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Growth and productivity of Jatropha curcas under semi arid conditions .
Engery Plantation Demonstration project and <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Biotechnology Center.
Bio-Technology Lab Department of Botany
University of Rajasthan, Jaipur - 302 004
In Rajasthan, Jatropha grows wild in south east Rajasthan which lies on south east side of Aravalli hill range which roughly divides the state in semi-arid and arid regions. A detailed survey was carried out in these areas. Nursery techniques for large scale plantation of elite strains have been developed. An area of 35 ha has been planted with Jatropha curcas with the high yielding strains identified during the course of investigation. The morphological parameters have been employed to characterize initial growth of the plants in the nursery stage. The plants showing improved growth at the nursery stage in terms of stem girth and plant height had positive correlation on its further growth Some of the plants in their second year of growth have shown flowering and fruiting during moths of September to January. Application of fertilizers and proper irrigation schedule has improved the growth and productivity of plants.
Although Jatropha is adapted to low fertility sites and alkaline soils, better yields are reported to be obtained on poor quality soils if fertilizers containing small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are used. Mycorrhizal associations have been observed with Jatropha and are known to aid the plant’s growth under conditions where phosphate is limiting. It is recommended that 1 kg of farmyard manure/ plus 100 g of Neem waste for every seedling, with a recommendation of 2500 plants per ha totaling to 2.5 t organic fertilizer per ha considerabley improves plant growth. In addition to this inorganic fertilizers such as N, P and K have been recommended after transplantation and the establishment of the plants. Twenty gram urea + 120 g single super phosphate and 16 g Muriate of potash has been recommended (IARI personal communication).
References recommend spacing for hedgerows or soil conservation is 15cm - 25cm x 15cm-25cm in one or two rows respectively and 2m x 1.5m to 3m x 3mm for plantations. Thus there will be between 4,000 to 6,700 plants per km for a single hedge row and double that when two rows are planted.
Satisfactory planting widths are 2 x 2 m, 2.5 x 2.5 m, and 3 x 3 m. This is equivalent to crop densities of 2500, 1600 and 1111 plants/ha, respectively. Distance OF 2mX2m is recommended for commercial cultivation. Wider spacing is reported to give larger yields of fruit.
It is considered good practice. In order to facilitate the harvesting, it is suggested to keep the tree less than 2 meters in height.
Specific intolerance with other crops has not been detected. On the contrary the shade can be exploited for shade-loving herbal plants; vegetables such red and green peppers, tomatoes, etc.
It is very difficult to estimate unequivocally the yield of a plant that is able to grow in very different conditions.
Yield is a function of water, nutrients, heat and the age of the plant and genetic makeup. However very little is known about the genetic make up of Jatropha. Many different methods of establishment, farming and harvesting are possible. Yield can be enhanced with right balance of cost, yield, labor and finally cost per plant.
Seed production is reported to range from about 2 tons per hectare per year to over 12.5t/ha/year, after five years of growth. Although not clearly specified, this range in production may be attributable to edaphic, climatic and nutritional factors in low and high rainfall areas.
Seeds are oily and do not store for long. Seeds older than 15 months show viability below 50%. High levels of viability and low levels of germination shortly after harvest indicate innate (primary) dormancy.
Superior germplasm is being multiplied at EPDPC, Jaipur.
Seed weight ranged from 40 to 70 gm per 100 seeds. The seed weight was less in the seeds obtained from Loharu (45g) as compared to Amrit Dairy (55g) (Jhunjhunu District) and EPDPC (67g) Jaipur ( Superior germplasm) and 68g from the seeds harvested at Udaipur.
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Jatropha curcus is unusual among tree crops
Perhaps its most unusual feature is its modular construction. The dry fruits and seeds will remain on the tree for some time, before falling to the ground, especially under dry conditions. Benefits include but are not limited to:
Oil as raw material: Oil has a very high Saponification value and is being extensively used for making soap in some countries. Also, the oil is used as an illuminant as it burns without emitting smoke.
Medicinal plant: The latex of Jatropha curcas (VanaErand or RatanJyot) contains an alkaloid known as "jatrophine" which is believed to have anti-cancerous properties.
Raw material for dye: The bark of Jatropha curcas (VanaErand or RatanJyot) yields a dark blue dye which is used for colouring cloth, fishing nets and lines.
Soil enrichment: Jatropha curcas (VanaErand or RatanJyot) oil cake is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and can be used as organic manure.
Feed: Jatropha leaves are used as food for the tusser silkworm.
Jatropha curcas extracted oil are used as : Bio Diesel, Varnishes, Illuminants, Soap, Pest control and Medicinal for skin diseases, and others. Oil from Jatropha curcas has been characterized and the detailed physicochemical properties are being studied at OTRI, Anantpur and IIP, Dehradun. At IIT, New Delhi transesterification assay for lipase has been standardized with Jatropha oil using Chromobacterium viscosum lipase. Screening of lipase activity for choosing the best lipase for transesterification continues. A new process called Three Phase Partitioning for transesterification Jatropha oil has been developed. It was found that 97% oil could be obtained with this process. Basic catalysis to convert all kinds of oils containing higher free fatty acid percentage is also being studied. Hydrocarbon content of the different plant material and from different parts of the plant has been worked out. At IIP, Dehradun, the process of conversion is being worked out and the testing done on engine.