Dordt College News

Sorghum to ethanol field day Sept. 17 at Dordt College

September 8, 2008


On-farm production of ethanol fuel from sweet sorghum will be displayed in a field day at Dordt College Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 2 p.m. The project by Dordt College’s Agriculture and Engineering departments will be discussed by Dr. Ethan Brue and Dr. Ron Vos at Dordt’s Science and Technology Center (S101), followed by a tour of equipment in operation and the sorghum plots at Dordt’s Ag Stewardship Center. This field day, sponsored by Practical Farmers of Iowa, is open to the public.

The ethanol from sorghum project was initiated by Dr. Ethan Brue, Associate Professor of Engineering at Dordt College. Brue has been involved in energy system design and bio-renewable development projects for over 20 years, and grew up on a farm that produced ethanol fuel from sweet sorghum on an experimental basis in the early 1980s. Before coming to Dordt College, he designed and analyzed biomass gasification and combustion units as a research and development engineer for Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

The Iowa Energy Center (IEC) awarded funding to Dordt College’s Engineering Department for students to explore a variety of system designs and develop a farm-scale sweet sorghum to ethanol production system. Vermeer Manufacturing is an industrial collaborator on the project, which is also supported by SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension), Iowa Farmers Union, and Successful Farming.

“This aim of this project is to demonstrate a prototype of an on-farm crop-to-fuel process,” said Brue. “We hope it will offer information to regional producers about the advantages and opportunities of small-scale systems.” He adds, “Enabling farmers to move from producing subsidized commodities to marketing a value-added product would aid in strengthening the economic potential of agricultural communities in Iowa.”

The sweet sorghum for the project is being raised at the 160-acre Agricultural Stewardship Center (a farm operated by Dordt for the purpose of ag related research and education). Several varieties of sorghum were planted and tested for their suitability for Northwest Iowa growing conditions.

Everyone that would like to see the equipment in operation, view sorghum research trials, and take part in the discussion of economics and feasibility of home-grown ethanol is welcome to attend. Those arriving in Sioux Center on Hwy. 75 (N. Main Ave.) should go east on 7th St. NE, then south on 4th Ave NE. Turn east into the campus at 5th St. NE. Continue past the Science and Technology Center and park behind the building. Follow the signs to the workshop in the Science and Technology Center. Later in the afternoon the workshop continues at the Ag Stewardship Center north of Sioux Center on Hwy. 75.

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