Deserts and drylands currently encompass 40 percent of the Earth’s land surface and a further increase in such areas due to climate change and other processes is expected. There are approximately 200 species of Agave, most native to deserts and drylands in central Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Recently identified as candidate bioenergy feedstocks, agaves are capable of growing on marginal lands otherwise unsuitable for food production. Agaves annually produce 10–34 metric tons of dry biomass per hectare, and in some cases their productivity can fall into a range comparable to biofuel feedstocks with higher water and nutrient demands. The project focuses on the plant-associated microbial communities and plant-microbe interactions that comprise the microbiome associated with agave in order to characterize the microbes contributing to the plant’s ability to thrive and produce large amounts of biomass in arid conditions. The water use efficiency and thermotolerance of Agave species enable their cultivation on arid lands unsuitable for staple food production, allowing bioenergy production with reduced impacts on the environment and world food markets.
Proposer’s Name: Axel Visel