MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Researchers are looking at two of the 200 different types of agave plant as potential sources of biofuels for arid lands around the globe.
A special issue of the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy is devoted entirely to agave as a source of bioenergy.
The plant is an attractive potential source of biofuels because of its resistance to heat, droughts and climbing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And according to an article on SciDev.net, it is poised for worldwide success:
With around 20 percent 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.
Two varieties — Agave mapisaga and Agave salmiana — produce, under intensive management, yields that far exceed corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat productivities; and even without irrigation they still maintain high yields, argues another paper.
Among the papers collected in the special issue of GCB Bioenergy is one that evaluates the potential of adding biofuel production to tequila production and another that estimates how much land could be devoted to agave production.
Biofuels have recently gained more prominence in the wake of oil instability in the Middle East, while last year farmers began looking to biofuel crops as a way to diversify their land use, and scientists in Edinburgh, Scotland, explored the use of whiskey to produce biofuel.