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Blue Agave, the tequila agave of the Agave tequilana species, is an agave plant that is an important economic product of Jalisco state in Mexico due to its role as the base ingredient of tequila, a popular alcoholic drink.The tequila agave grows natively in Jalisco, favoring the high altitudes of more than 1,500 m and sandy soil. Commercial and wild agaves have very different life cycles. Both start as a large succulent, with spiky fleshy leaves, which can grow to over two meters in length. Wild agaves sprout a shoot when about five years old which grows into a stem up to five metres and topped with yellow flowers. The flowers are pollinated by a native bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and produce several thousand seeds per plant. The plant then dies. The shoots are removed when about a year old from commercial plants to allow the heart to grow larger. The plants are then reproduced by planting these shoots; this has led to a considerable loss of genetic diversity in cultivated blue agave. It is rare for one kept as a a houseplant to flower; nevertheless, a fifty year old blue agave in Boston has grown a 10 m (30 ft) stalk requiring a hole in the greenhouse roof and flowered sometime during the summer of 2006.Tequila is produced by removing the heart of the plant in its twelfth year, normally weighing between 35-90 kg (77-198 lbs). This heart is stripped of leaves and heated to remove the sap, which is fermented and distilled. Other beverages like Mezcal and Pulque are also produced from Blue and other agaves by different methods (though still using the sap) and are regarded as more traditional.Over 200 million Blue Agave plants are grown in several regions of Mexico, but in recent years the ability of farmers to meet demand has been in question. Through poor breeding practices, Blue Agave has lost resistance to fusarium fungus and several other diseases which currently render 25%-30% of the plants unusable for consumption.Researchers from Mexico's University of Guadalajara believe blue agave contains compounds that may be useful in carrying drugs to the intestines to treat diseases such as Crohn's disease and colitis. Reference, Chicago Sun-Times Sun Apr 1, 2007 p. 6A, or announcement made at ACS's annual meeting Mar 2007 in Chicago.
TMA Production of this important cash crop in Mexico has been hindered in the early 2000s by a number of rot-related problems, collectively referred to as TMA ("Tristeza y Muerte de Agave", the wilting and death of the agave). As of 2002, 23% or more of the plants produced in Jalisco were affected.Part of the problem is a group of diseases spread by the larvae of the weevil Scyphophorus acupunctatus Gyll. (Coleoptera:Curculinidae). Also, the fungus Thielaviopsis paradoxa prevents younger plants from forming roots.According to a 2004 study, additional pathogens, Erwinia carotovora, Enterobacter agglomerans, Pseudomonas mendocina, and Serratia sp. are responsible for continued rot.
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