21 October 2010
SBCS plant geneticist Professor Andrew Leitch discusses the potential of the agave plant for future biofuel production, in the latest issue of the online publication Planet Earth. Professor Leitch, together with colleagues from London and Mexico, has started to study the genome of the agave to assess its suitability for industrial use. He explains that agaves are already grown for tequila, and, by exploiting their alcohol-producing capacity to make bio-ethanol, they would offer huge advantages over currently used species such as maize or oil palm. For one, agave can thrive in conditions that other plants would find too hostile. This means that cultivating agave on an industrial scale would not come at the cost of losing our rainforest, a problem facing Southeast Asia with the ever growing global demand for palm oil. The team is in the early stages of the study, but remains optimistic that it can use new approaches in horticulture and genetics to make advances where others have failed. Watch this space.