University of Adelaide making strides with agave for ethanol

In Australia, the desert plant, best known for producing tequila in Mexico, shows promise as a source of biofuel and other biochemical products, according to University of Adelaide research. The researchers at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls showed the agave plant could produce up to 15,000 liters per hectare a year of biofuel ̶ and it grows on marginal land under low rainfall conditions. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the research outlined agave leaf composition and fermentation efficiencies that could produce competitive biofuels from this fast-growing, highly water use efficient plant.

“Bioethanol yields from agave fermentation could rival the most successful biofuel feedstock crops around the world,” says Associate Professor Rachel Burton, Node Leader with the ARC Centre in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine.

“Importantly, it doesn’t compete with food crops, it’s fast growing so the whole plant could be used rather than just harvesting the leaves, and it is up to 10 times more water efficient than some other crop plants.”

Professor Burton and her team, including PhD student Kendall Corbin, are working with AusAgave who have trial sites of agave established in Ayr in northern Queensland and Whyalla, South Australia.

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