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Published on August 21st, 2008 | by Ariel Schwartz

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Sweet Potato and Cassava More Efficient Than Corn In Ethanol Study

August 21st, 2008 by  


sweet potato

According to the US Department of Agriculture,  recent experiments show that sweet potatoes and tropical cassava yield two to three times as much carbohydrate for ethanol production as field corn. Sweet potatoes and cassava also require significantly less fertilizer and pesticide than corn.

The experiments are unique in that all three crops were grown at the same time in two different areas of the country.

But sweet potatoes and cassava are not without disadvantages.


The two crops have higher start-up costs than corn, so without big subsidies farmers may not see a reason to hop on the bandwagon. The study notes that sweet potato and cassava only have greater potential than corn if economical harvesting and processing techniques are developed.

And while cassava and sweet potato are not staple foods like corn, they still take up valuable land that could be used for much-needed food production.

Additionally, the two crops only reach the lower limits of sugarcane’s production ability. So while the discovery of their efficiency is a milestone in the search for better ethanol, we still have a long way to go.

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About the Author

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.



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