Friday, 18 March 2011

How to Intercrop Jatropha Bio Fuel Feedstock with Food Crops

Intercropping, or polyculture, is an agricultural method of farming whereby two or more crops are grown together. They can be mixed in a field with no delimited rows or each crop given its own rows among the others. Intercropping seeks to create symbiotic relationships whilst decreasing competition for resources.

Jatropha Curcas is a good candidate for intercropping because it renitrogenises the soil in addition to being a perennial and hardy plant. The valuable, oil-producing seeds of Jatropha Curcas can be harvested and turned into Bio Fuels as well as fruits of companion plants which can give food security and sustainability to a plantation providing  both food and fuel security on marginal land in some of the poorest regions in the world such as Central Africa.

Coconut or Palm trees provide shade for the Jatropha in the same way as Jatropha provides shade for lettuce, this is a symbiotic relationship.

Jatropha Curcas can be intercropped with:
  • Coconut or Palm Trees
  • Watermelons
  • Tomato Plants
  • Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Legumes
  • Basil
  • Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Spices
Plant Jatropha 5 feet apart in rows spaced 10 feet apart. If you cannot obtain juvenile trees, propagate seeds indoors after soaking in warm water for 8 hours.

During the summer tomatoes, peppers and watermelon can be planted in rows between the trees.

Plant tomatoes at least 2 feet away from the Jatropha and give a 3-foot radius to grow.

Plant watermelon four seeds at a time in small mounds directly in between Jatropha rows. Do not plant any other crops within 10 feet of the watermelon seed mounds.

Plants peppers at least 2 feet from Jatropha and give a 1.5-foot radius to grow.

When the Jatropha has reached full mature height, plant climbers at its base such as cucumbers and legumes. The climbers can be trained to grow up the plant with twine ties.

Shade-tolerant plants like basil, chard and lettuce can also be planted around the base of Jatropha, Plant in concentric circles. For Chard and Lettuce take advantage of the shade for end-of-season growing when the weather warms.

When Jatropha reaches its full height, continue to intercrop in rows between the trees. Simply transplant seedlings after pruning the Jatropha in February.

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