STRI News is published weekly for Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute staff by the Development Office. It is printed and distributed to all staff and is offered online in an 8.5x11 PDF format.
The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (STRI) in Panama, is a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution based outside of the United States, is dedicated to understanding biological diversity.
More than 200 species of Agave
occur from the southern US to
tropical South America. Panama’s
Agave angustifolia is suitable for use
as a biofuel crop and can be grown
in seasonally dry environments.
Más de 200 especies de agave se
encuentran desde el sur de los
EE.UU hasta regiones tropicales de
Sur América. El Agave angustifolia
de Panamá es adecuado para su uso
como cultivo de biocombustibles
y se puede cultivar en ambientes
Our world contains roughly 400 million
hectares of abandoned agricultural land, much
of it in the tropics and subtropics. Both Agave
tequilana, the source of tequila and Agave
fourcroydes, a common source of fiber, grow
well on seasonally arid lands and have been
proposed as biofuel crops.
STRI staff scientist Klaus Winter, research
associate Joe Holtum, professor at Australia’s
James Cook University and STRI’s Milton Garcia
found that Agave angustifolia, a species native
to Panama, performs well even in the extreme
conditions that may become more prevalent
under climate change scenarios.
Winter and colleagues grew Agave angustifolia
outside in open-top chambers at the
Smithsonian’s Santa Cruz Experimental Research
Facility in Gamboa, Panama, and also in closed,
controlled-environment chambers at the Tupper
Center in Panama City.
Vascular plants employ more than one strategy
to take up atmospheric carbon dioxide, CO2,
their food source. Most plants open pores in
their leaves during the day to take in carbon
dioxide to produce carbohydrates through a
process called C3 photosynthesis. But, especially
in hot, periodically dry environments, plants
may open their pores at night to take up carbon
dioxide without losing as much water, through a
process called CAM photosynthesis.
In the American tropics, global warming
has already led to increases in nighttime
temperatures. Winter and Holtum found that
nighttime temperature had little effect on
the relative contributions of the two types o