Sweet sorghum is a C4 plant with the following interesting characteristics: (i) its growth cycle is short (about four months) facilitating double cropping, (ii) it can be easily grown from seeds, (iii) its production can be completely mechanized, (iv) it can produce sugar in the stalk and starch in the grain, (v) it has a high water and nutrient use efficiency, (vi) the bagasse produced from sweet sorghum has high biological value when used as forage and (vii) it has a wide adaptability to different environments.
However, unlike sugarcane and maize, sweet sorghum has little breeding history. The potential of yield improvement through genetic enhancement is thus very high.
The main objective of SWEETFUEL is to optimize yields in temperate, semi-arid and sub-tropical regions by genetic enhancement and improvement of agricultural practices.
In order to achieve this objective, activities of the SWEETFUEL project include to:
- Breed sweet sorghum ideotypes specially adapted to temperate climates, drought prone environments and poor soils
- Improve knowledge on the relationships among traits for sugar accumulation, plant phenology, stay-green and terminal drought tolerance
- Understand the agronomic determinants of optimized yield and recommend cultivation and harvest techniques
- Provide a multi-criteria (social, economic and environmental) sustainability evaluation of sweet sorghum value chains
- Promote the exchanges between RTD experts, stakeholders and key actors
- Identify and monitor ethical risks resulting from ethanol production from sweet sorghum and to propose guidelines for policy makers
The SWEETFUEL partnership comprises 10 partners from research, academia and industry. The partners of SWEETFUEL are CIRAD (France, Coordinator), ICRISAT (India), EMBRAPA (Brazil), KWS (Germany), IFEU (Germany), UNIBO (Italy), UCSC (Italy), ARC (South Africa), UANL (Mexico), and WIP (Germany).