A new agenda for blue agave landraces: food, energy and tequila


Ana Valenzuela, e-mail:


Agave tequilana Weber (Rigidae, Agavaceae), blue agave, is a native Mexican plant that has been associated with tequila since the 17th century. The tequila industry has matured over time and now has a geographical indication (Denominación de Origen; DOT). The tequila industry has grown substantially in the last 15 years (19.82% annual increase between 1995 and 2008), resulting in an increase in agave production and associated residue (leaves) and bagasse that can be used for second-generation biofuels. At a time when the biofuel industry is undergoing unprecedented changes, with diversified demand and predictions of increased competitiveness, this paper presents a review of agave landraces that have been affected by tequila production but may be beneficial for a biofuel industry. Conventional botanical studies have revealed domestication syndromes in races related to blue agave (‘azul listado’, ‘sigüín’ and ‘pata de mula’) specifically for production of fructans in the plant core as would be expected in mezcal agaves (including those used for tequila). Some others, such as the ‘moraleño’ and ‘bermejo’ cultivars (Sisalanae) show domestication syndrome only in the fibers, while others, such as ‘chato,’A. americana L. subtilis (Americanae) show domestication syndrome in fructans and fibers and ‘zopilote,’A. rhodacantha (Rigidae) a relatively low domestication syndrome. No specimens of the cultivars named ‘mano larga’, ‘mano anchaque’ and ‘cucharo’ were found in the Tequila Region of Origin (Western Mexico). The genetic resources from landraces ignored by the tequila industry may be valuable for both ethanol production and conservation.