Agave seen as excellent biofuel source

Jan. 26, 2011 at 8:18 PM
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Agave, cultivated for alcoholic beverages and for fiber, could be used as a sustainable biofuel feedstock, U.S. researchers say.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have found the yields of two Agave species greatly exceeded the yields of other biofuel feed stocks such as corn, soybean, sorghum and wheat, an article in the current issue of the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy reported.

And even more productive species of Agave, not yet evaluated, exist, researchers say.

Agave, with its high water use efficiency and ability to survive without water between rainfalls, can thrive in semi-arid regions where its cultivation is less likely to conflict with food and feed production, researchers say.

"We need bioenergy crops that have a low risk of unintended land use change," bioenergy analyst Sarah Davis said. "Biomass from Agave can be harvested as a co-product of tequila production without additional land demands."

"Also, abandoned Agave plantations in Mexico and Africa that previously supported the natural fiber market could be reclaimed as bioenergy cropland."

The economically and environmentally sustainable production of Agave could stimulate economies in Africa, Australia, and Mexico, the article said.

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