What is Jatropha?
curcus is a drought-resistant perennial, growing well in marginal/poor soil. It is easy to establish, grows relatively quickly and lives, producing seeds for 50 years.
Jatropha the wonder plant produces seeds with an oil content of 30%-40%. The oil can be combusted as fuel without being refined. It burns with clear smoke-free flame, tested successfully as fuel for simple diesel engine. The by-products are press cake a good organic fertilizer, oil contains also insecticide.
It is found to be growing in many parts of the country, rugged in nature and can survive with minimum inputs and easy to propagate.
Jatropha is a valuable multi-purpose crop to alleviate soil degradation, desertification and deforestation, which can be used for bio-energy to replace petro-diesel, for soap production and climatic protection, and hence deserves specific attention.
Jatropha can help to increase rural incomes, self-sustainability and alleviate poverty for women, elderly, children and men, tribal communities, small farmers. It can as well help to increase income from plantations and agro-industries.
There are various trees that are suitable for bio-diesel production. Out of all these trees, Jatropha must be regarded as a sure inclusion and the foundation around which a plan can be built if for nothing but its pure hardiness and stress handling ability. It is just a tree that has enough credentials. That is why the Planning Commission of India has nominated it as ideal plant for biodiesel.
Food VS Fuel
Rushing to turn food crops — maize, wheat, sugar, palm oil — into fuel for cars, without first examining the impact on global hunger, would be a recipe for disaster. Among the potential impacts identified are increasing food prices, increasing competition over land and forests, forced evictions, impacts on employment and conditions of work, and increasing prices and scarcity of water. That is why Jatropha was recently recommended as a biofuels crop for developing countries by UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food
In recent years, the Indian government has shown a major interest in Jatropha, and alongside other developing countries, a number of international groups are now sharing this interest. There have been substantial political and social pressures to promote the growing of such crops (in particular Jatropha curcas) in India, as a means of economic empowerment, social upliftment and poverty alleviation within marginalized communities.
Jatropha curcas grows almost anywhere , even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil. It can grow even in the crevices of rocks. The leaves shed during the winter months form mulch around the base of the plant. The organic matter from shed leaves enhance earth-worm activity in the soil around the root-zone of the plants, which improves the fertility of the soil.
Regarding climate, Jatropha curcas 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 and it can stand long periods of drought by shedding most of its leaves to reduce transpiration loss. Jatropha is also suitable for preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand dunes.