Like many other industries, the sugar and sugar-bioproduct industries are facing important sustainability issues and opportunities. The relatively low and fluctuating profit for sugar, surpluses of sugar, world-wide trend to produce alternative, renewable bio-based fuels and chemicals to those derived from petroleum and reduce greenhouse gases, water- and energy-intensive factories and refineries, and increased consumer demands for sustainably manufactured products are putting pressure on the industries to diversify for sustainability. Sugar crops, including sugar and energy cane (Saccharum officinarum
), sugar and energy beets (Beta vulgaris
), and sweet sorghum (Sorghum bicolor
L. Moench), are excellent, renewable biomass feedstocks because of their availability, their being amongst the plants that give the highest yields of carbohydrates per hectare, and high sugar contents. While much research has been focused on conversion technologies for advanced biofuels and bioproducts, attention is now focused on developing sustainable supply chains of sugar feedstocks for the new, flexible biorefineries, with customers wanting maximum feedstock reliability and quality, while minimizing cost. All biomass from sugar crops are potential feedstocks. The cogeneration of bioelectricity from bagasse and leaf residues is being increasingly manufactured in more countries and, due to the high carbon content of bagasse and leaves, can also be converted into value-added products such as biochar. Sugar crops are superior feedstocks for the production of platform chemicals for the manufacture of a range of end-products, e.g., bioplastics, chemicals, and biomaterials. In several countries and regions, green sustainability criteria are now in place and have to be met to count against national biofuel targets. Processes to convert high-fiber sugar crop biomass into biofuel have been developed but there has only been limited commercialization at the large-scale.
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