yes, all of those vines are kudzu. photo via flickr
Our colleagues over at Discovery News have brought attention to a new report that an invasive plant that literally covers some parts of the American South could be a potential feedstock for biofuel.
Kudzu is a vine which was brought to North American from Asia in 1876 to help prevent soil erosion, which has since become an utter nuisance in some areas of the country. It can grow up to 6.5 feet a week and its roots are nearly impossible to eradicate entirely.
New research published in Biomass and Bioenergy shows that kudzu could produce up to 270 gallons of ethanol per acre: Not very much when compared to rapeseed, jatropha or palm oil but easily as much as can be produced from corn.
The catch in this is that domesticating kudzu may not be possible, harvesting it in the wild would be difficult, and then there is the issue of invasiveness. Given how the plant spreads, do you really want to plant more of the stuff?
Just to make sure we're all on the same page: Kudzu is being proposed as a feedstock to produce ethanol, while the other feedstocks I mentioned generally are used to make biodiesel. Two different fuels to be sure, but ultimately each can be used with varying degrees of utility in the internal combustion engine. The point I was alluding to is that ultimately this is about how much liquid biofuel can be produced per acre and according to this report kudzu doesn't have as high a yield as other feedstocks for liquid fuels. Sorry if my lack of specificity in the comparison has caused any confusion.