Biofuels: could agave, hemp and saltbush be the fuels of the future?

10 May 17

Biofuels have long been touted as a carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuels, doing for the world’s planes, ships and automobiles what windfarms and solar panels are doing for its electricity grids.But the past decade has seen the biofuel industry face tough economic conditions and niggling questions over its green credentials. Prof Rachel Burton, leader of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Plant Cell Walls at University of Adelaide, thinks that there is a smarter way forward for biofuels and it starts with selecting the right crop. Instead of growing food crops such as corn and sugarcane on prime agricultural land, Burton and others are looking to more hardy plants that grow on land too dry or saline for conventional crops. Australia could turn to crops like agave (of tequila fame), hemp, or the native saltbush and wild-growing sorghum for biofuels of the future, she says.