GOING GREEN: CQUniversity PhD student Deepa Rijal has been testing the composition of agave leaves to determine the ideal time for harvest. PHOTO: ALLAN REINIKKA ROK140114ATEQUILA
GOING GREEN: CQUniversity PhD student Deepa Rijal has been testing the composition of agave leaves to determine the ideal time for harvest. PHOTO: ALLAN REINIKKA ROK140114ATEQUILA

Traditional tequila plant could make cost effective bio-fuel

AUSSIE farmers could soon be drinking a toast to Rockhampton researchers who have uncovered new-found benefits of the agave plant.

Traditionally used to make tequila, the hardy succulent has emerged as a suitable alternative to sugar cane for the production of ethanol.

CQUniversity's Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath has overseen the Rockhampton-based trial for the past three years.

He is confident the plant could be commercially produced in tropical Australia and could be the new boom crop for Capricornia.

"We are convinced that it can grow well in drier areas and produce substantial biomass," Prof Ashwath said.

"The tests have also shown that the plants produce a considerable amount of sugar and fibre, which can be readily converted into ethanol."

Prof. Ashwath said that agave production was less labour intensive, required less fertiliser, and less water, than other crops, and it could be grown in less fertile soil.

He said that if agave proved a cost-effective alternative biofuel, sugar cane could then be used solely for food production.

Sugar mills, which stand idle for six months of the year, were seen as ideal processing plants. The next step would be to establish a 10,000ha growing site to streamline harvesting, crushing and converting agave into bio-ethanol.



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