A new source for ethanol – watermelon juice?

watermelonsA study in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels reports that juice from the thousands of watermelons left in the fields could easily help create the biofuel ethanol and other useful products.

The report reveals that 20 percent of the watermelon crop is rejected due to imperfections, odd shapes or blemishes, and ends up ploughed back into the ground. Authors of the study (Benny Bruton and Vincent Russo from the USDA-ARS, South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, and Wayne Fish) detailed a number of potential uses for the sweet red juice. It could:

  • be fermented, then used as a “diluent, supplemental feedstock, and nitrogen supplement” with other biofuel crops

  • be used in neutraceutical production to produce lycopene important to prostrate health) and L-arginine (an amino acid that’s critical for the production of nitric oxide)

  • produce ethanol

According to the report’s authors, “the 8.4 t/ha of unmarketable watermelons left in the field at harvest would produce about 220 L/ha of ethanol for on-farm use or as an additional revenue stream for the grower.”

The report concludes that the watermelon juice would have to be concentrated 2.5- to 3 times in order to serve as the sole feedstock for ethanol biofuel production but that this should be investigated.

All this from the hundreds of thousands of watermelons left every year in the field! 

Who knew we were so picky when it came to those delicious summer desert-fruits? Do we really mind those imperfections, or is that the marketing people doing their thing again?

Anyway, nice to know that something so good can be given a second shot at practical use.  Like my Mom always says, don’t waste your food!

So, fill ‘er up, please.

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