Scientists Study Biofuels Made from Invasive Plant Species

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Corn may be one source of ethanol, but why deplete a substantial food source when other organisms - particularly unwanted plants - could fuel vehicles?

That's the logic behind a study being conducted by the University of Toronto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.; The two partners are currently looking into the viability of using kudzu, a vine-like plant that's classified as an invasive species, to create biofuel. A plant native to Japan, kudzu was promoted in the Southern U.S. in the 1950s in order to control erosion.; It was soon discovered that the region's warm climate encouraged almost uncontrollable growth, creating many instances where the vine would simply swallow up other low-lying vegetation. Although its invasive nature isn't good news for farmers and gardeners alike, kudzu's high levels of carbohydrates are a boon for biofuel producers.; Nearly 68 percent of the plant is carbohydrate, leading researchers to suggest that an acre of kudzu could produce 270 gallons of ethanol.; That's just about even with corn, which yields between 210 and 320 gallons of ethanol per acre.; Kudzu also requires little fertilization and irrigation, making it cheaper to grow than corn. While the plant sounds promising as a possible fuel source, researchers caution that unless existing ethanol plants - usually dedicated to producing corn-sourced ethanol - can convert kudzu without expensive changes, it may not be feasible.; Even so, they estimate the plant could account for as much as eight percent of the U.S. biofuel supply. Source: Discovery Channel

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