Chromatin to contract sorghum acres for Pacific Ethanol

By Susanne Retka Schill | February 19, 2013

Sorghum developer Chromatin Inc. has signed a multi-year agreement with Pacific Ethanol Inc. to supply the California ethanol producer with locally-grown grain sorghum, with an eventual goal of 30,000 acres.

About 100 growers attended the company’s first grower meeting held two weeks ago in Modesto, Calif. “They had great questions,” said John Fulcher, director of business development.

The company hopes to contract about 10,000 acres this year in the southern part of California’s Central Valley and another 10,000 in the north. Because of its relatively low water requirements, grain sorghum is generating great interest in areas where irrigation water is costly or limited. “A lot of growers wait to see what the snow pack in the mountains will be before they make their final cropping decisions,” Fulcher added.  Chromatin will be contracting acres with the production to be delivered to the valley’s three ethanol plants. “Growers will get paid parity to locally grown corn,” Fulcher said. “Normally, grain sorghum trades at a discount to corn.”

Pacific Ethanol ran a trial with locally grown sorghum for Chromatin in 2012 at its Stockton, Calif., plant. “We are pleased to extend our collaboration with Pacific Ethanol, which previously confirmed that locally-grown sorghum is well-suited to ethanol production,” Chromatin CEO Daphne Preuss said.

“We have taken initiatives to diversify our feedstock base and further reduce the carbon profile of our ethanol,” said Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol. “Our agreement with Chromatin represents one of these important initiatives and will help California farmers to produce sorghum for production of low carbon ethanol and high value animal feed.”

Chromatin is currently working with California growers who are attracted to sorghum as a grain source because it is easy to grow, uses less fertilizer and water than corn and is tolerant to both heat and drought conditions. It is also an effective double crop alternative behind wheat or in rotation with cotton and vegetable crops. In addition, the residue from the harvest of sorghum grain can be used as high quality animal feed.

“As the benefits of sorghum become more widely known, especially its resiliency, flexibility and its affordability compared to corn, we are optimistic that it will become the feedstock of choice in ethanol production,” Preuss said.