Monday, 14 March 2011

How to Plant Jatropha Curcas for Sustainable Bio Fuels

How To Plant Jatropha Curcas For Sustainable Bio Aviation Fuel

Jatropha Curcas, also known as Barbados nut or purging nut, is a semi-evergreen flowering shrub that is found in many continents Africa, India to Mexico where a non toxic genus grows and Central America.


Jatropha Caracas may have become known as the Barbados nut as the Portuguese brought the Jatropha from the Caribbean to Africa. Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) is a warm-climate bush that produces a black oilseed about the size of a large bean.

Although both plant and the oil from its seed are inedible and poisonous, Jatropha has gained fame as a potential source of biofuel. To grow it on a large scale, you need land in a tropical region. Jatropha also grows as a hedge and it prefers dry conditions, doing well in sandy soil, which doesn't hold onto moisture.

Jatropha Curcas prefers to grow in a tropical and subtropical climate. Jatropha grows best in areas where the average temperature is between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Jatropha is currently being grown in Africa, India, Philippines and United States as a potential source of bio fuel.

Successful cultivation of Jatropha Curcas for Bio Diesel or Bio Aviation Fuel (Bio SPK) depends largely on proper site selection, preparation and planting practices. My aim is ultimately to use hydroponic methods to grow Jatropha in optimum conditions to produce the UK’s first fully sustainable Bio Aviation Fuel.

Wherever in the world you are thinking of growing Jatropha you first need to choose a planting location that meets the cultivation requirements of your Jatropha curcas plant. Look for a location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight each day and has well-draining soil.

Prepare the location carefully before planting the Jatropha curcas, a plot that provides fast drainage and air circulation underground is ideal; incorporate a 2- to 3-inch layer of manure into the soil. Jatropha also thrives in low-nutrient ground, but its fruit yield isn't as abundant.

Remove any rocks, sticks or other debris and dig up the roots of perennial weed plants that would compete for water with your Jatropha.

Then you can dig a planting hole for your Jatropha curcas that is just slightly wider than its root system which is about 2.5 square meters per plant. The taproot can reach depths of 7 meters in terms of a plantation 2500 plants per Hectare can be planted with the right conditions.

There are lots of theories as to the correct number of plants per hectare, which I welcome this is my best representation of an ideal plantation with the knowledge available to me.

Jatropha can be intercropped with palm trees, watermelons, spices as well as maize and other food crops which should be taken into consideration when planning the planting out of your Jatropha.

If you are planting from seed you first need to soak the seeds in water for eight hours before planting them. If they're still in hulls, crack them and remove the seeds before placing them in water.

Plan to sow your Jatropha seeds at the beginning of the rainy season

If you have germinated your seeds and have your Jatropha growing in containers make the hole no deeper than the height of the Jatropha nursery container.  Work 2 cups equal parts peat moss and coarse builder's sand into the soil that was displaced by digging the planting hole. A few rocks and some bone meal will aid aeration, drainage and provide nutrients.

You can also use composted glycerine by product from producing bio diesel from crude Jatropha oil and use this as a fertiliser as well as the seed husks if you are planting out seedlings from an existing plantation.
Remove the Jatropha curcas plant from its nursery container and use your fingers to gently untangle the plant's roots. Lower the plant into the prepared hole and fill in the space around the plant with the soil mix. Pack down the surface of the soil around your plant.

Water the Jatropha curcas after planting to moisten the soil and eliminate air pockets trapped around the plant's roots. Slow-water with a drip, soaker or bubble hose to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6 to 8 inches; irrigate your seeds twice a day. From the eighth day on, reduce the watering to once daily.

Jatropha seeds can be harvested one year later, after the fruit becomes yellow to brown. Store or replant them. Use seeds that have dried and turned black for biofuel production. 3kg of Jatropha seed will produce 1 litre of Crude Jatropha Oil (CJO) which can be used to make bio diesel.

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