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.

Now scientists are hoping to harness this reverse molecular clock to engineer new drought-resistant crops that will be able to adapt to our future changing climate.

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.

The process is opposite to that of most plants which keep their stomata open during the day so they can take in Carbon Dioxide and use the sunlight for photosynthesis. However, this also means they lose water rapidly through evaporation.