March 18, 2014

Brazil Research Focused on Ethanol Efficiency


20140311_152539_resizedNebraska Corn Board member Dennis Gengenbach of Smithfield, Nebraska, submits this post from the current fact-finding mission to Brazil:

Ethanol production in Brazil is significantly different from what we have in Nebraska.

The trip to the Brazilian Bioethanol & Science Laboratory was a learning experience. In the past, sugarcane was burned to remove the sharp leaves and leave the stalks behind, which contain the sugar. Because of environmental concerns, the Brazilian government banned burning and forced the growers to manually remove the leaves and cut the stems off to harvest the sugarcane—a monumental, labor-intensive process.

Mechanical equipment is being used in some areas; however, only one row of sugarcane is harvested at a time. One of the projects being conducted at the lab will develop a machine to accomplish the sugarcane harvest more than one row at a time.

After learning about the genomics and harvesting process, it was a fascinating experience to see sugarcane planting in the field. They have to till the dirt to prepare the soil. Without tilling the soil is too hard and the sugarcane root won’t be able to grow and nutrients can’t reach the plant.

They till about one meter or three feet down. It is also common practice to cover the sugarcane stalk that is planted in the ground (which becomes the plant) by hand with dirt. During planting, ash, lime, and phosphorus are applied. This is the only time nutrients are given to the plant. Although there may be a more efficient process of planting sugarcane, much of the work is done by hand.

The United States is much more advanced in farming practices and is continuously looking for ways to improve these practices. Although Brazil is advancing, it is at a much slower pace.

Tomorrow we are off to the largest sugarcane mill in Brazil. They harvest 800 million tons per year.

PHOTO ABOVE: Dennis Gengenbach of the Nebraska Corn Board (left) talks with representatives from the Bioethanol Science & Technology Laboratory in Brazil.

No comments:

Post a Comment