Here in South Carolina, Dr. Janice Ryan-Bohac has created unique product that could be a new green industry. The Energy Tuber is a large sweetpotato, developed for its high yield, useful as a new source of biofuel. Leaves and vines are “high in protein and vitamins, and highly digestible”–good for animal feed, according to research cooperators at the University of Florida. The Energy Tuber also contains a valuable “white storage protein, with an amino acid complement similar to egg protein. This white, tasteless, odorless protein powder can be used like whey or soy protein, for sports drinks, baby formula, adult supplements, etc.” as stated on their Indiegogo campaign. Ethanol produced from the Energy Tuber can be used as a biofuel to replace gasoline, or to produce diesel and jet fuel using chemical or biological methods. More information can be seen on the CAREnergy website: http://www.carenergyinfo.com.
Ethanol from the Energy Tuber can produce diesel and jet fuel. The Charleston Regional Business Journal reported on Nov. 2, 2016 that CAREnergy is working with researchers who have a chemical process to turn ethanol into jet fuel. They also report: “Soybean can do about 70 gallons of diesel per acre, canola about 100, corn 300 to 400. My sweetpotato can do 1,800. We get the highest yield of any other carbohydrate feedstock in the temperate zone,” according to Dr. Janice Ryan-Bohac, President and Plant breeder at Carolina Advanced Renewable Energy. This is a product that could shift us away from destructive fossil fuels. The next step for CAREnergy is work with investors to build their first ethanol production plant.
I asked Dr. Ryan-Bohac about current processing of biofuel and she replied: “We have shown in 50 L tests with the National Corn Ethanol Research Center that the eTuber makes ethanol using same process as corn. Crop could be processed in a corn ethanol plant with some modifications. The reason we are fund raising is to work with one of the Federal Dept of Energy laboratories to do a scale-up process and design for the first plant. We have proven the process works, now we need to show big investors that process will scale up, how we will process food and feed products, and to demonstrate the economics work.”
When I asked if they partner with any organic growers, Dr Ryan-Bohac said, “We have grown the energy tuber variety on a certified organic farm with a big California farmer for 3 years. It has performed well since it has resistance to soil insects and nematodes. In contrast the 2 leading vegetable sweetpotato varieties are highly susceptible to these pests. The Energy Tuber uses significantly less pesticides, nitrogen fertilizer and water than corn grown for fuel. We would reduce Green House Gas (GHG) footprint by 75% over gasoline, even more if we use renewable energy to run the plant, and add on the value of the food and feed products produced. “Ryan-Bohac has 2 farmers in South Carolina she’s worked with, as well as “two in California, and three in Florida. Farmers will not grow a lot of this crop until a biofuel plant is built, and then will grow the crop under contract.”
I wondered if it was GMO and she replied, “The Energy Tuber is a sweetpotato that was developed through conventional plant breeding methods. It was NOT developed using Genetic Engineering Methods, thus is not a GMO.”
How would sweetpotatoes fare in the face of unpredictable climate? Ryan-Bohac replied, “Sweetpotato is the 7th largest crop in the world and is grown in many different soils and climatic areas. It is a tropical/semi tropical crop that performs well under high temperatures, with little water and in poor soils. It will grow and maintain yield under climate change much better than temperate crops like corn.”
Marilyn Blizard, Project Coordinator, gave us the news of “CAREnergy’s Energy Tuber, an emerging Clean Energy Fuel technology for changing the world for the better.” Wonderful gifts at every donation level include 50 sweetpotato plants for your garden or 10lbs of vegetable sweetpotatoes for $150 donation.
I believe this action will help to create a world with an economy that works for people and the planet. There is no time to waste getting the green economy underway.
A note about language from Dr. Ryan-Bohac: “Sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas) is one word. The sweet is not an adjective describing a potato (Solanum tuberosum) as sweet describes corn as in ‘sweet corn’. This is why those of us who work on the crop insist on one word.”
A Story With A Revolutionary Twist, Just In Time For Thanksgiving, The Island Connection, 11/15/16
“Will ‘eTubers’ fly as fuel source?” Post & Courier, 3/7/16
Ethanol Potential in Giant Sweet Potatoes, Energy.Agwire.Com, 5/10/11
Sweet Potato Ethanol, South Carolina Breeder Creates Sweet Potatoes for Processing, Biofuels Journal, 5/1/11