RENEWABLE FUELS - Background Information

Introduction to Jatropha curcas

1) Jatropha curcas belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae and is thus related to rubber, castor etc. It is believed to have originated in South America and Africa and was spread by the Portuguese all over the world. It is growing in India for the last 500 years and is found in all parts of India in its natural state except in the high altitudes. It is found in abundance in the North East.

2) It is a small tree or shrub with a smooth grey bark, which exudes whitish, watery latex when cut. It normally grows between 3 to 5 metres but has been known to grow up to 10 metres tall.

3) It has large green to pale green leaves, alternate to sub opposite, three to five lobed with spiral phyllotaxis.

4) The petiole length of the flowers ranges between 6 to 23 mm. The inflorescence is formed in the leaf axil. Flowers are formed terminally, individually, with female flower usually slightly larger. It normally flowers when the temperature is higher than 20 degrees centigrade. It prefers the hot tropical climate. In conditions where continuous growth occurs, an imbalance of pistillate or staminate flower production results in a higher number of female flowers.

5) Fruits are produced several times a year if the soil moisture is adequate and temperatures are sufficiently high. Otherwise fruits are produced once a year between the periods August to November. Each inflorescence yields a bunch of 10 or more ovoid fruits. Three bi-valved cocci are formed after the seeds mature.

6) The plant grows practically in any type of soil --- gravely, sandy, acidic or saline soils. It grows in the poorest of soils. The water requirement is extremely low and when mature it can withstand long periods of drought. It also prevents soil erosion. However, the plant does not grow well in low lying land which is prone to water logging.

7) It can be propagated from seeds and also from stem cuttings. A nursery is built up and the plants are transplanted to the field when it is about 3 months old.

8) It is planted with a spacing of 2m X 2m in open fields. The height is pruned to about 2 metres and lateral growth is encouraged. It is also planted as a live fence with a spacing of 1m. Thus in an open field the plant population will be 2500 plants/hectare. In fencing planting, the plant population will be 1000 plants per km.

9) The Government of India is promoting Jatropha as it can be grown on marginal land, waste land, arid lands and denuded lands. Thus it will not compete with food crops.

10) In good fertile land it can also be grown with intercropping of short duration crops.

11) 25 lakh plant population is equivalent to 1000 Hectares open field plantation.

12) Nabard has approved Jatropha for refinancing as a commercial plantation.

13) Banks and financial institutions like the NEDFI are financing the plantation of Jatropha by Corporates, small farmers and Self Help Groups.

14) The Government of India provides subsidy through NOVOD for planting Jatropha.

15) Self Help Groups formed through the Panchayats may be eligible for subsidy under the Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana Scheme and under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005. There are various other subsidies available for the North East States. The application and suitability of the various schemes have to be studied case to case.

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