AUSTIN (KXAN) — Scientists continue to preach that water shortages due to climate change continue to have an adverse effect on things like food production. But it isn’t just some food staples that are impacted — but also wines and spirits. That includes a very popular cocktail, the margarita.
The margarita’s main ingredient, tequila, is being affected by the changing weather creating a strain on the agave plant’s pollinator, the bat. The agave plant faces a disruption in its cultivation and distribution because, in part, of the ongoing crisis facing our climate. Though the plant can tolerate the drought, it cannot combat the weather whiplash of going from one extreme to another. In other words, its fragility may not be able to withstand a weather swing of drought to torrential rains.
Bats pollinate not only the agave plant but other foods. The unusual change in weather patterns due to climate change may make it difficult for the mammal to survive. Their survival is threatened because they are unable to survive in the heat and lack food. By the way, the climatic disruption doesn’t just affect the bat population but also other food pollinators including bees and butterflies.
It’s the Weber Azul agave plant that makes the tequila many enjoy. It grows in the Tequila region in Jalisco, Mexico. This is where agave has to be grown to be considered actual tequila. Agave liquors like tequila and mezcal produced in, say, California, are only labeled as an agave spirit.
Agave plants don’t need much water so they do thrive in the climate the Tequila region has. Their maturity happens in six to eight years, but they don’t do well in a rainy season that happens especially during the monsoon season in northern Mexico and the desert southwest. And, without the bats to pollinate the agave plant, there would be no tequila.
The University of California, Davis, is assisting the research of the agave plant as the climate continues to change. How can it survive in a climate that is becoming hotter and drier? What kind of adjustments will farmers need to make in order for the agave — and the bats — to survive?
By the way, the value of the agave plant cannot be understated. Another study confirmed tequila was among the fastest-growing spirits category in 2022, behind vodka.
So, on National Margarita Day, or any day where you enjoy this delicious cocktail, keep in mind the importance of taking care of our climate to help the agave plants thrive and their pollinators, the bats, to survive.