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The energetic and economic feasibility of bioethanol production from sugar palm is virtually unknown. A positive factor are the potentially very high yields while the long non-productive juvenile phase and the high labor needs can be seen as problematic. Expansion to la... View more
2. Sugar palm is also a food crop. Bioethanol production can therefore be seen as competition for food (sugar market) or land use for food crops. The ability to supply other products such as starch, string, leaves and fruits can reduce the footprint of bioethanol. Furthermore, wood from the plantation can be used as fuel for a bioethanol plant. This is beneficial for the energy balance and greenhouse gas emissions. Sugar palm only grows in the wet tropics, where rainfall is seldom a limiting factor. Little is known about the need for nutrients and fertilization. If only the juice is removed, the need is relatively low. Growing sugar palm under marginal conditions seems possible especially on steep land and degraded land.
3. Sugar palm has an important role in the economy of the local population. The cultivation of sugar palm is labor intensive, but provides a good and stable income throughout the year. By-products (fruits, roofing materials, materials for braiding, wood and starch) may significantly contribute to income. In contrast, the long non-productive juvenile phase makes recovery of investment difficult.
4. Sugar palm seems productive and this is one of the key success factors for an energy crop. A limited local demand for palm sugar production is the main reason why large scale production systems have not yet been developed. A good feasibility study, conducted in an existing plantation, is needed.