Jatropha Bio-diesel & India


Senior Member
Jul 31, 2009
Biofuel: The little shrub that could - maybe

India, like many countries, has high hopes for jatropha as a biofuel source, but little is known about how to make it a successful crop. Daemon Fairless digs for the roots of a new enthusiasm.

Daemon Fairless

SWith a top speed of about 110 kilometres an hour, India's Shatabdi Express is not much to brag about by the standards of a French TGV or a Japanese Shinkansen train. Nonetheless, as the stock for one of the country's fastest and most luxurious passenger lines, the Shatabdi trains have a certain prestige. So when, on New Year's Eve 2002, the Shatabdi train from New Delhi to Amritsar was powered in part with biodiesel for the first time, it was a clear statement of the government's desire to wean India off imported petroleum.

Diesel is India's main liquid fuel: the country burns roughly 44 million tonnes, or 320 million barrels, of the stuff a year, as opposed to about 94 million barrels of gasoline. The trains account for a significant part of that. Kunj Mittal, who heads the government-operated rail service's engineering and traction division, says its fleet of 4,000 engines currently burns about 1.7 million tonnes a year, and that he wants to replace at least 10% of that with biodiesel at some unspecified point in the future. But he would need 200 million litres of biodiesel a year. Which is a problem. “At this stage,” says Mittal, “there is no mass production of biodiesel.”

Like many others around India, the rail service is looking to an unprepossessing, poisonous scrub weed to try to do something about that. It has planted a million Jatropha curcas seedlings on unused land along its tracks and elsewhere. It's just one symptom of the jatropha fever that is spreading around the country and the world — to the slight bewilderment of some of the scientists who best understand the shrub.

Jatropha, a member of the euphorbia family, originated in Central America. It has long been used around the world as a source of lamp oil and soap, and also as a hedging plant. One of its great selling points as a biofuel is the fact that growing it need not compete with the cultivation of food. Of 306 million hectares of land considered in a report by India's Ministry of Rural Development, 173 million are already under cultivation but the rest is classified as either eroded farmland or non-arable wasteland. That's the sort of land that jatropha can thrive on, with bushes living up to 50 years, fruiting annually for more than 30 years and weathering droughts with aplomb1. In the early 2000s then-president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam repeatedly endorsed the plant for its potential contributions to energy security and as a route to greening barren land. Jatropha has been held to promise a reliable source of income for India's poor rural farmers and energy self-sufficiency for small communities — all while reducing fossil-fuel greenhouse-gas emissions and soil erosion.

Oasis in the desert:
jatropha cultivation can halt soil erosion, increase water storage in the soil and transform barren expanses into lush, productive land.J. CHIKARAIn 2003, India's Planning Commission recommended a national mission on biofuel, a two-phase project for wide-spread cultivation of jatropha on wasteland across much of India. The first phase of the mission aims for 500,000 hectares of jatropha grown on government land across the country. The biodiesel would be produced primarily by panchayats — local governing bodies — at the village level, coordinated at the national level by a consortium of government departments. Should the first phase go according to plan, India's central government would embark on the second phase of the mission — planting a total of 12 million hectares of the plant and privatizing the production of jatropha biodiesel.

Although it seems likely to go ahead eventually, various ministerial meetings that might have given the national mission on biofuel the seal of approval have been postponed in favour of higher-priority issues. Despite this, several states have enthusiastically hopped aboard the jatropha express, providing free plants to small-scale farmers, encouraging private investment in jatropha plantations and setting up biodiesel processing plants. The Ministry of Rural Development, which is set to coordinate the national mission on biofuel when it is approved, estimates that there are already between 500,000 and 600,000 hectares of jatropha growing across the country.

And India is not alone in its hopes for the shrub. In February 2007 China, which claims to have 2 million hectares of jatropha already under cultivation, announced plans to plant an additional 11 million hectares across its southern states by 2010. Neighbouring Myanmar (Burma) has plans to plant several million hectares; and the Philippines, as well as several African countries, have initiated large-scale plantations of their own. India looks forward to encouraging more such schemes and quite possibly profiting from them. “Once we have an operational programme and have something to offer the world,” says Krishna Chopra, the recently retired principal adviser to India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, “I think exporting the know-how would certainly be one of the first areas to develop.”

The great unknown
Although there is reason to be enthusiastic about jatropha's potential as a biodiesel feedstock in India and beyond, there is one rather sobering concern: despite the fact that jatropha grows abundantly in the wild, it has never really been domesticated. Its yield is not predictable; the conditions that best suit its growth are not well defined and the potential environmental impacts of large-scale cultivation are not understood at all. “Without understanding the basic agronomics, a premature push to cultivate jatropha could lead to very unproductive agriculture,” says Pushpito Ghosh, who has been working on the plant for the best part of a decade, and who is now director of the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) in Bhavnagar.

When Ghosh first arrived at the CSMCRI, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had already given the institute funding for the cultivation of a modest jatropha plantation, although not for biofuels work. The idea was to see “how to make use of waste land, coastal areas and sand dunes”, Ghosh says.

I saw all this green in what is otherwise a complete desert.”
Klaus Becker

The plantation started off as an unirrigated, unfertilized, 20-hectare patch of exhausted scrub: Ghosh wasn't particularly impressed when he first saw it. “There were shrubs and they were growing,” he recalls, “but it didn't look to me that it had what was required to make a successful plantation. 'Where are the seeds?' I said to myself. I didn't see too many of them. Merely planting and letting jatropha grow doesn't necessarily lead to productive growth.” Nonetheless, the fact that jatropha lived up to its reputation as a shrub that could eke out a living on relatively barren land piqued the interest of India's Department of Biotechnology, which provided a little further funding for exploration of biofuel possibilities using cuttings from three of the most productive plants in the UNDP trial.

The seedlings were planted in small plots spread over patches of degraded, untended land in the eastern state of Orrisa. “The results were not outstanding,” says Ghosh, “but they were consistent.” Several plants yielded around 1.5 kilograms of seed, enough for about 0.4 litres of diesel. As modest as the results were, says Ghosh, they created a lot of interest. “For the first time,” he says, “we were doing something in a systematic way.”

The CSMCRI's work also caught the imagination of Klaus Becker, who arrived at the institute in 2000 as a visiting agricultural scientist from the University of Hohenheim in Germany. The original UNDP plot inspired him far more than it had the sanguine, measured Ghosh. “I saw all this green in what is otherwise a complete desert. There was absolutely nothing else around it. 'Look,' I told Ghosh, 'if you get this working, you'll be the first in the world'.”

From seed to oil
Becker returned to Germany and set about fund-raising. By 2003 he had cobbled together a €1.7-million (US$1.9-million) research fund comprised of grants from DaimlerChrysler, the German Investment and Development Company in Cologne, India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the University of Hohenheim. With these funds, Ghosh and his team — working in collaboration with Becker and scientists at DaimlerChrysler — began exploring the transesterification needed to turn jatropha into biodiesel. The process had already been established by Nicaraguan researchers during the 1990s2 and it wasn't long before Ghosh and his team were producing small batches.

“You could tell simply by looking at it that it was fairly good quality,” says Ghosh of their first attempts. Chemists at DaimlerChrysler's Stuttgart labs analysed it in more detail than the CSMCRI was able to and judged it easily good enough to meet European standards. Further tests at the Austrian Biofuels Institute (ABI), which pitted the CSMCRI's jatropha biodiesel against fuels from other feedstocks, showed that it “clearly outperformed biodiesel from rapeseed, sunflower and soya bean oil in [its lack of a propensity to oxidize],” says the ABI's Werner Körbitz, adding that the fuel “showed a fully satisfying performance concerning power, efficiency and emissions”.

Ghosh's vision — and part of the CSMCRI's mandate — was to create a version of this transesterification process that was both inexpensive and easily replicable at the village level. Nearly 80,000 of India's 600,000 villages currently have no access to fuel or electricity — in part because there isn't enough fuel for a fuel distribution network. “If people can grow oil directly in villages and produce biofuels themselves in decentralized plants,” says Ghosh, “then they can achieve energy self-sufficiency. My colleagues and I are deeply committed to this principle.”

“The constant urge to simplify and to ensure that every gram of jatropha is turned into something valuable was a tremendous motivator,” he says, looking back at the project. But while he and his colleagues were still congratulating themselves on a job well done, the Times of India ran a story announcing that DaimlerChrysler was set to test two of its Mercedes C-Class cars on a 6,000-kilometre road test across the length and breadth of India using the CSMCRI's jatropha biodiesel.

Up the Khardungla pass

“Our focus all along has been biodiesel as a fuel for village folk, not for fancy urban folk.”
Pushpito Ghosh

It was the first Ghosh had heard of it. “Our focus all along has been biodiesel as a fuel for village folk,” he says, “not for fancy urban folk.” And on top of that there was an obvious practical difficulty. Up to this point, Ghosh and his team had only ever produced a few litres of it at a time: you can't get across India on that.

Within a few months, though, Ghosh's team had developed a transesterification unit capable of producing about 250 litres a day — adequate for use in villages and small-scale industry3. The Mercedes ran entirely on 100% jatropha biodiesel from this unit throughout April and May 2004 without any significant engine modifications. In the summer of 2005, DaimlerChrysler had several automotive journalists take the cars on a high-altitude test through the Himalayas, including Khardungla pass, which, at 5,359 metres above sea level, is one of the world's highest motorable roads.

Pushpito Ghosh tops up a vehicle that has covered 48,000 kilometres powered only by jatropha biodiesel.S. L. PUROHITWhile Ghosh and his colleagues were making sure that jatropha could be processed as a reliable source of biodiesel, several of India's state governments were busy promoting their own jatropha cultivation campaigns. The state of Chhattisgarh, which has the most well-developed biodiesel programme in the country, has distributed 380 million jatropha seedlings to farmers, free of charge, over the past 3 years, enough to cover 150,000 hectares with the shrub. Shailendra Shukla, executive director of the Chhattisgarh Biofuel Development Authority (CDBA), says the state has also provided 80 oil presses to various village panchayats, and guarantees to buy back jatropha seeds — which have to be hand-picked off the shrubs — at 6.5 rupees (about US$0.16) per kilogram in order to stimulate confidence in the crop. Several local businesses have popped up across the state, says Shukla, that are now operating micro-refineries. “These are small businesses that provide biodiesel for the use in tractors, irrigation pumps, jeeps and village power generators.”

Ghosh says that the CSMCRI has received an order for a refinery from the country's Defence Research and Development Organisation, part of India's Ministry of Defence. He explains that the unit would be capable of producing about 1,000 litres a day and would cost about 14 million rupees to install. In such a plant, he says, each litre of biodiesel would have a net production cost of about 26 rupees if the seed pods are bought at 6 rupees per kilogram and every scrap of seed and seed pod is converted into something valuable, with the seed going into oil, the bi-product seed cake into fertilizer and the seed husk into a high-density brick that can be burnt for fuel.

The wide governmental support has also attracted substantial business interest. D1 Oils, a UK-based biodiesel producer, is the world's largest commercial jatropha cultivator, responsible for around 81,000 hectares of jatropha in Chhattisgarh and in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, with plans for an additional 350,000 hectares over the next few years. “The entire programme revolves around the government-funded jatropha seeds,” says Sarju Singh, until recently managing director of D1 Oils India. “The government gives farmers free or subsidized seedlings and D1 Oils guarantees to purchase the seeds at the price prescribed by the state.” The company claims to have invested more than £3 million (US$6 million) in plant science and financing its share of the plantings, which are joint ventures.

Cautious approach

Source: United Nations Development Programme/World Bank. Jatropha figure from Indian Planning CommissionYet most of these plantings have yet to reach whatever maximum level of productivity they might eventually attain — the plants need a few years to bed in. And Ghosh is wary of subsidizing jatropha too much before mass cultivation of the plant is fully understood. “A lot of government funds may go down the tube,” he warns. Ghosh doesn't want the farmers to take on too much risk, so he is suggesting that they intersperse jatropha between their current crops, rather than banking on it as a cash crop. Shukla has similar reservations. “My immediate concern,” he says, “is that because the seeds are derived from wild plants there is no assurance of yield.” Shukla says the CBDA, like Ghosh, is promoting jatropha as something farmers limit themselves to planting between their rice fields. The only situation where all are agreed that it makes sense for small farmers to cultivate whole fields of jatropha is on farm land that has become or is becoming unproductive. It is a good fallow crop, says Becker: “It has a deep root system which stops ground erosion and increases water storage in the soil.” This, he says, leads in turn “to more biomass growth and an accumulation of organic carbon in the soil”.

Henk Joos, D1 Oils' director of plant science and agronomy, agrees that assured yields and the techniques needed to achieve them on a large scale need a lot more research. Yield estimates currently vary a great deal. India's Planning Commission estimates about 1,300 litres of oil per hectare, but Ghosh, conservatively, foresees a figure of about half that. Yield research is the main focus of D1 Oils' Indian operations, he says. The company is currently testing a number of jatropha varieties to see which ones grow best in India's varied climatic zones. “It will be two or three years before we get real scientific data to base an industry on,” he says. “We are not there yet, we have a lot of work to do.”

This is the sort of work Ghosh is currently overseeing at the CSMCRI's test plots. “It isn't the most glamorous work, but the mass multiplication of reliably producing plants is key to developing an industry, he says. Ghosh and his team are looking at precisely what kind of soil conditions and just how much water jatropha needs in order to reliably pump out oil-bearing seeds. The fact that jatropha plants can survive droughts does not mean they will not be more productive if they get more water. The optimum amount of water is still unknown.

The team is also continuously on the lookout for plants that could be potential progenitors for a generation of a high-yield crop. “We have one plant which has given us 5 kilograms of seed,” says Ghosh. “We have yet to get that from any other plant.” The CSMCRI is trying to perfect the use of shoot-tip cuttings as a means for mass-replication of jatropha plants so it can capture their best attributes. Culturing tissue cuttings from the plant's growing tip, says Ghosh, is the most reliable means of propagating exact copies of a parent plant, an important step in creating an army of dependable high-yield clones. It's a common enough technique — but like so much technology, it hasn't yet been reliably adapted to jatropha. “The problem is, we just don't have the protocol right,” says Ghosh.

These various efforts are not part of any overarching plan. Despite the general enthusiasm for India's national mission on biofuel, there is a definite lack of cohesion at the national level. “Right now, ad-hoc research is being done by different agencies,” says Chopra, “but it doesn't add up, because they each do their own thing.” A national biofuel policy that was written by Chopra and his colleagues shortly before his retirement might help. It envisages an authority that would coordinate research and provide funding through various government agencies in order to cultivate jatropha on an industrial scale. But this policy, like the national mission on biofuel, has yet to go through the cabinet. In this case, it has been stalled by disagreements between various ministries on how to price jatropha — the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy suggests subsidizing seeds; other government ministries suggest subsidizing biodiesel itself. But, says Chopra, “I expect it will come together, perhaps this year or early next year”.

Ghosh remains cautious and optimistic in level-headedly equal measure. “We must neither get carried away by hype nor get despondent if the initial results of cultivation are not as per expectation,” he says. “The future will depend on how seriously and scientifically we pursue our goals.”

Daemon Fairless is this year's winner of the IDRC-Nature fellowship.



Senior Member
Jul 31, 2009
I am also posting the comments that the article received in nature.com as I felt them interesting and they covers different points of view.

Jatrophraud. Those hyping this species rarely give its common English names (vomit nut or purge nut) nor those of its oil (hell oil or oleum infernale). It has surface irritants, yet must be hand picked and dried and the nuts removed by hand from the outer coating. Its pollen is allergenic, it contains a protein curcin (similar to ricin- and as with castor beans, eating not too many seeds is lethal), and its oil has some pretty awful components. Most of the problems could be rectified transgenically. While there is no regulatory scrutiny of the dangerous wild type being cultivated, the regulatory costs to render it safer and easier to cultivate would be prohibitive. The rural poor will not be richer from growing an unmodified, undomesticated crop such as this, they will just be less healthy. Jonathan Gressel

Report this comment 2007-10-10 03:07:58 PM Posted by: Unknown #40 Gressel you are the fraud. I wonder if perhaps you can speak of your years of field experience or the 71.38% reduction in carbon emissions from the jatrobased biodiesel BA100. Or the Millions of Rupees now going into the hands of farmers instead of OPEC's greedy little hands. I have seen this and so much more with my own eyes using non-GM crops in India and Indonesia. Yes, if you drink it you will get sick its feedstock for biofuel what do you expect. The road to solving global warming will be beset upon all sides with people that want to stand on there soapbox and pronounce it all a hoax. Without a shred of any real credability or experience. If anyone would like to see photographs, facts or figures from my research please e-mail me. [email protected]

Report this comment 2007-10-10 10:35:33 PM Posted by: Tyson Bennett #45 The reader is invited to official and peer-reviewed sources to ascertain the toxicity of Jatropha. The oil was initially claimed to contain a fatty acid curcanoleic acid, structurally and functionally related to ricinoleic and crotonoleic acids, and like them, is a of skin tumors 1. The irritant/cancer potentiator/synergist seed oil is now known to contain 0.03 and 3.4% curcusones, irritant diterpenoid phorbol esters. The best extraction procedures available for the removal of the phorbol esters remove about half 2, which is unacceptable toxicologically in accessions with high initial content. As jatropha seeds have a pleasant taste, the plants are particularly attractive to children 1, possibly because the seeds contain dulcitol and sucrose 3. Numerous cases of toxicoses from the toxicalbumin lectin (curcin) are reported in the medical literature and ingesting four seeds can be toxic to a child, with symptoms resembling organophosphate insecticide intoxication, yet with no known antidote for the lethal mixture 1. Some selections have been performed to find accessions that are less poisonous. The results are still quite poisonous, probably because the screening was performed to assay amounts of a single poisonous component, forgetting that jatropha contains a suite of toxic compounds. For example, a "non-toxic"� Mexican variety has 5% the amount phorbol esters, but still has half the amount of toxic lectins as the toxic varieties, and about 25% more trypsin inhibitors and 50% more saponins 4. The poisons could all be removed using RNAi technology, and the meal would then be appropriate for animal feed, and not as a dangerous environmental pollutatnt. 1. INCHEM. Jatropha curcas L. Intl. Programme Chem. Safety http://www.inchem.org/documents/pims/plant/jcurc.htm (1994). 2. Haas, W. & Mittelbach, M. Detoxification experiments with the seed oil from Jatropha curcas L. Industrial Crops and Products 12, 111-118 (2000). 3. Gübitz, G. M., Mittelbach, M. & Trabi, M. Exploitation of the tropical oil seed plant Jatropha curcas L. Bioresource Technology 67, 73-82 (1999). 4. Makkar, H. P. S., Aderibigbe, A. O. & Becker, K. Comparative evaluation of non-toxic and toxic varieties of Jatropha curcas for chemical composition, digestibility, protein degradability and toxic factors. Food Chemistry 62, 207-215 (1998).

Report this comment 2007-10-11 01:11:08 AM Posted by: Unknown #50 Jatropha curcas: toxic disaster or fuel for the future? Bennett and Gressel both have a point. Although even some basic agronomic characteristics of J. curcas are not yet fully understood, the plant enjoys a booming interest, and this may hold the risk of unsustainable practice. While our qualitative sustainability assessment, focusing on environmental impacts and to a lesser extent on socio-economic issues, is quite favorable as long as only degraded land is taken into J. curcas cultivation, there are several tradeoffs between different sustainability dimensions cautioning us against jumping on the Jatropha Express too soon. Please see Achten WMJ, Mathijs E, Verchot L, Singh VP, Aerts R, Muys B (in press) Jatropha bio-diesel fueling sustainability? Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining, at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jissue/114204229

Report this comment 2007-10-11 05:55:42 AM Posted by: Unknown #55 Your article was very well researched and indeed offers to India (and other Countries with equal requirements for providing alternative sources of fuel to fossil derived fuels) a temporary respite from 'Peak Oil.' With the developments in India moving forward apace and the population likely to exceed that of China in less than twenty years and the aspiration of all to have personal transport there will surely be a need for more fuels including substitutes for refined fossil fuels Diesel and petroleum/gasoline. I wonder then though whether the authors and researchers have taken note of the other potential sources of Biofuels available to India. One of these is Pongamia - the Indian Beech Nut - which was recognised by Dr. Udipi Shrinivasa from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore as being of equal importance for its oil derived fuel to be a useful source of Bio-Diesel and an equal substitute for fossil fuel derived Diesel. From the reading of his work it would appear that this could be of more importance to the Indian economy than Jatropha. Yet in all of these issues about the developments of BioFuels little if ever mention is made of the fact that growing crops on land that might also be used for growing foods has its disadvantages. With the scarcity of such land across the world we should be careful in all that we do in case we upset the fine balance between ecosystems in the area. Perhaps the two events in recent time that should be referred to as a warning in this area are the destruction of the Aral Sea basin as a result of the diversion of the source rivers to feed the Cotton Industry and the effects of the Communal Farming initiatives in China during the 1950s and 1960s. (There will be others in historical terms of equal note!) In respect to the options for the other Biofuel substitute - Ethanol - for petrol/gasoline there is as much an obvious need in India as there is elsewhere in the World (be it China, Korea, Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil and the rest of the South Americas or in the 'Western Nations.') The traditional route to manufacture Ethanol again relies on the use of crops that are primary sources of food (Sugar Cane and Beet or Corn, Wheat, Rice and Grains etc.) or they are grown on land that should preferentially be used to grow food. This conflict between the use of Crops (and land) for the Production of Fuel or Food will bedog us for some time unless we take action to redress it at the earliest opportunity. One of the easiest ways to do this is to intercept the Biomass from Waste sources and use this to manufacture the fuel Ethanol. The process to do this Mild Acid Hydrolysis is well founded and established having been developed in the late 19th Century and early 20th Centuries to make batch small quantities of Ethanol for transport in the USA and Europe prior to the development of the mass development of cheap oil in the USA and the European North Sea. With the developments of the process in recent time by Genesyst and the use of its Internationally patented Gravity Pressure Vessel the process is now continuous and the resulting efficiency of conversion of Biomass to Ethanol means that it can be used on any sources of Biomass including that found in Waste (previously considered unusable) in an emission free environmentally acceptable and economical way at around a quarter of the cost of the Thermal Destructive - or the Incineration - and Waste to Energy options. The sources of the raw material available to make Ethanol now includes Biomass found in Waste from Agriculture and Farming, Forestry, Food Production and Discards, Commerce and Industry (including Saw Mill and Paper Manufacture, etc.), and Construction Debris and the likes. Importantly though for Society it includes the Biomass we discard in our Municipal Solid Waste. This source of Biomass is available from every community around the World, and it is a constant source of material that is not affected by Climate, Seasons or Internationally defined Commodity Prices established outside the Country of production. In the Metropolitan City of Mumbai some figures were quoted by Surika Kamil (for the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research) which gave an insight into the issue for Greater Mumbai as follows. In 2001 the total daily production of Municipal Solid Waste was 6260 tonnes (rounded up to the nearest 10:) The Biomass equivalent in this same source of Waste was 3950 tonnes: Assumed Water Content of the Biomass as a percentage 50% Potential Ethanol yield at 200 litres per dry tonne of Biomass = 144+ million litres per year. If it was possible to consider all the potential Municipal Waste collected in the major cities in India then from the report given in the Hindu on Wednesday March 07th 2007 where it is stated '..."The present annual solid waste generated in Indian cities has increased from 48 million tones in 1997 to 95 million tonnes, which might exceed 150 million tonnes over the next seven years," says Mr. Dhoot.' Supposing just half of this 150 million tonnes was made into the fuel Ethanol then the comparative quantity of Ethanol derived would be nearer 4700+ million litres of Ethanol (a not insignificant sum)! And by adding to this other waste sources of Biomass it is possible that even India could become self sufficient in substitute Biofuels. The comparison elsewhere around the world though is even more startling. City/Population/MSW tonnes per day/Ethanol litres per year Buenos Aries/12.4m/7,800/480,000,000 Beijing/15.3m/13,300/820,000,000 São Paulo City/18.7m/15,900/985,000,000 MetroSeoul/23.9m/22,800/1450,000,000 If Brazil was to exploit the production of Ethanol from Municipal Waste it could increase the total country's production very significantly! By converting Biomass from its Municipal Waste to Ethanol Metro Seoul could replace over 40% of the total petrol used in the area. So in returning to the article in the current press We should be looking at the wider picture when it comes to addressing the potential of Biofuel production. This should embrace the use of Biomass as it does not impinge on the use of Crops that should primarily be used for Food or grown on land that ought in the first instance be used for growing food. The use of Jatropha (or indeed Pongamia) may be such a crop but even then in certain areas it may have distinct advantages for Society.

Report this comment 2007-10-11 09:13:13 AM Posted by: Peter Hurrell #59 Thanks for the nice, well researched reviews on Jatropha. Biodiesel from Jatropha oil is a huge potential to reduce the spread of desert and cover arid/semi-arid land with green shrubs. It also can enable poor, rural people in countries like India, Chain, Africa etc to get some extra earnings. Though I have enough doubt if it can solve the problems regarding fossil fuel in future in large scale, even in those countries. The main bottleneck for using Jatropha is very high labour requirement collect seeds. This will be real long-term problem for its use in industrialized countries where labour cost is very high. Seed cakes of jatropha is known to contain toxicity and not suitable for cattle feed and fertilizer. In countries like India, jatropha has invited private investment. Their goals are not necessarily the elevation of rural poverty and provide green cover for arid and semiarid land. They are mostly interested to gain from Govt subsidy associated with jatropha plantation. This also has the potentiality to force and exploit poor and mostly illiterate farmers in villages to cultivate jatropha instead of their normal crops. This will be of great concern in countries like India with huge population to feed. Unless proper and systemic studies are completed to ascertain its agronomic and environmental impact, economic feasibility (mainly for rural mass), Jatropha should not be allowed for mass cultivation. Its use by private investors also should be properly monitored.

Report this comment 2007-10-11 12:47:03 PM Posted by: Unknown #73 I am really interested to see these opinions about Jatropha curcas, not least because I am involved in an EU AidCo funded project called RE-Impact (www.ceg.ncl.ac.uk/reimpact) in which we are planning to develop integrated tools and methodologies to help stakeholders and policymakers see the bigger picture when planning energy plantations. We are looking at water resource, socioeconomic, biodiversity and climate change (CDM and JI) impacts from global to local scales, with case studies in India, China, Uganda and South Africa. As discussed in the article Jatropha is already planted up in a big way in India and China with more planned, whilst interest in Uganda is scant and there is currently a moratorium on the crop in South Africa. All very interesting stuff, and we hope to develop the project meaningfully over the next 3 years with input from any interested stakeholders at any level. For more information, workshop details, or to get in touch, please do go to the website.
Report this comment 2007-10-12 08:56:34 AM Posted by: Jennifer Harrison #80 Biodiesel, like starch-based ethanol, uses only a fraction of the plant. A winning strategy for biofuels would be based on converting the cellulose.

Report this comment 2007-10-12 02:39:11 PM Posted by: Paul Braterman #514 The perspective on Jatropha I mentioned above, has been published online and is available via http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/bbb.39
Report this comment 2007-11-20 12:17:01 PM Posted by: Unknown

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