Ceres, Inc. has announced that it has begun booking switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum seed under its Blade Energy Crops label. The highly anticipated launch marks the first seed sales of non-food, low-carbon crops developed specifically as raw materials for biofuels and biopower. The company simultaneously launched a Blade Web site to support direct-to-farm sales.
The company reported the first Blade products build on the inherent advantages of these highly efficient crops, offering double-digit biomass yield gains in many cases — a remarkable level of improvement by crop science standards. High yields are needed since widely dispersed sources of biomass are cost-prohibitive to harvest and transport.
Anna Rath, vice president of commercial development, says that switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum can provide new options for growers, especially on underperforming acres. While she expects the bulk of Blade seed to be sold to bioenergy companies this first year, the company has set aside seed for growers interested in gaining experience with these crops as the market for biomass develops.
Blade Sales Director Frank Hardimon said many bioenergy producers are looking for a mix of crops to provide flexibility from year to year and to mitigate risk.
Blade seed products include two improved switchgrass seed varieties — EG 1101 and EG 1102 — and two new high-biomass sorghum hybrids — ES 5200 and ES 5201.
EG 1101 is a lowland-type switchgrass bred for greater biomass yields and better establishment. It has high biofuel conversion potential, and has shown superior conversion characteristics for biochemical and thermochemical processes.
A similar cultivar, EG 1102, is adapted farther north than EG 1101. Several switchgrass varieties suited to mid- and northern-latitudes are also available from Blade.
ES 5200 and ES 5201 are two high-biomass sorghum hybrids that offer high yield potential in single-cut harvest systems. Since the plants generally do not produce grain heads until very late in the season, if at all, they continue growing — and producing more biomass — until early autumn or the first killing freeze.
Blade will also be the first major brand to package sorghum seed by count rather than weight — an industry practice that has been well received in corn and soybeans. “This allows producers to purchase only the amount of seed they need rather than having to over-buy to cover variations in seeds per pound,” Hardimon said.
Likewise, Blade switchgrass seed will be sold as pounds of pure live seed (PLS) — rather than bulk weight — so customers will purchase only viable seeds.
Hardimon said he has been encouraged by the early interest he has received from members of the grower community. Brand representatives are now making farm visits and taking over-the-phone bookings, but he encouraged growers to try out the online booking option at the Blade Web site — a service that has not been widely available in the seed industry. “Our goal is to make our seed as accessible as possible,” he said.
Seed will begin shipping as early as January 2009, ahead of spring plantings.
For more information about these products, visit www.BladeEnergy.com .