Sorghum is an energy efficient and resilient crop commonly grown in South Asia, Africa and Central America.
India launched begin July 2018 its first biofortified variety of sorghum (ICSR 14001) that contains higher levels of iron and zinc than regular sorghum. This is a sign that India is building up on Sorghum.
The new variety was developed by ICRISAT (International Crop Research Institute for the Semi arid Tropics). An MoU was signed between ICRISAT and VNMKV (one of the four Agricultural Universities in the State of Maharashtra) for a large-scale seed production and dissemination.
Sorghum for Food
The improved variety has a higher iron concentration of 45 ppm and Zinc 32 ppm than the original variety 30 ppm Iron and 20 ppm Zinc. It has also a higher protein 11.9% and lower phytate content 4.14 mg/100 g compared to 10% protein and 7.0 mg/100 g phytate).
Sorghum for Bioplastics
Indian scientists believe that new varieties of sorghum are more effective, cheaper and more sustainable than sugarcane to produce bioplastics.
Sorghum varieties RVICSH 28 and ICSV 18542 have a higher biomass production and can generate more than one harvest from a single planting. The best variety of sorghum generated 20 tonnes of dry mass on one hectare in four months time.
Sorghum biomass will probably be used to produce PLA polylactic acid. The transformation process includes saccharification, fermentation and polymerisation.
How do you make bioplastics from Sorghum?
- Sacharification – we hydrolyse polysaccharides into soluble sugars. In other words, we extract sugars from the sorghum biomass.
- Fermentation – bacteria are used to ferment the sugars into lactic acid. This is a common biotechnological process because we use the biological metabolism of bacteria.
- Polymerisation – lactic acid is synthesised by polymerisations and becomes polylactic acid.
Edible cutlery made from Sorghum.
Bakeys, founded in 2010 by Narayana Peesapaty, is an Indian company that developed a groundbreaking alternative to plastic utensils: edible spoons made from sorghum flour, and the spoons are durable, easy to eat, and come in three flavours: plain, sweet and savoury. Read more
Sorghum and biodegradability
ICRISAT Microbiology Team has three microbial strains that can speed up the break down of sorghum bioplastic (64 % degradation in 60 days): Myceliophthora thermophila ATCC-48104, Aspergillus awamori and Bacillus subtilis.
- It looks like India is going for Bioplastics.
- They will choose Sorghum to produce bioplastics as they are growing it in India.
- India may become self-sufficient in terms of bioplastics. They may even develop a business around it like Thailand. Thailand tries to become a bioplastics hub for the “PLA from sugar cane” industry.