How tequila could be key in our battle against climate change
How tequila could be key in our battle against climate change.
Agave — the cactus-like plant which forms the base ingredient of tequila — has a nocturnal ‘body clock’ which allows it to ‘breathe’ at night and withstand the driest of conditions, new research has shown.
Publishing their findings in this month’s Nature Plants, the team from Newcastle University, UK, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, reveal for the first time how the stomata — or ‘breathing’ pores — on the Agave’s leaves are kept shut during the day to minimise water loss.
Newcastle University’s Professor Anne Borland, one of the authors of the study, explains: "Photosynthesis needs three key ingredients — CO2, water and sunlight — so it follows that most plants keep their stomata open in the day when it is sunny and shut at night when it is dark.
"But for a plant living in hot, arid conditions such as the Agave, this would be disastrous.
They need to conserve every drop of water they can and leaving their stomata open during the day would result in such rapid water loss they would simply die.
"If we can harness these genes and engineer new drought-resistant plants then the potential is huge in terms of developing crops and biofuels that are able to withstand the challenges we face from a changing climate."
Sequencing thousands of genes and proteins to understand the underlying metabolic processes, the team compared the Agave — or CAM — plant with Arabidopsis, a type of cress and a typical C3 plant.
"This is a really exciting discovery and a major breakthrough in our quest to create new plants that can cope in our future environment."
The study is part of a $14m research programme funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science Genomic Science Programme.