Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 02 February 2011
The aloe-like plant Agave ‒ currently known for its use in the production of alcoholic beverages and fibres ‒ has proved to be a unique feedstock because of its high water use efficiency, and its ability to survive without water between rainfalls.
An article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bio-energy evaluates the potential of Agave as a sustainable bio-fuel feedstock.
Scientists found that in 14 independent studies, the yields of two Agave species greatly exceeded the yields of other bio-fuel feedstock, such as corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat. Furthermore, they added that even more productive Agave species that have not yet been evaluated, exist.
According to bio-energy analyst, Sarah Davis, “We need bio-energy crops that have a low risk of unintended land use change. Biomass from Agave can be harvested as a co-product of tequila production without additional land demands,” she said. “Also, abandoned Agave plantations in Mexico and Africa that had previously supported the natural fibre market could be reclaimed as bio-energy cropland. More research on Agave species is warranted to determine the tolerance ranges of the highest yielding varieties that would be most viable for bio-energy production in semi-arid regions of the world,” she added.
Agave is not only an exciting new bio-energy crop, but its economically and environmentally sustainable production could prove to successfully stimulate economies in Africa, Australia, and Mexico, if political and legislative challenges are overcome.