Scientists found that in 14 independent studies, the yields of two Agave species greatly exceeded the yields of other biofuel feedstocks, such as corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat. Additionally, even more productive Agave species that have not yet been evaluated exist.
Agaves are succulents with large rosettes of thick fleshy leaves. One species, Agave azul is used in the production of tequila. Agave syrup is used as an alternative to sugar in cooking.
The findings are highlighted in a special issue of the journal Global Change Biology Bioenergy which focuses on the potential of agave as a bioenergy feedstock.
We need bioenergy 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. Also, abandoned Agave plantations in Mexico and Africa that previously supported the natural fiber market could be reclaimed as bioenergy cropland. More research on Agave species is warranted to determine the tolerance ranges of the highest yielding varieties that would be most viable for bioenergy production in semi-arid regions of the world—Sarah Davis, University of Illinois