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Satish Lele

Lecture on Jatropha Curcas

Jatropha Curcas was the most neglected plant so far. Jatropha can grow wildly. Now Jatropha has acquired significance, because Jatropha can provide raw materials for production of Bio-Fuels.

  1. Low demands in terms of cultivation, water and soil quality with resulting suitability for degraded, unused and drought prone lands.

  2. Non edible leaves and fruits, which stop stress passing (if grown on hedges) and browsing by animals, but can be used as nutrient rich fertilizer and as windbreak, thus conserving soil humidity.

  3. A nut, whose oil can be used or processed for any energy purposes, such as, lighting, soap manufacture and for pharmaceuticals, varnish and plant protection.

  4. Wooden parts of the plant can be used for reforestation, home of bees and birds, and as firewood in rural areas.

  1. Inconsistent approaches and exaggerated expectations concerning yields, input-output relations and resulting incomes.

  2. Lack of knowledge and wrong and misleading information about requirement of water, sunlight, nutrients & fertilizer, pruning of branches to get better fruit yield.

    The main tree born seeds with biodiesel potential are
  1. Jatropha curcas or VanErand or Ratanjyot

  2. Pongomia pinnata or Karanj

  3. Mahuca indica or Mahua

  4. Neem

BioDiesel is being manufactured in a number of Developed countries, who depend on Developing countries for supply of raw oil. Due to this, Jatropha Plantation is suddenly in Limelight.

  1. Oil yield per hectare is among the highest of tree borne oil seeds.

  2. Jatropha can be grown in areas of low rainfall (500 mm per year) and in problematical soils. In high rainfall and irrigated areas too Jatropha can be grown with much higher yields. Therefore, Jatropha can be grown in most parts of the country.

  3. Jatropha is easy to establish, grows relatively quickly and is hardy.

  4. Jatropha lends itself to plantation with advantage on lands developed on watershed basis and on low fertility marginal, degraded, fallow, waste and other lands such as along the canals, roads railway tracks, on borders of farmersí fields as a boundary fence or live hedge in the arid / semi-arid areas and even on alkaline soils. As such Jatropha can be used to reclaim waste lands in the forests and outside.

  5. Jatropha seeds are easy to collect as they are ready to be plucked after the rainy season and as the plants are not very tall.

  6. Jatropha is not browsed by animals.

  7. Being rich in nitrogen, the seed cake is an excellent source of plant nutrients.

  8. Seed production ranges from about 0.4 tons in first year per hectare per year to over 5 tons per hector.

  9. The plant starts giving seed in a maximum period of two years after planting.

  10. Raising plants in nurseries, planting and maintaining them and collection of seed are labor intensive activities. Except for the cost of fertilizer and transportation of the plants from the nursery, all the activities in the nurseries and in planting consist of labor.

  11. Like all trees, Jatropha absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, stores carbon in the woody tissues and assists in the build up of soil carbon. Jatropha is thus environment friendly.

  12. Jatropha can be established from seed, seedlings and vegetatively from cuttings. Use of branch cutting for propagation is easy and results in rapid growth.

  13. Various parts of the plant are of medicinal value, its bark contains tannin, the flowers attract bees and thus the plant has honey production potential.

  14. The plant is undemanding in soil type and does not require tillage.

The plantation and down stream processing is going to provide large scale opportunities for poorer sections of society. In arid desert places in Rajasthan in India, there are large plantations of these, which proves that Jatropha can grow well in desert lands. References are found in Ayurved (Indian Medicinal Practice) about Jatropha. Plenty of information is available in Ayurved, especially about its medicinal value. Now Jatropha is gaining popularity as a sturdy bush which can grow in scanty rain fall areas, and providing rich dividends as raw material for Bio Fuels.

  1. Jatropha curcas (nontoxic)

  2. J. curcas x J integrerrima

  3. Jatropha gossypifolia

  4. Jatropha glandulifera

  5. Jatropha tanjorensis

  6. Jatropha multifida

  7. Jatropha podagrica

  8. Jatropha integerrima

Portuguese seamen brought Curcas variety of this plant to India from tropical countries of Latin and Central America in 16th century. Its origin lies in Central America and Africa. Portuguese imported and cultivated this plant in India for its medicinal values. Jatropha was propagated all over India only for its medicinal values. Today these grow wildly in all Tropical and sub-tropical regions. Jatropha has 200 names in different languages and in different parts of the world. This shows how far and wide Jatropha has spread.

    In India Jatropha is known by different names in Regional Languages
  1. Sanskrut : Kanan-Erand, Parvat-Erand

  2. Hindi : Bhagirend, Jangli-Erand, Safed-Erand

  3. Marathi : Van-Erand, Ran-Erand, Mogli-Erand, ChandraJyot, Chandri

  4. Gujrathi : RatanJyot, JamalGota, ParshiErand, KalaErand

  5. Telgu : Nepalamu, Paddanepalamu, AdaviyaHaralu

  6. Tamil : KadalaManuku, RatManukku

  7. Kannada : KadhalaVanakka, BettadaHaralu, Marahalu, Karnochi

  8. Odiya : KattaVanakka, KadhalaVanakka, Jahangba

  9. Assami : BongoliBhotora

  10. Punjabi : JamalGota, KalaErand.


Jatropha is classified under a generic name of ERAND. Jatropha grows wildly as a big tree, or as a cluster of number of bushes, packed very closely, in wild. Whether Jatropha is a tree or a bush, Jatropha is always green. Depending on local climatic conditions, these can grow 7 to 10 meters tall, but in rain-fed areas these grow only 2 to 3 meters tall. In jungle, 3 or 4 plants grow together, as if Jatropha is one tree. In case of plantation, Jatropha is grown as 1 trunk and 2 branches at every node.


In jungle its trunk can be 150 mm in thickness, but in plantation Jatropha can be only 50 to 60 mm. On fully grown trunk and branches, there are layers of darker color. These peel out if you rub on trunk. If trunk, branches or leaves are cut, an off-white latex flows down the tree.


The leaves are 100 to 150mm or 70 to 100mm in size. These are broad, egg-shaped with a heart shape. Its ends are lobes of 3 to 5 fingers. The periphery of the leaves are cut like saw-teeth. The edges are sharper. The surface of the leaves is extremely soft and sticky. Since the leaves are bitter in taste, no cattle likes to eat Jatropha leaves.


Bunches of flowers grow at the end of the branches. The central bunches generally have female flowers while the outer ones are male flowers.


The fruits are 25mm long and oblong. In the beginning these are green. As these ripen, these turn yellowish with golden tinge. On drying, these darken and when fully dry, these are black. When these dry fruits are peeled, seed each are found in 3 pockets.


These fresh seeds are oblong, gray in color and resembles castor seed. But Jatropha seed is smaller than castor seed. The seeds are 10 to 20mm long and weigh 0.5 to 0.7 grams.

  1. Moisture 6.20 %

  2. Protein 18.00 %

  3. Fat 38.00 %

  4. Carbohydrates 17.00 %

  5. Fiber 15.50 %

  6. Ash 5.30 %


In India, Number of flowers peak in July / August and the fruits start ripening in September. Maximum seeds are available in the month of December.


Most parts of tropical and sub-tropical areas are ideal for Jatropha Plantation. These can grow in areas where minimum rainfall is 500 to 750 mm. However these can grow in desert areas around towns, which can be watered by domestic waste water from towns around these plantations. Jatropha can also grow in drought prone areas and where rainfall is scanty. In such areas, the seed production is less. The plant germinates in hot and humid atmosphere. As temperature starts dropping Jatropha blooms with flowers and fruits grow in winter. Jatropha can not tolerate very harsh winter or fog. At the time of start of flowering, atmosphere should be dry with bright sunshine.


Jatropha can bear fruits for 25 years. Jatropha can withstand drought for 3 consecutive years. If the soil is bad and if rainfall is unreliable, these plants need to be watered for first 2 to 3 years. Later on Jatropha can survive.


Jatropha can grow in soft, rocky, sloping soils along a mountain as well as medium fertile lands. These can be grown along canals, water streams, boundaries of crop fields, along the roads, along railway lines. In short, the least fertile lands are best for this plant. However, fertile lands in which water does not accumulate, can also be used for Jatropha Plantations. Highly fertile black cotton soils, which can hold water and alkaline soils are not good for Jatropha Plantations. Once the roots penetrate deeper, Jatropha can tolerate acidic or salty soils. The soil productivity and fertility is low in the initial stage. Soil needs to be improved by compost fertilizer, cow dung and other fertilizers. Some micro nutrients are also helpful in improving productivity.

SOILS that should be AVOIDED

Soils that should be avoided are those containing 10 to 40% sand, 60 to 90% normal soil. These are black in color, hold water and cracks are found in these soils in summer.


The roots of Jatropha plants are shallow in the beginning, hence these can grow in cracks of rocky mountain slopes.


The pH of soil is an important consideration for the survival of the plant. Some soils are highly acidic due to accumulation of salts. Some soils are alkaline due to calcium and aluminum deposits in the soil. pH should be ideally 5.5 to 6.5.


The entire land should be fenced before plantation. Stones lying around can be used to create a wall around the plot. Considering the slope of land, flow of water streams, small walls should be erected along to the contours. On top of this dead fencing, a live fence is created by growing plants of cactus varieties. Though plantation can be done without any cleaning activities, but it is advisable to partly clean up the area. Tall trees can be left as it is. All small shrubs and bushes on the soil should be cut above the roots. Jatropha stops soil erosion. The left over roots eventually die and provide green manure or composting fertilizer.


The soil should be tilled and soil should be porous. Inter crops are planted in these lands for first 3 to 4 years. All weeds and fungus should be completed rooted out.


In case of plantation, it is advisable to keep the plants short in height. This can be achieved by cutting branches from time to time. In this case the distance between 2 plants is less.


Days in June and July, at the onset of monsoon rains in India, is the ideal period for Jatropha Plantation. Land should be tilled in the months of April and May, and all dry vegetation should be burnt and destroyed before plantation.


Direct Seed or Branch Plantation : Jatropha Plantation can be done by sowing seeds or by planting branches of existing trees. The land is marked in squares of 2 meters x 2 meters all along. 2 seeds or one branch is inserted at each intersection.
PLANTS in PLASTIC BAGS : Plants grown from seeds or branches, in plastic bags can also be planted. This method has advantage that, these can be cultivated throughout the year, and can be watered easily in a small area.


Good quality seeds of attractive color should be selected for germination. For this purpose, good quality fruits should be collected in the months of September or October and these should be dried in shade for 3 to 4 days, after de-pulping. Jatropha seeds should then be soaked in water for 4 days.


A good seed is one which gives out oil if pressed by nail. Cracked, scratched or infected seed should not be used for germination. 5 to 6 kgs of seeds are enough for plantation in one hector of land.

  1. Plantation from Branches : 500 to 1000 mm long branches can be used for plantation. These are planted on the onset of monsoon rains.

  2. Plants grown from such branches can yield 50 fruits in 8 months time.

Method for Plantation in Plastic Bags

Good quality seeds are planted in poly-ethylene bags having size of 70 x 100 mm. A good soil mix is prepared by mixing 2 kgs of compost, 1 kg of filtered sand. Some insecticide and Weedicide is then sprayed on sand.

SOIL for filling BAGS

While filling the bags, top 20 to 30 mm is not filled. That portion is folded, which gives a good strength to the bag.
Each bag should be filled with soil enriched by 500 gms of cow dung, 100 gms of 7:10:5 NPK and 400 gms compost fertilizer.
2 seeds should be planted 50 to 60 mm deep in each bag. After a month, the weaker plant of the two is eliminated.
Pits of standard sizes, are dug initially, based on the slope of land, availability of water, quality of soil. Pits of 300 x 300mm and 300 deep are dug in square formation. The distance between the two pits is 2 meters. Jatropha can be less in poor soils. A layer of dry leaves is spread at the bottom up to about 50mm and insecticide is sprayed on soil. Along with the compost fertilizer and cow dung, 20 gms of urea, 120 gms of single super phosphate and 16 gms of potassium nitrate is added in each pit.


In the initial phase of growth, roots grow very rapidly and try to penetrate in soil to suck nutrients from the soil. For this the pits should be filled with good, fertile soil. Initial growth is very important, and hence nutrients should be provided from time to time in initial years.


If soil is poor in nutrients, the pit should be filled with excess compost fertilizer and cow dung.
The requirement of chemical fertilizers per hector per year is 50 kgs of urea + 300 kgs of single super phosphate + 40 kgs of potassium nitrate.


All the weeds should be removed around the plant. Initially for 3 to 4 months, land should be tilled 2 or 3 times after 20 days, to remove weeds. 10 gms of urea should be mixed in the soil, for each plant, one month after plantation. Later, weeds removal should be repeated after 1 and half month.
The soil between two plants, should be tilled lightly, and should not be tilled deep. Branches of jatropha, that have dried up should be cut and disposed off. Branches that have grown improperly or those leaning down, should also be removed.


Some natural materials can be used to cover the land between the two plants. This can be husk, small branches, stocks of rice and wheat etc. This reduces evaporation of water from the soil.


The rising top of the tree should be cut once the tree is 1 meter tall. This will lead to branching of the tree. More the branches, more the production of fruits and seeds. Every year branches grow near the base, and these should be removed and replanted elsewhere. It is very important to cut the tree in time and keep Jatropha in proper shape. The plants should be cut in proper way, so that these will grow like umbrella. Care should be taken from the beginning. Normally Jatropha can naturally flower only once a year, but with modern techniques Jatropha can be forced to flower Twice or Thrice a year. To do this watering of the plants is stopped for a period. During this period half the leaves are shed by the tree. Water supply is restarted at this point and tree starts flowering again. When watering is started again, the quantity of water is increased slowly day by day and NPK fertilizers are provided. Normally, flowering takes place after 21 days.


In case of regular plantation, organic and chemical fertilizers should be provided in proper quantity as per the age of the tree. NPK ratio should be 46:48:24 kgs per hector. As the roots grow longer, fertilizers are applied away from the base of the tree.


Plants get the nutrients from soil as water solution. Hence its successful growth depends on water content of soil, or timely watering of the plants. In the initial stages Jatropha is sensitive and hence, water should be provided as per the requirement. Timetable for poorer soils is every 5 to 6 days, medium soils 7 to 10 days, and good soils every 10 to 12 days.


For plantations, it is necessary to erect small boulder check dams, to create small and big water bodies. This water can be used after the monsoon. Drip irrigation is more important to enhance the yield. Through this controlled amount of water and fertilizer can be provided all the time. With drip irrigation, 3 crops can be obtained in a year. In monsoon the trees bloom and flowering and bearing of fruits can be achieved with rain water. Water should wet only the area under the tree and rest should be dry. Hence initially requirement of water is very small. If monsoon rain is at regular interval of few days, rain water is sufficient for Jatropha.


Fruits should be plucked at appropriate time and in appropriate manner. Plucking time is generally at the end of December or beginning of January. All the fruits on tree are not ready for plucking and only ripe one should be plucked. Latex drops down from the point of plucking of fruit and care should be taken that latex should not fall on body.

  1. Acid value 38.2

  2. Saponification value 195.0

  3. Iodine value 101.7

  4. Viscosity (31oC) 40.4 cp

  5. Fatty acids composition

    • Palmitic acid 4.2 %

    • Stearic acid 6.9 %

    • Oleic acid 43.1 %

    • Linoleic acid 34.3 %

    • Other acids 1.4 %


The cost of plantation has been estimated to be Rs. 30,000 per hectare. inclusive of plantation and maintenance for one year, training, overheads etc. Cost of plantation includes elements such as site preparation, digging of pits, fertilizer & manure, cost of plants and planting, irrigation, de-weeding, plant protection, maintenance for one year i.e., the stage up to which Jatropha will start seed production etc. The cost of training, awareness generation, monitoring & evaluation is also included.

Nursery Raising

You can set up nurseries which will supply plants to the beneficiary to ensure success of plantations and quick return. Plants grown in nursery will also result in seed production at the end of the first year itself. Nurseries will supply seedlings to the farmers in their village. A seedling will start yielding seed after a year of its plantation. Jatropha is planted at a spacing of 2m X 2m and 2500 plants will be grown in 1 hectare of Jatropha plantation.
Although using a seedling of 4 to 6 months grown in a nursery should not result in the usual rates of mortality of plantations, it will be reasonable to assume that 20% of the plants will need replaced. A nursery can produce 2 million (20 lakh) plants a year.
Hence over a period of 3 years nursery will produce 6 million (60 lakh) plants and will be sufficient to cover 2000 Hectares of plantation. For the non-forest area 1500 nurseries will be required. For the plantation in forest and adjoining areas one thousand nurseries will be established These nurseries may be developed by the individuals.

Districts identified for Large Scale Plantations

Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Amrawati, Akola, Beed, Buldana, Dhule, Nasik, Osmanabad, Parbhani, Pune, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Thane, Yavatmal.