China Daily reports that within five years the world’s fastest-growing economy, and vehicle market, will wean itself from corn as a feedstock for ethanol production and instead embrace the use of sweet potatoes, sorghum and cassava, all three of which are high-starch alternatives to corn — that is, processing them wouldn’t require a cellulosic approach. “Cassava and sweet potato both are high-yield plants, and though edible, they are not used as staple food. So their use as raw material, as opposed to that of corn, won’t create any artificial shortage of food products,” according to the report.
What does China know that North America doesn’t? I should point out that a group of farmers in southwestern Ontario have formed a co-operative that aims to build an ethanol plant that uses locally grown sweet potatoes, sorghum and millet as feedstock. All three crops are considered ideal for the sandy, light soil unique to the region, which has traditionally relied on tobacco, ginseng and peanut crops to fuel the local economy. I wrote about this venture back in January — I think it’s high time to get an update from them.
Here’s a thought: Perhaps Ontario government should back this co-operative so that the region builds up some skills in sweet potato and sorghum farming and ethanol production that can be exported to the Chinese, which in five years will be looking for ways to ramp up quickly.