PRODUCTIVTY OF CALOTROPIS PROCERA IN SEMI-ARID REGIONS OF RAJASTHAN AND ITS USE AS RENEWABLE SOURCE OF ENERGY Ashwani Kumar, V.R. Kumar Energy Plantation Demonstration project and Biotechnology Center. Department of Botany, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur – 302004, India. E-mail: ABSTRACT India has over 180 million of wasteland out of which 90 million ha is uncultivable. The degraded and denuded lands arise due to soil erosions as well as secondary salinizations. However Calotropis procera is a potential plant for bioenergy and biofuel production in semi arid regions of the country because it is able to grow on such lands. The plant has a growth potential of 2 dry tones to 40 dry tones per ha depending on the agro climatic conditions of it’s growth. The plant has high level of regeneration potential and could be harvested up to 4 times a year. The plant yields valuable hydrocarbons which could be converted into diesel substitutes. The bio-diesel derived from Calotropis procera is free from NOx gases, S02 and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) and has high cetane value. Due to it’s enormous potential for growth under adverse climatic conditions Calotropis procera is suggested as potential plant for bio-diesel production under semi-arid and arid conditions. Keywords Calotropis procera, Calotropis gigantean, Semi-arid regions, Biomass and Biofuel, Hydrocarbons. 1 INTRODUCTION India has varied agroclimatic zones which have wide range of temperature, humidity, rainfall and soil conditions. Growth and productivity of plant depends upon a large number of edaphic, nutritional and environmental factors. This is more important in respect to laticiferous plants whose growth is influenced significantly by soil composition. Even by liberal estimates these fossilized fuel resourceare not going to last longer . Calotropis procera is a potential energy resource, containing latex, an emulsion of oil and water. The oil fraction looks, feels and acts like crude oil (1). The latex is converted into petroleum like substances by using hydrocracking in presence of zeolite catalysts (1). By some of the estimates majority of the compound in latex consists of terpenoids and sugars. The Calotropis procera is widely distributed in Western Rajasthan while Calotropis gigantea is found mostly under cultivated conditions near temples in Jaipur, Bharatpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara, Banswara division with relatively moderate climatic conditions. The occurrence of Calotropis species is related to the climatic conditions. Calotropis procera growing in Jaisalmer assumes gigantic proportions and people mistakenly identify it as C. gigantea. It is generally not present on good soil except when raised at places of worship. Calotropis gigantea is commonly worshiped plant and is found in Shiv temples. The growth and productivity was determined Detailed survey was carried out in different parts of Rajasthan and growth and productivity of Calotropis procera was studied. 2 THE PLANT Calotropis procera (Asclepiadaceae) is a wild shrub, which grows up to a height of 1-3 m and its leaves are 10–13 cm wide by 17–19 cm long. Calotropis procera (Ait.) R.Br. commonly known, as ‘Akra’ is a popular medicinal plant found throughout the tropics of Asia and Africa and is used in many traditional systems of medicine. Important factors of the various parts of this plant have been widely reported. The plant is one of the most abundantly available plants in the semi-arid and arid conditions of the country. It is an important member of traditional herbal medicine in every home of India. Traditionally the leaves of aak are warmed and tied around any body organ in pain. It practically useful in backache and in joint pains, warm leaves also relieve from stomachache if tied around. Inhalation of burnt leaf cures headache. The traditional folk healers use the milky latex of aak for several ailments. Leaf latex if applied on fresh cut, stops bleeding immediately. Recent investigations have been found that the alkaloids calotropin, calotaxein and uskerin is stimulant to heart. Flowers and roots are used in Ayurvedic medicine. Plant is anthelmintic, the ashes act as an expectorant. the leaves are applied hot to the abdomen to cure the pain inside. flower is tonic, antisialagogue, appetizer., and cures stomachache piles and asthma. Flowers are believed to have detergent properties so they are given in cholera. The fresh roots are used as a toothbrush and are considered by pathans to cure toothache. Aak is an alternative, tonic and diaphoretic, in large dose emetic. The plant produces latex in the laticifers. It has been established that laticifer differentiation in vitro is a cytokinin-dependent process and among the cytokinins, FAP was more effective than BA and 2-iP on MS medium supplemented with 4·6 μ M FAP and 1μ M IAA. A literature survey of Calotropis procera revealed that the plant contains mainly cardenolides besides steroids and triterpenes. From the hexane-insoluble fraction of this plant a new free cardenolide named proceragenin has been isolated. The medicinal importance of Calotropis procera prompted the studies on pharma-cological screening of the antibacterial and anti-aggregating activities of proceragenin. Procesterol, a new steroidal hydroxy ketone, has been isolated from the fresh and undried flowers of Calotropis procera. The chemical and spectral studies identified it as a C-6 C-24 diepimer of stigmast-4-en-6 ß-ol-3-one (1, 2, 3) . 3 MATERIALS AND METHODS During the present investigation Calotropis procera (Ait) R. Br. of family Asclepiadaceae was screened for the organic extractables using extraction procedure. The plant material was collected from different parts of Rajasthan including Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Alwar, Bhartpur etc. Samples from different 276 14th European Biomass Conference, 17-21 October 2005, Paris, France