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Jatropha curcas or Barbados nut or Physic nut is a perennial poisonous shrub (up to 5 m high]) belonging to the Euphorbiaceae or spurge family. The plant, originating in Central America, is mainly grown in Asia and in Africa, where it is known as Pourghère. It is resistant to a high degree of aridity and as such does not compete with food crops. When the seeds are crushed, the resulting jatropha oil can be processed to produce a high-quality biodiesel fuel that can be used in a standard diesel engine.
Cultivation is uncomplicated. Jatropha curcas can grow in wastelands and grows almost anywhere, even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil and grow in the crevices of rocks. Complete germination is achieved within 9 days. Adding manure during the germination has negative effects during that phase, but is favourable if applied after germination is achieved. However, it is usually multiplied by cuttings, because this gives faster results than multiplication by seeds. The flowers only develop terminally, so a good ramification (plants presenting many branches) produces the greatest amount of fruits. Another productivity factor is the ratio between female and male flowers within an inflorescence (usually about 1 female to 10 male flowers - more female flowers mean more fruits). Jatropha curcas thrives on a mere 250 mm (10 in) of rain a year, and only during its first two years does it need to be watered in the closing days of the dry season. Ploughing and planting are not needed regularly, as this shrub has a life expectancy of approximately forty years. The use of pesticides and other polluting substances are not necessary, due to the pesticidal and fungicidal properties of the plant.
In the early 1990s, a growth trial in Nicaragua covering 2000 hectares (4940 acres) did not live up to expectations, yielding only a disappointing 200 litres of Jatropha oil per hectare (21 US gallons/acre). However, Jatropha is well able to yield as much as 1900 litres of diester per hectare (200 US gallons/acre), largely exceeding the capacity of rapeseed.
Seed extraction is made simple with the use of the Universal Nut Sheller, an appropriate technology designed by the Full Belly Project. The oily seeds are processed into oil, which may be directly used to fuel combustion engines or may be subjected to transesterification to produce biodiesel. Jatropha oil is not suitable for human consumption. A colourant can also be derived from the seed.
(The information in this section is largely inspired from the Purdue University - Center for New Crops and Plants Products website .)
- Suppliers of Jatropha Seeds with International Delivery:
- Jatropha Curcas Plantations
- Jatropha Plantation Consultants:
- Jatropha Curcas Plantations / Palm Plantations Of Australia.
- Jatropha plantation from 'Soil to Oil'
- A Self-help Assistance Program's Jatropha Tree Planting Project
- Jatropha Facts and Figures
- Jatropha Plant power can solve fuel problem
- An Integrated Approach of Rural Development in Tropical & Subtropical Countries.
- The worldwide online Jatropha Portal
- Forum Jatropha - http://www.jatropha.forumactif.com
- Size does matter - The possibilities of cultivating Jatropha curcas for biofuel production in developing countries. Case study report on the relationship with food security. Contains lots of references and background information.
- "Mali’s Farmers Discover a Weed’s Potential Power", New York Times, September 9, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-09-09.
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Jatropha Curcas
- Center of Excellence for Jatropha Biodiesel Promotion
- Forum : "Jatropha curcas : l'or vert du désert" - (French)
- Bio Fuel production and reduction of deforestation in Nepal by R. Pahari.
- Geo magazine, May 2007 edition (in German).
- “Jaropha curcas l. in Africa - Assessment of the impact of the dissemination of “the Jatropha System” on the ecology of the rural area and the social and economic situation of the rural population (target group) in selected countries in Africa”. Annexe 7 of this paper presents an “Economic analysis of JCL utilization in Tanzania - Economy of Jatropha Utilization in Tanzania. Data from Kakute, 2003”, covering small-scale economic data on the collection of seeds, oil making and soap making.