Jatropha as a Biofuel

Jatropha as a Biofuel 2018-07-12T06:48:26+00:00

Jatropha

Jatropha Curcas Linn (Jatropha) by Plantations International is a plant whose seeds contains 30 to 40 per cent of their mass in inedible lipid oil, making them an ideal source for Biofuel. The Jatropha plant can grow in difficult soil conditions (including arid and otherwise non-arable areas), so it does not compete for prime land with food crops.

In 2007 Goldman Sachs cited Jatropha as one of the best candidates for future Biodiesel production. Jatropha oil can be burnt directly or converted into Biodiesel or aviation Biofuel. As with any other crop, it needs fertilizers, efficient crop management and improved conditions, to ensure higher seed production and oil yields.

What Makes Plantations International Jatropha an excellent Biofuel?

  • Jatropha is sturdy: Propagation is easy and the plant can survive long periods of drought, though it will not produce high yields under these conditions. It can be grown in arid as well as high rainfall areas and even on thin, less fertile and even badly eroded soil.
  • Jatropha stands the test of time: Jatropha bush-trees can produce oil seeds for up to fifty years, typically producing their first harvest within three years of planting.
  • Cultivation of Jatropha has a positive social impact: It is used in sustainable development programs to empower rural communities.
  • Jatropha trees have high yields: as much as 1.5 liters of oil per tree a year.
  • Jatropha Biodiesel complies with current EU and US standards for Biodiesel.
  • Jatropha has many uses: The seed cake left after oil extraction can be fed to an anaerobic digester to produce methane-rich BioGas for green power generation and/or can be composted and used as a high-grade nitrogen-rich organic matter or as feedstock to produce organic fertilizers.
  • Jatropha is clean: The oil obtained from Jatropha is sulphur-free and burns without emitting carcinogenic smoke.

How is Jatropha used as a Biofuel?

When jatropha seeds are crushed, the resulting jatropha oil can be processed to produce a high-quality biofuel or biodiesel that can be used in a standard diesel car or further processed into jet fuel, while the residue (press cake) can also be used as biomass feedstock to power electricity plants, used as fertilizer (it contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), or as animal fodder. The cake can also be used as feed in digesters and gasifiers to produce biogas.

Jatropha-biofuel

There are several forms of Jatropha biofuel, often manufactured using sedimentation, centrifugation, and filtration. The fats and oils are turned into esters while separating the glycerin. At the end of the process, the glycerin settles and the biofuel floats. The process through which the glycerin is separated from the biodiesel is known as transesterification. Glycerin is another by-product from Jatropha oil processing that can add value to the crop. Transesterification is a simple chemical reaction that neutralizes the free fatty acids present in any fatty substances in Jatropha. A chemical exchange takes place between the alkoxy groups of an ester compound by an alcohol. Usually, methanol and ethanol are used for the purpose. The reaction occurs by the presence of a catalyst, usually sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or caustic soda and potassium hydroxide (KOH), which forms fatty esters (e.g., methyl or ethyl esters), commonly known as biodiesel. It takes approximately 10% of methyl alcohol by weight of the fatty substance to start the transesterification process.

Plantations International estimates of Jatropha seed yield vary widely, due to a lack of research data, the genetic diversity of the crop, the range of environments in which it is grown, and Jatropha’s perennial life cycle. Seed yields under cultivation can range from 1,500 to 2,000 kilograms per hectare, corresponding to extractable oil yields of 540 to 680 litres per hectare (58 to 73 US gallons per acre). In 2009 Time magazine cited the potential for as much as 1,600 gallons of diesel fuel per acre per year. The plant may yield more than four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean, and more than ten times that of maize (corn), but at the same time it requires five times as much water per unit of energy produced as does corn (see below). A hectare of jatropha has been claimed to produce 1,892 litres of fuel. However, as it has not yet been domesticated or improved by plant breeders, yields are variable.

Cultivating Jatropha Curcas

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Jatropha cultivation is uncomplicated, Jatropha grows in tropical and subtropical regions. Jatropha can grow in wastelands and grows on almost any terrain, even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive in poor and stony soils, although new research suggests that Jatropha’s ability to adapt to these poor soils is not as extensive as had been previously stated. Complete germination is achieved within 9 days. Adding manure during the germination has negative effects during that phase, but is favorable if applied after germination is achieved. It can be propagated by cuttings, which yields faster results than multiplication by seeds.

Jatropha’s flowers only develop terminally (at the end of a stem), so a good ramification (plants presenting many branches) produces the greatest amount of fruits. The plants are self-compatible. Another productivity factor is the ratio between female and male flowers within an inflorescence, 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 is not necessary, due to the pesticidal and fungicidal properties of the plant.

While Plantations International Jatropha curcas starts yielding from 9-12 months time, the best yields are obtained only after 2–3 years time. The seed production is around 3.5 tons per hectare (seed production ranges from about 0.4 t/ha in the first year to over 5 t/ha after 3 years). If planted in hedges, the reported productivity of Jatropha is from 0.8 to 1.0 kg of seed per meter of live fence.

Introduction of Jatropha Cultivation

Jatropha curcas is one of the best oil seed plants and identified as most suitable oil seed bearing plant due to its various favourable attributes. Jatropha is a deciduous large shrub or small tree that can reach up to 5 meters in height with smooth gray bark. Jatropha plants are native to Central America and well-adapted to the tropics and subtropics of the world. Jatropha is a hard plant and it has short gestation period when compared to other oil seed crops. The other advantage of the plant is it has wider adaptability of different climatic conditions and can be grown in most of the areas. The other reason to go for the cultivation of Jatropha is it produces high quality oil and oil recovery is very high. Cultivation of Jatropha (appears viable due to its demand. Basically, Jatropha crop meant for wastelands and less productive lands, hence this crop will not replace other important food crops grown in rich soils. Jatropha plants produce oil seeds as a source of energy in the form of bio-diesel. Jatropha plants belong to the family of “Euphorbiaceae” and genus of “Jatropha L.”. As with many members of the family Euphorbiaceae, Jatropha contains compounds that are highly toxic. Jatropha farming is profitable as there is a huge demand for mass production of seeds for bio-diesel. In India, Jatropha is grown in almost all the state as a live fence for protection of agricultural crops from being damaged by cattle or goat or sheep as these animals don not eat Jatropha plants.

Jatropha Plantation Advantages

  • Jatropha crop can be grown in wide range of soil including wastelands, poor soils, low rainfall and drought areas.
  • Jatropha plants are hardy and can tolerate water scarcity.
  •  Waste lands and other lands not suitable fro crops can be utilized for growing Jatropha seeds.
  • Jatropha cultivation boosts rural economy by providing local employment.
  • Jatropha plantation prevents soil erosion.
  • Jatropha crop will not compete with any other crop and supplements the profits.
  • Wasteland soil fertility can be increased through Jatropha plantation.
  • A Jatropha plant possesses medicinal as well as other industrial uses.
  •  Jatropha plants will generate returns for 30 years.
  • On an average one can get 10 to 15,000 Rupees per 1 acre plantation from 4th year

Note: The only disadvantage of these plants is that they cannot be grown in flooding and waterlogged areas.

Scope of Jatropha Cultivation

Growing Jatropha is viable due to its high demand and it does not replace traditional crops. As Indian states have many barren lands where annual rainfall is less, this crop is best hope for farmers in that area. Apart from this, Jatropha can be grown as live fencing for other agricultural crops as livestock will not eat these plants. When it comes to use of Jatropha, all parts of shrub can be used as input to traditional medicine as well as raw material for pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The commercial cultivation of Jatropha in poor soils, barren lands and drought areas could provide regular employment and could improve their economical life. Farmers can use bio-diesel for operating oil engines for pumping water and operating small machinery for other purposes.

Jatropha Varieties (Cultivars)

There is no recommended variety, the female to male ratio of flower which indicative of productivity is observed to be 1:12 compared to 1:16 to 1: 20 found in other Indian states. The plantation can be started with locally available one. Find out with agriculture/forest department for improved varieties.

Local Names of Jatropha in India

Jatropha is called by more than 200 different names in different countries. Common names of Jatropha are; Purging tree, Curcas Nut, Physic Nut and in Hindi it is called as Ratanjyot.

Climate and Soil Requirements for Jatropha

Basically Jatropha is a tropical plant and thrives well in sub-tropics. This crop does not tolerate water logging and frost conditions. This can be cultivated in all most all soils having pH range of 5.4 to 8.4. The main advantage of these crops is, it can be grown even in poorest stony soils, cracks of the rocks. Avoid soils where flooding is possible. This does not require much water and will come up in low rainfall areas as well. It does not require any land /soil preparation (tillage) for planting.

Jatropha-nursery

Jatropha Propagation, Seed Rate, Planting and Spacing

Jatropha plants are propagated through seeds and stem cuttings. If the crop is planned for commercial purpose, seed propagation is recommended. Selecting a quality seeds for germination is an important factor for achieving desired yields. Good quality plump seeds should be selected for sowing in the field. Seeds should be treated (soaked) in cow-dung solution for 10 to 12 hours and kept under the wet gunny bags for 10 to 12 hours. This crop requires hot and humid climate for sowing as this results in good germination of seeds. Usually, germinated seeds are sown in poly bags of 15 cm x 25 cm size filled with soil, sand and well decomposed farm yard manure (FMY) in the ratio of 1:1:1 respectively. Actually, seeds or stem cuttings can be sown directly in the main field. However, pre¬rooted cuttings in poly bags and then transplanted in the main field proved to be giving better results.

Yields in Jatropha Cultivation

Factors that influence the crop yield are soil fertility, climatic conditions, irrigation, cultivation methods and farm management practices. On an average, 3 to 6.5 kg per plant or 6500 to 7000 kg/ha can be expected from end of 6th year of plantation. Actually Jatropha trees start yielding after second year planting. However yield at this stage is low like 0.5 to 1 kg per plant. The economic life of Jatropha tree is 30-40 years. However, it survives till 50 years if the root system does not contact with rising water table in ground.

Jatropha Irrigation

These plants don’t require much irrigation and will survive in minimal rain fall areas. These plants do not require supplementary irrigation if planted in onset of monsoon. Natural mulch provides needed soil moisture.

Manures and Fertilizers

Two kg of compost should be added for each pit during planting time. Subsequently, depending on soil type and fertility, 4 to 5 kg of farm yard manure (FMY)along with N:P:K should be applied near the crown following ring method just before onset of monsoon. Application of super phosphate at the rate of 125 kg/ha and alternate with one dose of 20 : 120 : 60 kg N:P:K/year from second year improves yield. From fourth year onwards, 125 kg super phosphate should be added to the above mentioned dose.

Intercultural Operations

Two weeding can be carried out during its growth period. It does not require any supplementary irrigation, if the crop is planted during monsoon season.. Fallen leaves around the roots will act as good mulch material and finally will convert into organic matter which will be helpful in increasing the soil fertility. Carry out light harrowing during early growth stage. To induce laterals, pinching terminals at 6 months age is essential. For early flowering, apply GA @ 100-PPM spray.

When it comes to pruning and trimming, Jatropha plants should be trimmed during spring season up to 4 years to give a bushy type shape. In order to induce secondary branches on the plant, the terminal growing twig should be pinched. Similar way, the secondary and tertiary branches should be pinched or pruned at the end of first year to induce a minimum of 20 to 25 branches at the end of second year. Once in 10 years, the Jatropha plant should be cut leaving 1 feet height from ground level for rejuvenation.

Intercropping Jatropha

Farmers can get some extra income with inter cropping in Jatropha cultivation. Mostly shade loving and short duration crops are suitable for inter-cropping. Short duration grain and vegetable crops like, green gram, black gram and pumpkin, ash gourd, cucumber, tomato, green chilli, bitter gourd, ash gourd can be grown as inter crops during initial 2 years period. Any shade loving herbal/aroma plants like Patchouli, Vanilla can be grown as inter crops in Jatropha cultivation which could result in more profits.

Pests and Diseases

Jatropha crop is not affected by many pests and diseases. However, Collar rot may be the problem in the beginning of its growth. This can be controlled by application of 1 % Bordeaux mixture drenching.

Harvesting Jatropha

Generally, Jatropha trees start producing flowers after 9 to 12 months of sowing. Usually, flowers are induced in rainy season and bear fruits and mature in winter. Pods should be collected when they turn into yellow colour and dried. The flowering would be early in sunny conditions where as it is less in shady conditions. If the crop is propagated by stem cuttings, they come to flowering after 6 months of plantation which is earlier than the crop propagated through seeds. The actual economic yield starts from end of third year. Seeds can be separated from collected dried pods either manually or with a machine. Allow seeds to dry for 5 to 6 days to reduce moisture level before going for packing.

To find out more about how Plantations International can assist you with the development and management of your own Jatropha plantation and to receive a free initial consultation, please call us today on +852 5808 3775 or Click Here to contact your nearest Plantations International representative.