SOME POTENTIAL PLANTS FOR BIO-ENERGY.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />



Bio-Technology Lab,Department of Botany

University of Rajasthan, Jaipur - 302 004

Engery Plantation Demonstration project and Biotechnology Center.



ABSTRACT : India  has land  area of approximately 329 mha, out of which 150 mha of land area in India is uncultivable and around 90 mha. is characterized as wasteland. The arid region of India lies between 24° and 29° N latitude and 70° and 76° E longitude and covers 3,17,090 km2 area spread over seven states (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and portions of Jammu&Kashmir) of the Indian Union. Ninety percent of arid region about 2,85,580 km2 is confined to north west India, covering most of the western Rajasthan, part of Gujarat and small portions of Punjab and Haryana. Wastelands in the country include the degraded forest, overgrazed revenue wasteland, ravines, hilly slopes, eroded valleys, drought stricken pastures, over irrigated ‘Usar’ and ‘Khar’ soils and water-logged marshy lands. The state of Rajasthan is situated between 23°3’N and 30°12’ N latitude and 69°30’ and  78°17’  E longitude. The total land area of the state is about 3,42,239 km2, out of which about 1,96,150 km2  is arid and rest is semi-arid. The plants occurring in this region were characterised.



India is situated between 8°4" to 37°6" N latitude and 68°7" to 97°25" E longitude. The total land area of the India is approximately 329 mha, out of which 150 mha of land area in India is uncultivable and around 90 mha. is characterized as wasteland. The arid region of India lies between 24° and 29° N latitude and 70° and 76° E longitude and covers 3,17,090 km2 area spread over seven states (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and portions of Jammu&Kashmir) of the Indian Union. Ninety percent of arid region about 2,85,580 km2 is confined to north west India, covering most of the western Rajasthan, part of Gujarat and small portions of Punjab and Haryana. Wastelands in the country include the degraded forest, overgrazed revenue wasteland, ravines, hilly slopes, eroded valleys, drought stricken pastures, over irrigated ‘Usar’ and ‘Khar’ soils and water-logged marshy lands. The state of Rajasthan is situated between 23°3’N and 30°12’ N latitude and 69°30’ and  78°17’  E longitude. The total land area of the state is about 3,42,239 km2, out of which about 1,96,150 km2  is arid and rest is semi-arid.

Majority of wasteland lies in districts of Ganganagar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur, Churu and Nagaur, while only 4 per cent of wasteland  is covered by the Jalore, Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Pali, Ajmer and Jaipur. Rajasthan has largest area of wasteland in India.     According to land state data between 1972-75 and 1980-82, 9 mha. of tree cover has been lost at an average rate of 1.3 mha. per year (Sajadak et. al., 1981 and Kaul,1991).There is a need to characterize the plants available in the wastelands so as to make use of them for the wasteland colonization subsequently as most of such plants have not be exploited till date.


 The colonizer plants of wasteland were characterized from the non-saline and saline areas and their potential as bio-energy plants was determined.


Material and methods:

For the study of biomass production three  different plots were selected under semi arid type climate of wasteland of Rajasthan. collection and evaluation of liquid and solid fuel biomass 150 plant species were recorded and out of them 60 plant species were selected for solid biomass. Beside this 15 plant species were selected for liquid biomass, 10 plants were selected for non-edible oil and 5 were selected for hydrocarbon yielding plant.

1.1    Biomass comprising all forms of matter derived from the biological activities taking place either on the surface of the soil or at different depth of the vast body of water lakes, river, ocean.

1.2    Assessing the total above ground biomass, defined as biomass, when expressed as dry weight per unit area, either total biomass or by components (eg. leaves, branches and bole), is a useful way of quantifying the amount of resource available for traditional uses. The main sources of biomass can be classified in two groups one is waste materials including those derived from agriculture, forestry and municipal wastes (Ter-Mikaelian and Korzukhin, 1997; Leible, 1998 and Bork and Werner, 1999).

1.3    The study area is situated in semiarid region and most plant species appear in the region in their respective growth periods. A three tier system was developed for biomass production i.e. herbaceous, shrub and tree biomass. Most plant species are herbaceous in nature and appear during rainy season. They are the first colonizers and are generally herb which have important uses (Woodard and Prime, 1993; Morgana et al., 1994 and Houerou and Houerou, 2000).

1.4 Biomass can be converted in to solid,     liquid and gaseous forms through biological thermochemical route for deriving thermal electrical and mechanical forms of energy. Thus biomass offers multiple options for transition from the use of conventional, exhaustible and polluting forms to non-conventional, renewable, non-exhaustible, non polluting and perennial forms so as to ensure sustained growth and economic development (Verma et al., 1996; Dabson et al., 1997 and Spalton, 1999).

1.5    The colonizer plants of saline  wasteland were characterized in study area in Jobner division of Jaipur Distt. Plant species included: Argemone maxicana Linn.,  Polycarpaea corymbosa (L.) Lamk., Portulaca, suffruticosa wt., P. quadrifida L. Sida cordifolia Linn., Balanites aegyptica (L.) Del., Ziziphus mauritiana Lamk., Acacia jacquemontii Benth., A. senegal Willd., A. nilotica (L.) Del., A. leucophloea (Roxb.) Willd., Prosopis cineraria (L.) Druce, P. juliflora (Swartz) DC., Crotalaria burhia Buch-Ham., Tephrosia hamiltonii Drumm, Farsetia hamiltonii Royle, Citrullus colocynthis (Linn) Schrad., Mollugo cerviana  (L.) Ser., M. nudicaulis Lamk., Trianthema portulacastrum Linn., T. triquetra Rotll., Artemisia scoparia Waldst et kit., Laggera alata (Don.), Sch.-Bip., Launaea resedifolia (L.) Druce., L. procumbens (Roxb.) Rammyya and Rajgopal, Pulicaria crispa Sch-Bip., Tridax procumbens Linn., Verbesina cinerea (L.) Less., Xanthium strumaxium Linn., Calotropis procera (Ait.) R. Br., Leptadenia pyrotechnica (Forsk.) Decne., Heliotropium marifolium  Retz., Sericostoma pauciflorum Stocks, Convolvulus microphyllous Sieb. Ex. Spreng., Datura innoxia Mill., Withania somnifera (Linn.)  Dunal, Solanum surattense Burm f., Tecomella undulata (Sm.) Seem, Sonchus asper (L.) Gars, Leucas aspera (Willd.) Spreng, Boerhavia diffusa Linn., Achyranthes aspera Linn., Aerva tomentosa (Burm. f) Juss., Amaranthus caudatus Linn., Digera muricata  (Linn.) Mart. Pupalia lappacea (Linn.) Juss., Chenopodium album Linn., Chenopodium murale Linn. Salsoia baryosoma (Rets.) Dandy, Suaeda furticosa, Haloxylon  ruburum, Euphorbia hirta Linn., E. prostrata Ait. Croton bonplandianum Baill., Phyllanthus asperulatus Hutch., Riccinus communis Linn., Ficus benghalensis Linn., Ficus religiosa Linn., Holoptelea integrifolia (Roxb.). Planch, Commelina forskalaei Vahl., Cyperus arenarius Retz., C. triceps (Rottb.) Endl., Cenchrus cilliaris,  Cenchrus biflorus, Dactyloctenium sindicum Boiss., Cynadon dactilon, Saccharum bengalense Retz. Capparis decidua, Alanthus excelsa A. Juss, Azadirachta indica A. Juss., Cassia fistula Linn., Anogeissus pendula Edgew., Arnebia hispidissima (Lehm.) DC., Acacia cuperasus.Some herbaceous and shrub plants are also important for biomass production in the form of bioenergy (Sampath et al., 1983; Vasudevanm and Gujral, 1984; Singh et al., 1987; Morgana et al., 1994; Prine and Woodard, 1994; Pedreira  et al., 1999 and Vazquez-de-Aldana et al., 2000).

1.6    Beside the solid biomass some plant species are important for liquid biomass in form of hydrocarbon and non edible oil production, which provides an alternative source of petroleum (Calvin 1979; Hall 1980;Eilert et al 1985).

1.7    Present studies were conducted on characterization of bio-energy resources in the semi arid region of Rajasthan because the growing demand for fuel wood as a result of rapid population growth has made it increasingly difficult for many people in this region to meet their basic energy need.





2.1 Solid Biomass:

Study area was rich in plant diversity and identification of plant species was done using flora and monograph. 230 plants species were characterized and out of them 60 plants species were selected for dry matter production. Collection of plant species in all the seasons was carried out and three replicates were taken. The fresh weight and dry weight was recorded.

Each replicate of plant species was collected in all seasons and their fresh weight and dry weight were recorded. Dry weight was recorded by drying plant species at 105°C till their weights became constant.

2.2 Extraction of hydrocarbons:

The determination of hydrocarbon content was made following Jayablan et al. (1994), the same procedure was employed for extraction of hydrocarbons (biocrude) by using solvent methanol and hexane in the soxhlet apparatus.  The methanolic extracts (60°C) were collected after 18 h. The hexane (55°C) extractables were also collected after 18 h, respectively.

2.3 Extraction of non-edible oil:

Non edible oils were estimated following (Gupta et al., 1998 and Roy and Kumar, 1998).  Non-edible oil yielding plants were selected for the study. For the extraction of non edible oil, seeds were collected and dried. After drying a fine powder was made which was placed in a thimble Whatman filter paper no. 1. Ten gram of powder was placed in each thimble. Extraction was done by using solvent petroleum ether in a soxhlet apparatus at 40°C to 50°C for about 30 h. The petroleum ether extractable was collected after 30 h, and excess of solvent was removed by distillation at 45°C. The fractions were transferred to the previously weighed flask and were finally dried at 40°C for 24 h or till the weights become constant for determination of oil.




3.1 Solid Biomass:

The characterization of plant diversity was another aspect of study on plant community. 230 plant species were recorded. Out of the 230 plant species 60 plant species were selected for biomass production in their natural habitat.


 Plants were collected from studied areas in natural condition. Three replicates of each plant were collected and their fresh and dry weights were recorded in each season.


Out of the 60 plants following plant species were suitable for biomass production due to their high dry matter contents. These plants included (weights in g/plant) Echinops echinatus Roxb. : 133.66; Verbesina  encelioides (Cav.) Benth. & Hk.: 80.33; Calotropis procera (Ait) R.Br.: 648.33; Leptadenia pyrotechnica (Forsk.) Decne. : 486.66; Sericostoma pauciflorum Stocks. : 352.66; Amaranthus spinosus Linn. : 167.66; Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal. : 350; Lepidagathis trinervis Wall. ex Nees. : 204; Lantana indica Roxb. : 373.33; Aerva tomentosa (Burm.) Juss. : 283.33; Croton bonplandianum Baill. : 155.33; Abutilon indicum (L.) Sweet. : 1453.33; Acacia jacquemontii Benth. : 693.33; Crotalaria burhia Buch.-Ham. ex Benth. : 266; Saccharum bengalense Retz.  : 1900 and Artemisia scoparia Waldst. et Kit. : 90. The plant biomass in terms of fresh weight and dry weight was recorded in all the three seasons.  

3.2 Extraction of hydrocarbons:

Hydrocarbons were extracted by using two different solvent hexane and methanol. Among the different plant extractions Euphorbia antisyphilitica Zuce. showed the best extraction results in hexane 8.5% and Calotropis procera (Ait.) R.Br. showed best results in methanolic extraction 33.8%.





Percent hydrocarbon contents in above ground part of different plants in Hexane extraction (HE) and Methanolic extraction (ME)

Name of the plant



Calotropis procera (Ait.) R.Br.



Euphorbia antisyphilitica Zuss.



Euphorbia hirta Linn.



Euphorbia prostrata Ait.



Pergularia daemia (Forsk.) Chiov.



Calotropis gigantea



Euphorbia neriifolia



Euphorbia lathyris  



Euphorbia tirucalli



Padilanthus tithymaloides var



Padilanthus tithymaloides var



Padilanthus tithymaloides var



Euphorbia nivulia



 3.3 Extraction of non-edible oil :

 In order to study non-edible oil production, 11 plants were selected for studies. Non-edible oil was extract by using solvent petroleum ether. Seed oil was extracted taking seeds with seed coat. Among different seed oil contents determined maximum seed oil was recorded in Ricinus communis Linn. This was followed by others.


   Non-edible oil content in seeds of different plant species

Name of the plants

Percent seed oil

Argemone mexicana Linn.


Azardirachta indica A. Juss


Citrullus colocynthis (Linn.) Schrad.


Cleome viscosa Linn.


Pongamia pinnata  (L.) Pierre.


Jatropha curcas Linn.


Ricinus communis Linn.


Sesamum indicum Linn.


Xanthium strumarium Linn.


Martynia annua Linn.


Calotropis procera (Ait.) R.Br.





Biomass contributes a significant share of global primary energy consumption and its importance is likely to increase in future world energy scenarios. Current biomass use, although not sustainable in some cases, replaces fossil fuel consumption and results in avoided CO2 emissions, representing about 2.7% to 8.8% of 1998 anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The global biomass energy potential is large, estimated at about 107 EJ/a. Hence, biomass has the potential to avoid significant fossil fuel consumption, potentially between 17% and 36% of the current level and CO2 emissions potentially between 12% and 44% of the 1998 level. Modern biomass energy use can contribute to controlling CO2 emissions to the atmosphere while fostering local and regional development. There is significant scope to integrate biomass energy with agriculture, forestry and climate change policies. Further the advantages from utilization of biomass include: liquid fuels produced from biomass contain no sulphur, thus avoiding SO2 emissions and also reducing emission of NOx. The production of compost as a soil conditioner avoids deterioration of soil.   

Improved agronomic practices of well managed biomass plantations will also provide a basis for environmental improvement by helping to stabilize certain soils, avoiding desertification which is already occurring rapidly in tropical countries. The creation of new employment opportunities within the community and particularly in rural areas will be one of the major social benefits.

 The present investigations carried out with an object of biomass production and utilization in less fertile areas, will provide satisfactory answers to the double challenge of energy crisis and forced deforestation in the country and semi-arid and arid regions of Rajasthan. Kumar (2001) has suggested that biomass from plants can be converted into liquid fuels. This will make it possible to supply part of the increasing demand for primary energy and thus reduce crude petroleum imports, which entail heavy expenditure on foreign exchange. Several families widely growing in Rajasthan have great potential as renewable source of energy. Euphorbiaceae (Euphorbia antisyphilitica, E. tithymaloides, E. caducifolia, E. lathyris, E. neerifolia etc. Aselipiadaceae (Calotropis gigantea and C. procera) Asteraceae and Apocynaceae have large number of valuable plants (Kumar and Vijay, 2002 and Vijay et al., 2002).

Characterization of biomass production in wastelands during the present investigation offers a database of potential plants to be used in arid and semiarid regions and a three tier system has been developed.

However further studies are needed to establish gene pool database on the basis of RFLP and AFLP so that it could be used for genetic transformation studies. Which can help for development of bioenergy source from these arid and semiarid wasteland of Rajasthan.



(1)  Behnke, H.D, and S. Herramann, 1978, Fine structures and development of laticifers of Gnetum Gnemon L. Protoplasma 95:371-384.

(2)  Calvin, M, 1979. Petroleum plantations for fuel and materials Bioscience 29: 533-538.

(3)  Calvin, M. 1983, New Sources for fuel and Material. Science 219: 24-26.

(4)  Cass, D.D. 1968. Observations on the ultra structure of the non articulated laticifers of Jatnopha podagrica (Euphorbiaceae) Experientia 24: 961-962.

(5)  Cass, D.D, 1985. Origin and development of non-articulated laticifers of Jatrpopha dioica, Phytomorphology 35:133-140.

(6)  Datta, S.K. and S.De. 1983. In vitro study of ovary induced callusing, rhizogenesis and presense of cardenolide in Calotropis gigantea. Cell chromosome Res. 6:10-12.

(7)  Datta, S.K. and S.De. 1986a. Organ specific chemodifferentiation of cardenolides of Calotropis gigantes in vitro. Beitr. Biol. Pflanz. 61:315-319.

(8)  Datta, S.K. and S.De. 1986b. Laticifer differentiation of n R. Bx. Ex Ait. In culture. Ann. Bot. 57:403-406.

(9)  Dickenson, P. and J. Fairbairn. 1975. The Ultrastructure of the alkaloidal vescicle of Papaver somniferum latex Ann. Bot. 39: 707-712.


(10) Eilert, U., L.R. Nesbitt and F. constable, 1985, Laticifers and latex in fruit of periwinkle Catheranthus roseus, Can. J. Bot. 63: 1540-1546.

(11) Esau. K. and H. Kosakai. 1975. Laticifers in Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn: Distribution and structure. Ann. Bot. 39: 713-719.

(12) Fahn, A. 1979 Secretory tissue in plants, London: Academic Press.

(13) Fay, De E., C. Sanier and C. Hebart 1989. The distribution of plasmodesmata in the phloem of Haevea brasiliensis in relation to laticifer loading. Protoplasma 149: 155-162.

(14) Fineran, B.A. , 1982. Ultrastructure and organization of non-articulated laticifers in mature tissues of poinsettia ( Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd.). Ann. Bot. 50:207-220.

(15) Fineran, B.A. 1983. Differentiation of non-articulated laticifers in poinsettia ( Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd.). Ann. Bot .52:279-293.

(16) Fineran, B.A., J.M. Condon and M. Ingerfeld. 1988. An Impregnated suberised wall layer in laticifers of Convolvulaceae and its resemblance to that in walls of oil cells. Protoplasma 147: 42-54.

(17) Hall, D.O. 1980 Renewable Resources (Hydrocarbons) outlook, Agric 10: 246-254.

(18) Hartig, T. 1862. Uber die Bewegung des Saften in den Holzpflanzen. 12 In den Milchasftgefassen. Bot. Z. Berlin. 20:97-100.

(19) Heinrich, G. 1967. Licht und elektronenmikroskopische Untersuchungen del Milchrahren van Taraxacum bicorne. Flora 158: 413-420.

(20) Mahlberg, P.G., D.G. Davis, D.S. Galtiz, and G.D. Manners. 1987. Laticifers and the classification of Euphorbia esula. Bot.J.Linn.Soc.94:165-180.

(21) Mahlberg, P.G. and P.S. Sabharwal 1968. Origin and early development of non articulated laticifer in embryo of Euphorbia marginata. Am. J. Bot. 55: 375-381.

(22) Marty, F. 1968. Intrastructure des laticiferes differencies d' Euphorbia characias C.R. Acad. Sci. 271: 2301-04.

(23) Nielsen, P.E., H. Nishimura, J.M. Otvos and M. Calvin 1977. Plant crops as a source of fuel and hydrocarbon like materials. Science 198: 942-944.


(24) Popovici, H. 1926 contribution a l'etude cytologique des laticifers, C.R. Acad. Sci. 183: 143-45.

(25) Rachmilevitz, T. and A. Fahn 1982. Ultrastructure and development of the laticifers of Ficus Carica L. Ann. Bot 49: 13-22.

(26) Roy, A.T. and D.N. De. 1992. Studies on differentiation of laticifers through light and electron microscopy in Calotropis gigentea (Linn.) R. Br. Ann. Bot. 70: 443-49.

(27) Schulze, Ch. E. Schepf and K. Mothes 1967. Uber die lokalisation der kautschukpartikel in verschiedenen Typen von milichrohren, Flora 158: 458-460.

(28) Spilatro, S.R. and P.G. Mahlberg. 1986. Latex and laticifer starch contents of developing leaves of Euphoriba pulcherrima . Am. J. Bot. 73: 1313-1318.

(29) Swain, R. 1977 Secondary compounds as protective agents. Annu. Rev. Plant physiol. 28: 479-501.

(30) Trecul, M.A. 1867 Des vaisseaux propres et du tanins les musacecs. Ann. Sci-Naturelles (5 Ser.) 8: 283-300.

(31) Wilson, K.J. and P.G. Mahlberg.1978. Ultrastructure of non articulated Laticifers in mature embryo and seedlings of Asclepias syriaca. Am. J. Bot. 65:98-109.

(32) Wilson, K.J. and P.G. Mahlberg 1980. Ultrastructure of developing and mature non-articulated laticifers in the milk weed Asclepias syriaca L. (Asclepiadaceae), Am. J. Bot. 67: 1166-1170.

(33) Wilson, K. J., C.L. Neesler, and P.G. Mahlberg. 1976. Pectinase in Asclepias latex and its possible role in laticifer growth and development. Am. J. Bot. 67:1160-1170.