By Ashwani Kumar
| September 13th 2010 07:27 PM | Print
Jatropha curcas grows wild in Udaipur division in Rajasthan. Chattisgarh state and several other northern states of India Under the micromission programme of Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India under chairmanship of Professor A.K. Sharma and Dr Renu Swarup, Director, and Dr Meenakshi Munshi Joint director work is being carried out in different states of the country regarding selection of eltie mateiral, its propagation, yield evaluation, genetic characterisation and developing proper agrotechnology. Under a Department of Biotechnology research project sanctioned to Professor Ashwani Kumar at University of Rajasthan, Jaipur 302004 work was inititiated on collection of eltie material. Several locations have been identified 21 accessions have been collected out of which data has been completed on 11 and 4 out of which are high yielding i.e. heptane extractable oil contents are over 35 percent. Analysis of 19 samples is in progress. Unsaturated fatty acids range over 77 % in four accessions. The oil content analysis was done at Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi by Dr Nutan Kaushik.The application of nutrients improved plant growth but it did not improve the flowering. An attempt was made to improve flowering and fruiting which is reported. Present study was aimed to increase total oil yield of Jatropha curcas and details of some of the strategies which have been published. Univerisity of Rajasthan contributed around 64 accessions out of which 4 are still maintained and are further multiplied under DBT project at different centres and Dr H.M. Behl is cordinating this programme.
This aims at have multilocational trials of different genotypes.
The Indian government has welcomed biofuels with open arms. Faced with a rapidly growing economy, the world’s second-largest population and an eye-watering fuel import bill, finding a renewable domestic power source has become a top priority.
The country’s recently-revised national biofuel policy, announced in September 2008, sets out the government’s intentions in black-and-white: to produce 20 per cent of the country’s diesel from crops by 2017, primarily from plantations of jatropha (Jatropha curcas). This means that the oilseed-bearing shrub, already introduced in some states, needs to be planted on an additional 14 million hectares of the country’s so-called ‘wasteland’. This has ignited fierce debate: supporters see the move as the solution to the fuel-versus-food conundrum, while critics are fearful that millions of peasants, who rely on these lands, will lose out.
For whose benefit?
India’s common lands have been under threat for at least the past half-century, with between 25-50 per cent already lost due to population pressure and increasing degradation. Little wonder the proposed jatropha plantations are contentious. “By pursuing the energy security of the few - the middle classes and the rich - we are compromising the livelihood security of the poor,” laments Subrata Singh of FES.
The government has tried to find a win-win solution. In an attempt to help the poor share the rewards of the country’s anticipated biofuel boom, the expansion of jatropha production is taking place through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Under proposed plans, local communities will be paid to plant, tend and harvest the crop on common land. But critics argue that once jatropha is in the ground, livelihoods will become irrevocably tied to the productivity of the crop and the stability of its market price.