crops are complementary and in combination can extend the sugar mill seasons in many regions of the world to an estimated 8 months. Seasonal growth and weather patterns both optimize and restrict production of each crop to specific times of the year, however these are different for the two crops. In addition to temporally spacing the date of harvest between crops, the genetic variability of maturity within the crops may also be used to extend the mill seasons; specific hybrids can be used and selected to maximize yield throughout the harvest season. Under favorable growing environments, sweet sorghum hybrids of all maturity groups produced sugar yields ranging from 2.8 to 4.9 MT/ha. Early/medium, late, and very late maturity hybrids planted during April, May, and June planting dates are necessary to maximize the mill season. In this study, early/medium maturity hybrids planted during April and May matured for harvest between late July and mid-August. June planting dates were unfavorable for early/medium maturity hybrids. In addition, late and very late maturity hybrids planted during April matured for harvest in late August; the additional growing season thus resulted in higher sugar yields. Timely planting of late and very late maturity hybrids in April, May, and June produce the maximum yields for harvests after mid August. Intermittent use of late and very late maturity hybrids can therefore extend sugar milling seasons into mid November if so desired.
Burks, Payne (2012). Assessing Maturity in Sweet Sorghum Hybrids and its Role in Daily Biomass Supply. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from