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An alternative crop for bioethanol

By Paul Grad |

The Agave tequilana plant, which is native to Mexico and used to make the popular drink tequila, promises significant advantages over sugarcane and corn as a source of bioethanol. The Agave plant is now being grown as a biofuel source on the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland by MSF Sugar (Gordonvale, Australia; www.msfsugar.com.au). Studies of the plant’s lifecycle and the economic analysis of bioethanol production from the plant were carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Sydney (Australia; www.sydney.edu.au), University of Adelaide (Australia; www.adelaide.edu.au). and University of Exeter (Exeter, U.K.; www.exeter.ac.uk), led by University of Sydney agronomist associate professor Daniel Tan. The team says the plant can grow in semi-arid areas without irrigation. It does not compete with food crops or place demands on limited water and fertilizer supplies. It is heat- and drought-tolerant and can survive Australia’s summers. The team’s analysis shows a yield of 7,414 L of bioethanol per hectare per year is achievable with five-year-old agave plants. Although this is lower than that achieved with sugarcane (9,900 L/ha/yr), Agave outperforms sugarcane in several ways, including in freshwater eutrophication,…
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