Propagation and testing of novel agave species for challenging Australian conditions

Vircura R&D Pty Ltd

  • Project code: PRO-017976

  • Project stage: Current

  • Project start date: Sunday, December 3, 2023

  • Project completion date: Monday, May 26, 2025

  • National Priority: NEI - New and Emerging Industries - E2


Agave has huge potential as a plentiful and superior bioenergy and biofuel feedstock in Australia. Species are currently limited to A.tequilana and naturalised stands of A.americana. A.tequilana is used for spirit production and plants are sensitive to cold and destroyed by frost, significantly limiting their geographic range. This excludes vast areas of Australia for feedstock production. Additionally, there is scarce information regarding general ability of agaves to thrive in acid, alkaline or saline conditions; common characteristics of marginal soils or contaminated water supplies, including mine sites.

This project will develop and test novel agave species, exclusively available to Vircura, to identify more robust lines that can be used particularly across Southern Australia. Species will be established in tissue culture from seed stocks to generate plant populations that can be tested;

1. In the glasshouse for growth in different soil and water types. Survival and growth rates will be measured

2. In the field in frost prone areas. Survival rates will be assessed.

This project will provide data regarding survival and growth of alternative agave species under hostile conditions. This will increase plant choice and allow matching of species to geographical area to support robust growth of this industry Australia-wide.


New and Emerging Industries

Research Organisation

Vircura R&D Pty Ltd

Objective Summary

1. To establish a number of new agave species not currently available in Australia in tissue culture from proprietary seed stocks held by Vircura.

This will expand the range of species that can be used in Australia from previously untested germplasm.

2. To establish sterile and regenerative mother stocks that can be used to support mass production of each new agave species.

This will support more rapid multiplication of desirable lines once their attributes have been defined facilitating planting of large numbers in the field to commence.

3. To test plants of each new species under glasshouse conditions by planting them in soils or watering with different pH and salt profiles.

This will identify species with particular growth capabilities to be used in marginal or outright hostile situations.

4. To test frost resistance of each new species.

This will greatly expand the area potentially available for cultivation, particularly in southern Australia.