Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Jatropha curcas – Part 2: 101 Reasons for Planting

Plantation owners often make lists of the benefits, uses and advantages of planting certain species of tropical trees. More often than not the list of benefits vastly exceeds the perceived negatives. It is with that in mind that this list of Jatropha curcas benefits and uses has been adapted from a Brazilian plantation by Amazonia Reforestation in Colombia, together with the addition of some extra comments. This is a typical example of why tropical trees hold such promise. Hopefully it will address some of the questions people may have about adopting this tree for large scale biodiesel and renewable energy production.
  1. Jatropha curcas is a perennial plant, meaning that it can live for many decades and does not need to be replanted on an annual basis. This makes for economic efficiency.
  2. This tree can survive in infertile and marginal soils and can be used for land reclamation, including in near desert-like conditions, while improving soil fertility. This means that Jatropha curcas survives in soils that are not suited to food production.
  3. In contrast to African oil palms, Jatropha curcas is a social plant that does well with other species, making it suitable for agroforestry, analog forestry and permaculture cultivation, without affecting its own oil production.
  4. The tree will grow in hard conditions, making it useful as a rural hedge or boundary plant.
  5. Due to its size, it is easy to harvest the fruits and seeds of Jatropha curcas.
  6. Cultivation of this tree requires only low-skill labour, making it ideal for creating employment in developing countries.
  7. The maintenance of Jatropha curcas cultivations is relatively simple and is not labour intensive.
  8. The employment created by Jatropha curcas retains labour in rural areas, so that people do not migrate to the slums of big cities.
  9. The primary product from Jatropha curcas is oil ideally suited to bio-diesel production, at a fraction of the cost of diesel fuel from non-renewable sources.
  10. The mulch or cake left over after oil extraction from the fruits is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, making it an excellent fertilizer.
  11. The mulch or cake can be readily used as compost and substratum.
  12. The mulch or cake can also be placed in bio-digestion tanks, producing a gas that can be used to generate heat or electricity.
  13. Planting Jatropha curcas can reclaim and upgrade degraded soils.
  14. The first harvest of oil seed fruits can occur as early as 180 days after planting.
  15. Jatropha curcas is highly resistant to plagues, diseases, pests and fungi, eliminating the need for costly pesticides and the environmental problems they entail.
  16. Harvest times in dry areas can be regulated by having a fixed irrigation schedule for the trees.
  17. Because of its deep roots, irrigation need only occur once every 20 or so days in a managed setting, though that is not relevant in areas with high rainfall.
  18. Six months after planting, Jatropha curcas becomes resistant to attacks by ants and termites.
  19. The tree can be co-planted by market garden operations for pest control.
  20. It will grow in mixed plantations with popular Syringa trees (Melia azedarach), a mahogany family tree that is often toxic to other species.
  21. Jatropha curcas does not require the clearing of other species in order to be cultivated.
  22. Jatropha curcas cultivation does not compete with plants cultivated for food production.
  23. The cost of its oil on a per gallon basis is less than the price of petroleum oil.
  24. The tree grows rapidly and vigorously, but does not exceed 6 meters in height.
  25. This tree can produce even larger harvests in more fertile soils.
  26. Jatropha curcas is an excellent cash flow generator for small farmers and rural land dwellers.
  27. The oil from Jatropha curcas can be used as an organic pesticide when sprayed on other cultivations.
  28. The oil from Jatropha curcas has been successfully used to combat the horn fly (Haematobia irritans), a serious livestock pest.
  29. The tree can be easily planted in areas where mechanical cultivation is difficult or impossible.
  30. There is no requirement for agricultural equipment in order to cultivate Jatropha curcas, making it very affordable for socio-economic development projects.
  31. The tree produces an average of 5,000 seeds per hectare (2.47 acres).
  32. Average oil production by Jatropha curcas is 1,650 liters per hectare (435 gallons).
  33. This tree also produces some 3,200 kg (7,040 lbs) per hectare of mulch or cake from the fruits and the seed residue after oil extraction.
  34. The bulk oil of the Jatropha curcas tree can render over 94% esters, a chemical compound used by industry in numerous processes.
  35. This tree can be effective for erosion control, because of its deep roots, quick growth and minimal requirements.
  36. Planting Jatropha curcas helps to stop desertification of the planet in poor and marginal soil zones.
  37. Jatropha curcas can tolerate brackish water, an important planting issue in many marginal areas.
  38. The oil of this tree can be used in the manufacture of stains, tints and varnishes.
  39. The tree’s oil can be used as a purgative or contraceptive remedy, though caution is in order due to its highly toxic nature.
  40. Jatropha curcas will kill a toxic weed known as Tiririca (Cyperus rotundus), which kills other plants around it.
  41. The gas produced from the anaerobic fermentation of Jatropha curcas is a recognized source of heat.
  42. The methane gas produced by the mulch or cake can be used to operate electrical generating equipment.
  43. Jatropha curcas oil transformed into bio-diesel is 80% less contaminating than petro-chemical diesel.
  44. Bio-diesel made with Jatropha curcas oil does not contain any sulphur.
  45. Bio-diesel from this tree is ecologically sound and carbon neutral.
  46. The cultivation of Jatropha curcas is not known to affect any other type of cultivation.
  47. This tree can be easily included in gardens, acreages and small homesteads, without large space requirements.
  48. Every Jatropha curcas tree that is planted can sequester some 8 kg (17.6 lbs) of carbon per year. In a commercial cultivation plants may be 2 meters X 2 meters apart, for 2,500 plants per hectare (2.47 acres). This means that a typical plantation would be able to sequester 20,000 kg (44,100 lbs) of carbon per year per hectare. This makes the tree of interest to CO2 Tropical Trees.
  49. The oil can be used to make soaps and detergents.
  50. The oil can be used as fuel in oil lamps and kerosene lanterns.
  51. The oil does not smoke when burnt in oil lamps, improving the quality of life for rural dwellers.
  52. When planted at 20 cm intervals (7.5 inches) Jatropha curcas makes an excellent fence for a pig corral or sty.
  53. The trees can serve as a windbreak.
  54. The trees can be planted as hedges or fences, eliminating the need for barbed wire. Cattle won’t eat Jatropha curcas because they know it is toxic.
  55. Birds will not eat the seeds, so there are no losses before harvest.
  56. Wildlife will not eat the seeds, so there are no losses before harvest.
  57. Jatropha curcas will happily co-exist with Mamona shrubs (Ricinus communis), another plant with toxic oil seeds planted in developing countries.
  58. Jatropha curcas will happily co-exist with Lead trees (Leucaena family), popular for firewood, charcoal, fodder and other uses in developing countries.
  59. Jatropha curcas will happily co-exist with Moringa trees (Moringa oleifera), important food and medicinal trees in developing countries.
  60. Jatropha curcas will happily co-exist with Sisal plants (Agave sisalana), important providers of rope, twine and other products used in developing countries.
  61. Folk wisdom has it that planting this tree on the left hand side of the door protects the inhabitants against the evil eye.
  62. The shells around the oil seeds can serve as animal feed, as they are not toxic.
  63. The shells around the oil seeds can be burnt in small boilers or heaters as a heat source.
  64. A tea made from the leaves of Jatropha curcas has been used to fight the effects of malaria in developing countries.
  65. The tree can be propagated using cuttings instead of seeds.
  66. This tree produces fruits in less than a year, making for frequent harvests.
  67. Jatropha curcas does not mind being pruned.
  68. The Jatropha curcas tree flowers between 3 to 5 times per year.
  69. There is a bifurcation of shoots on the tree after every flowering, so that branches stay healthy and productive.
  70. Beehives can be established next to the Jatropha curcas cultivation.
  71. Every hectare of Jatropha curcas will render 20 to 40 kg (44 to 88 lbs) of honey per year.
  72. Keeping bees in the proximity of a Jatropha curcas cultivation increases oil production thanks to the bees’ pollination efforts.
  73. Cash flow improves with honey sales from frequently flowering Jatropha curcas trees.
  74. Jatropha curcas can be planted with goats present, as the goats will leave the trees alone.
  75. Honey from Jatropha curcas cultivations is believed to have medicinal properties, upping its value.
  76. The albumen or seed protein of this tree contains starch which can be used to produce alcohol.
  77. The fallen leaves and twigs of the Jatropha curcas serve as useful ground cover against erosion and for retaining moisture.
  78. As fallen leaves and twigs decompose they turn into rich organic material that improves soil quality.
  79. The pruned branches and twigs of the Jatropha curcas tree can be converted into cellulose.
  80. The branches, once chipped, can be used to produce methane gas.
  81. Jatropha curcas oil sprayed in apple orchards as an organic pesticide gets rid of fruit flies.
  82. This tree can be planted in the vast marginal and infertile areas of Colombia’s llanos orientales (eastern plains), in over 90% of Brazil, and in large areas of Argentina, without affecting food production or other species of trees and plants. The plantations of Amazonia Reforestation are located in the llanos orientales of Colombia.
  83. Jatropha curcas thrives in hot climates, yet requires little humidity.
  84. This tree’s sap has been used as a remedy for cuts and injuries.
  85. It is considered a heliophile tree, in other words it can withstand large amounts of sunlight and does not require shade.
  86. Jatropha curcas is not an invasive species, and can easily be controlled.
  87. Diesel from non-renewable petroleum is more expensive than Jatropha curcas oil.
  88. This tree can be an important element in any renewable energy project, and has proven energy potential and uses.
  89. Some have suggested that Jatropha curcas could be the real herald of the agro-energy movement.
  90. Jatropha curcas can grow along side of Pejibaye or Chantaduro Palms (Bactris gasipaes), an important food source in Latin America.
  91. Jatropha curcas does well along side of the American Oil Palm or Palmera Real (Attalea butyracea), traditionally very important as a source of roofing and construction materials in Latin America.
  92. The Jussara Palm (Euterpe edulis) can grow along side of Jatropha curcas without problems. This palm is important for its fruits and for its heart of palm, a popular food in Latin America.
  93. Jatropha curcas can grow along side of dairy operations, as milk cows will leave the tree alone.
  94. Jatropha curcas can be grown as a garden plant close to homes, where it also has an insect repellent effect.
  95. A single worker or farmer can manage 15 hectares (37 acres) of Jatropha curcas.
  96. Planting Jatropha curcas requires only a small investment in seeds and fertilizer.
  97. In Brazil, Jatropha curcas is cultivated along side of the Acai Palm (Euterpe oleracea), famous for its berries.
  98. Despite its short size, the tree is considered by some to be proud and elegant, adding aesthetic value when planted.
  99. Jatropha curcas is a non-food bio-diesel crop, so it does not take food crops away from people.
  100. Oil can be extracted from Jatropha curcas seeds using simple, hand operated equipment compatible with socio-economic development goals in poor countries.
  101. Air New Zealand flew a successful test flight with a Boeing 747 running one of its four Rolls-Royce engines on a 50/50 blend of Jatropha curcas oil and jet fuel. Houston based Continental Airlines and Japan Air have also run successful tests, so besides bio-diesel this tree has an aviation future.


  1. Moringa tree has been promoted by many non profit organizations in Africa. Moringa tree only grow in tropical countries like India, Thailand, Philippines, Africas. Here, In California, Moringa tree can grow also but not very tall.

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  2. Dear sir,Thank you for sharing this info which is appreciable.

  3. Hi Great Blog,

    I have bookmarked you, here is a great article about growing jatropha as a polyculture

    This article is very useful to anyone thinking of investing in a jatropha plantation

    Jatropha is a great sustainable source of green fuel


  4. Thank you this is very informative. I do have another question if you dont mind answering. Would Jatrophaco-exist with Agave tequilana?
    Thank you

  5. Moringa tree only develop in tropical nations like India, Thailand, Philippines, Africas.
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