University of Illinois researchers have found out that tropical maize, when grown in the US midwest, may be a far superior crop for biofuel production in comparison to corn.
Early research results show that tropical maize, when grown in the Midwest, requires few crop inputs such as nitrogen fertilizer, chiefly because it does not produce any ears. It also is easier for farmers to integrate into their current operations than some other dedicated energy crops because it can be easily rotated with corn or soybeans, and can be planted, cultivated and harvested with the same equipment U.S. farmers already have. Finally, tropical maize stalks are believed to require less processing than corn grain, corn stover, switchgrass, Miscanthus giganteus and the scores of other plants now being studied for biofuel production.
What it does produce, straight from the field with no processing, is 25 percent or more sugar – mostly sucrose, fructose and glucose.
Since the crop does not produce a lot of ears, these sugars are concentrated in the stalks, and because they are mostly simple sugars, these materials do not require pre-treatment necessary to convert the the starch found in corn grain and the cellulose in switchgrass, corn stover and other biofuel crops. The tropical maize plants also produce very tall stalks when grown in the during midwest summers.