What tastes great in a margarita, can be either smoky or smooth, and may hold the key to how plants of the future will survive global warming? We’re talking about agave.
The Mexican cactus plant most known for being distilled into tequila has climate change resistant genes, a team of researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Newcastle University in England recently published in the journal Nature Plants.
The gene controls the stomata in the agave plant, which are the pores the plant uses to breathe. Agave stomata open at night and close during the day, which is the opposite of your run-of-the-mill greenery. Night time openings mean less carbon dioxide is absorbed and photosynthesis is less efficient, but the plant retains more water than it would if it opened its stomata under the hot sun.
To understand why you have to consider the different types of photosynthesis that plants use. Agave photosynthesis is known as CAM, which is the best for water efficiency. Then there’s C4 photosynthesis, which is faster in high light and heat. Finally, there’s C3, the most common type of photosynthesis, which is very efficient in normal, non-global warming conditions, but loses water faster than any other when it starts to get too hot out.
There you have it. Agave is not only going to save your night, it’s going to save other species of plants after humans watch the world burn. Round of tequila shots, anyone?