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Investing in Jatropha
Jatropha Curcas Plant (RatanJyot, VanErand)
Botanical Features : It is a small tree or shrub with smooth gray bark, which exudes a whitish colored, watery, latex when cut. Normally, it grows between three and five meters in height, but can attain a height of up to eight or ten meters under favourable conditions.
Leaves : It has large green to pale-green leaves, alternate to sub-opposite, three-to five-lobed with a spiral phyllotaxis. In winter, all the leaves fall and the shrub is leafless.
Flowers : The petiole length ranges between 6-23 mm. The inflorescence is formed in the leaf axil. Flowers are formed terminally, individually, with female flowers usually slightly larger and occurs in the hot seasons. In conditions where continuous growth occurs, an unbalance of pistillate or staminate flower production results in a higher number of female flowers. More number of female flowers are grown by the plant if bee keeping is done along with. More female flowers give more number of fruits and hence seeds.
Fruits : Fruits are produced after winter. It may produce several crops during the year if soil moisture is good and temperatures are sufficiently high. Each inflorescence yields a bunch of approximately 10 or more ovoid fruits. A three, bi-valved cocci is formed after the seeds mature and the fleshy exocarp dries.
Seeds : The seeds become mature when the capsule changes from green to yellow, after two to four months from fertilization. The blackish, thin shelled seeds are oblong and resemble small castor seeds.
Production of Seeds and oil : From the experience in India and elsewhere, a plant density of 1,600 per hectare (spacing of 3 X 2 meters) has been found to be optimal. In such plantations Jatropha gives about 1/2 to 1 kg of seed per tree. In relatively poor desert soils, such as in Kutch (Gujrat) the yields have been reported to be 1/2 kg per plant. The seed production in plantations varies between 1 tons / hectare and 2.1 tons / hectare, depending upon whether the soils are poor or average. (Some people claim that you can get 12 tons per hectare. This is not possible, as 2 meters tall jatropha plant can not bear more than 1 kg of seeds per season. This level of production may be possible from a 10 year old, 5 meters tall jatropha plant. In such a case number of plants per area should be half to accomodate such trees. Yield per hectare is thus same). If planted on hedges of fertile land, the reported productivity of Jatropha is from 0.8 kg. to 1.0 kg. of seed per meter of live fence. Assuming a square plot, a fence around it will have a length of 400 meters and a production of 0.4 MT of seed. A hedge along one hectare will be equal to 0.1 hectare of block plantation.
Oil content of Jatropha seeds with cover varies from 28% to 30%. It is 60% in kernal. One hectare of plantation will give 400 to 600 liters of oil if the soil is average, 200 to 400 liters if the soil is lateritic, and 100 to 200 liters if the soil is of the type found in Kutch (Gujarat).
It can meet a number of objectives such as meeting domestic needs of energy including cooking and lighting, as an additional source of household income and employment, bio fertilizer, medicines, and industrial raw material for soap, cosmetics, etc. In creating environmental benefits, protection of crops or pasture lands, or as a hedge for erosion control, or as a windbreak and a source of organic manure.
Ecological Requirements : Jatropha curcas / Castor grows almost anywhere, even on gravelly, and sandy soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil. It can grow even in the crevices of rocks. The leaves that are shed during the winter months form mulch around the base of the plant. The organic matter from such leaves enhance earth-worm activity in the soil around the root-zone of the plants, which improves the fertility of the soil. Climatically, Jatropha curcas / Castor is found in the tropics and subtropics and likes heat, although it does well even in lower temperatures and can withstand a light frost. Its water requirement is extremely low (1 liter of water per plant per day and can be provided once in 15 days which costs Rs. 20 per hectare for each watering) and it can stand long periods of drought by shedding most of its leaves to reduce transpiration loss. Jatropha curcas is also suitable for preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand dunes.
Analysis of the Jatropha curcas seed, shows the following chemical composition in %:
The oil content is 25 to 30% in the seed with cover. Without cover it is 50 to 60% in the kernel. The oil contains 21% saturated fatty acids and 79% unsaturated fatty acids. There are some chemical elements in the seed, Cursin, which are poisonous and render the oil not appropriate for human consumption.
Medicinal plant : The latex of Jatropha curcas contains an alkaloid known as jatrophine, which is believed to have anti-cancerous properties. It is also used as an external application for skin diseases and rheumatism and for sores on domestic livestock. In
addition, the tender twigs of the plant are used for cleaning teeth, while the juice of the leaf is used as an external application for piles. Finally, the roots are reported to be used as an antidote for snake-bites.
Raw material for dye : The bark of Jatropha curcas yields a dark blue dye which is used for colouring cloth, fishing nets and lines.
Soil enrichment : Jatropha curcas / Castor oil cake is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and can be used as it is as organic manure for plantations.
Leaves : Jatropha leaves are used as food for the tusser silkworm.
Insecticide/ pesticide : The seeds are considered anthelimintic in Brazil, and the leaves are used for fumigating houses against bed-bugs. Also, the ether extract shows antibiotic activity against Styphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.
Alternative to Diesel : It is significant to point out that, the non-edible vegetable oil of Jatropha curcas / Castor has the requisite potential of providing a promising and commercially viable alternative to diesel oil since it has desirable physicochemical and performance characteristics comparable to diesel. Diesel cars can be run with Jatropha curcas oil without any change in design.
In India it is known by different names in Regional Languages.
- Sanskrut: Kanan-Erand, Parvat-Erand
- Hindi: Ratanjyot, Bhagirend, Jangli-Erand, Safed-Erand
- Marathi: Van-Erand, Ran-Erand, Mogli-Erand, ChandraJyot, Chandri
- Gujrathi: RatanJyot, JamalGota, ParshiErand, KalaErand
- Telgu: Nepalamu, Paddanepalamu, AdaviyaHaralu
- Tamil: KadalaManuku, RatManukku
- Kannada: KadhalaVanakka, BettadaHaralu, Marahalu, Karnochi
- Odiya: KattaVanakka, KadhalaVanakka, Jahangba
- Asami: Bongoli Bhotora
- Punjabi: JamalGota, KalaErand.
For mitigating climate change by reducing emission of green house gases, meeting rural energy needs, protecting the environment and generating gainful employment, Jatropha curcas / Castor has multiple role to play. All attempts to increase its production and productivity, oil extraction by application of appropriate technology, product development and diversification and policies that will protect and promote national interest would be welcome.