2015, DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1447-0_15
Sarah C. Davis and Stephen P. Long
Agave species have recently emerged as potential bioenergy feedstocks that can be grown on marginal semiarid lands, creating an economic opportunity in regions where there are few agricultural commodities. This chapter provides an introduction to Agave species that are currently cultivated at a commercial scale for the tequila and fiber industries. It then reviews the opportunities and challenges associated with developing Agave feedstocks for biofuel by integrating recent biotechnological advances with traditional knowledge of Agave production. Drought tolerance, high yield, CAM physiology, and genetic diversity are among the characteristics that make Agave species apparently attractive as feedstocks. Challenges include manual labor costs and the establishment time that is required for the crop. Opportunities for development include the use of land that is otherwise unsuited, or has become unsuitable, for other agriculture in economically depressed rural areas. Despite the additional research that is needed to identify the varieties most fit for biofuel feedstock, current technology exists to support an Agave-based biofuel production system.