Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tequila plant holds promise as arid biofuel source

According to experts, a plant more commonly known for its role in the production of the alcoholic drink tequila has been overlooked as a source of biofuel that would not compete with food crops. Agave plants can sustain high yields while enduring extreme temperatures, droughts and CO2 increases, with little need for irrigation, according to a series of papers in a special issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy published last month (February). With around 20 per cent of the world semi-arid, and some 200 agave species growing worldwide, the plant could help usher in an energy revolution, experts say. Field trials of the biofuel potential of some common Mexican varieties have begun in Australia and "there are vast areas of abandoned agave plantations in Africa [once used for sisal fibre production, but abandoned after synthetic fibre production came along] that might be re-established [for biofuel use] without incurring economic and environmental costs of indirect land use change", according to one of the papers. For more on the report link to Global Change Biology Bioenergy special issue on agave for bioenergy.

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