Giant King Grass may grab a share of the emerging U.S. cellulosic ethanol market. It produces huge amounts of biomass and grows in low-frost areas, says Carl Kukkonen, chief executive officer of Viaspace, which owns the grass and has tested it in China.

The company is recruiting U.S. partners to build on-site processing facilities near where Giant King Grass will be grown. “This is a dedicated energy crop,” says Kukkonen. “We are working with the end market before we ever plant it.”

The proprietary grass is in the same family as elephant grass, is non-invasive and suitable for areas without a hard winter freeze, according to Viaspace. It yields about 44 tons of dry matter per acre from two to three cuttings per year for 10 years.

The greatest expense is establishing the grass, which is done by cuttings. Testing indicates that it has a cellulosic ethanol yield of 78.5 gallons per ton or 3,454 gallons per acre. With this high yield, Kukkonen says, Giant King Grass can be converted into cellulosic biofuel for about the same cost as corn can be made into ethanol.