Research on the agave plant – used to make tequila – has shown whole plants have the potential to yield up to 15,000 litres of ethanol each year.
The University of Adelaide has been assessing crop trials of the hardy plant in South Australia and regional Queensland. The crops, which are suited for drought conditions, produce large amounts of sugar that can be fermented into bioethanol.
“Bioethanol yields from agave fermentation could rival the most successful biofuel feedstock crops around the world,” Associate Professor Rachel Burton told Australian Associated Press.
“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.”
Agave sugar could also be used in place of fossil fuels in the production of paints, plastics and high-value chemicals.