Thursday, 14 April 2011

Growing Jatropha As A Polyculture Commercial Plantation With Aloe Vera

 Growing Jatropha as a monoculture for bio fuels in marginal land has been attempted in various areas of the world and undoubtedly Jatropha Plantations will become more popular as the demand for green oil fuels including Bio SPK Aviation Fuel increases.

I have been involved with many conversations with Agronomists over planting widths for Jatropha Hedgerows or the amount of space needed to harvest plants, I feel that planting 1300 Jatropha Trees per Hectare about is a good number.

Intercropping Jatropha by growing it with Palm Tree's provides shade which the Jatropha likes as well as Coconuts in about 4 years by which time Jatropha Tree's themselves can be upto 3 meters high as you can see.

When designing a Jatropha Plantation for Bio Aviation Fuel production I want to include benificial plants to intercrop with the Jatropha I am growing, tobacco is not an ethical cash crop to grow for the local community whereas growing plants like Watermelons, Tomato Plants, Peppers, Cucumber, Legumes, Basil, Chard, Lettuce and more importantly in terms of growing sustainable cash crops intercroped with Jatropha, Spices.

Whilst looking at the spice market with a wide variety of herbs and spices which can be intercroped with Jatropha and sold for cash I noticed that there was also a healthy market for growing medicinal plants alongside the Jatropha as an alternative to monoculture plantation.

Aloe Vera is an example that would easily work intercropped with Jatropha with a good commercial value being added to the plantation by choosing a Jatropha / Aloe Vera polyculture with a few Palm or Coconut trees' intercropped for shade.

Intercropping Jatropha with Aloe Vera is a great idea for Jatropha Plantations in Africa because of the sandy loany soil conditions, ideally kept ideally slightly acidic. The soil should be supplied supplement in the form of ammonium nitrate every year Aloe Vera is not a seed crop so growing it can be difficult without experienced labour on the plantation.

Cultivation of Aloe Vera to Intercrop With Jatropha

Aloe Vera can be cultivated on any soil for 'dry land management' and is generally propagated by root suckers. Carefully digging out without damaging the parent plant and planting it in the main field. It can also be propagated through rhizome cuttings. By digging out the rhizomes after the harvest of the crop and making them into 5-6 cm length cuttings with a minimum of 2-3 nodes on them.

Then they are rooted in specially prepared containers or sand beds. The Aloe Vera plant is ready for transplanting after the appearance of the first sprouts.

The plants are set spaced out by 31 inches in rows and between the rows. At that rate, about 12,500 plants per hectare. An 8-12 inch aloe pop would take one and a half to two years to mature, in a year's time the plants would develop bright yellow flowers, the leaves are 1 to 2 feet long  and last for several years.

The crop can be harvested 4 times a year. At the rate of 3 leaves cut from each plant, about 12 leaves are the harvest per plant per year. On an average, the yield per hectare annually is approximately 150,000 kg. The leaves cut off close to the plant are placed immediately, with the cut end downwards, in a V-shaped wooden trough of about 4 feet long and 12 to 18 inches deep. It then takes about 15 minutes to cut leaves enough to fill a trough.

Aloe Vera can cost up to $3 for 1 liter of 99.7% pure juice

In our scenario you cultivate the equivalent of one acre of Aloe Vera in intercropping with one hectare of Jatropha. So that means that in a field of one hectare of Jatropha you also plant 12,500 Aloe Vera plants each plant produces 12 kg of leaves every year.

The leaves of Aloe Vera produce about the same produce to weight ration as Jatroha about 3 kg of Aloe Vera leaves give 1 liter of high quality Aloe Vera juice in the same way as 3kg of Jatropha seeds will produce 1 litre of Crude Jatropha Oil when pressed.
If the annual harvest 12,000kg of seed in 1 hectare of Jatropha, Crude Jatropha Oil production would be near 4,000 litres of which only 15% of the crude Jatropha Oil could be refined into Bio SPK for Aviation use.
Income From Jatropha Plantation Intercropped With Aloe Vera
For our theoretical Polyculture Plantation of Aloe Vera and Jatropha we will fix the farm gate price of 1 liter of Aloe Vera at $0.5 USD. 12,500 Plants producing 12kg of leaves produces 50,000 litres of 99.7% pure Aloe Vera Juice at $0.5 USD per litre. This is an income of $25,000 USD per Hectare.

Estimates for how many seeds a mature Jatropha tree produces vary, I feel 9kg from a 4 year old tree is reasonable, the better soil conditions and more nutrients, the more seed is produced and the more Crude Jatropha Oil can be extracted.

In this light the Aloe Vera is more profitable than the Crude Jatropha Oil produced by pressing the Jatropha seeds even selling the by products of producing Crude Jatropha Oil from the Jatropha seeds like the seed cake which can be used as fertiliser or animal feed does not make the Jatropha more commercially viable in the plantation when compared to the quantity and value of the Aloe Vera produced by the plantation.

The demand for the Crude Jatropha Oil produced from the Jatropha seed is what will see the profitability from Jatropha plantations in the next 10 -15 years when aviation travel becomes more expensive and cleaner forms of fuel need to be found to sustain the industry, so the produce of the Jatropha when fully refined will in time become more valuable than the produce of the Aloe Vera.

By moving away from the ideas of Jatropha in monoculture plantations a viable commercial and socialy responsible alternative can be found by intercroping Jatropha with medicinal herbs such as Aloe Vera and Indian Ginsing as well as providing food like watermelons.

Intercroping Jatropha with Palm or Coconut tree's is benificial for the Jatropha's environment this is the symbiosis intercroping provides when the Jatropha grows with the Palm, the Palm shades the Jatropha and the Jatropha renitrogenises the soil giving the Palm nutrients to grow.

The more we consider intercroping as an alternative to monoculture and the more thought that is put into the design of a Jatropha plantation the better it will function as a commercially and social ecosystem.

Jatropha Plantations cannot solve the entire worlds need for bio aviation fuel however in time the production of Bio Fuels from sustainable feed stocks such as Jatropha will increase as the world moves towards cleaner, greener fuels, however Jatropha Plantations as monoculture solely for the production of biofuel are not as sound as a well thought out polyculture providing, food and fuel security.

I hope this gives anyone interested in growing Jatropha some ideas as to how they can improve on all the monoculture plantations as I feel the monocultureists are motivated more by Crude Jatropha Oil production rather than sustainability and community food / fuel security.


  1. Hi,

    Great Article, after my own experiances with investing in Jatropha Plantations which were badly run by "Dr" Peter McHendry in Zambia, I wish I had read this before investing in his Jatropha project!

    Monoculture Plantations are not the way forward!

    McHendrys stupid claims about Jatropha made the news in Namibia as well with the failure of his project here again note the claims of big money!

    Terrance Spyron at the Shankara Camp can tell some interesting stories about Peter McHendry as can Floris who we bought our seeds from!

  2. Peter McHendry is an idiot and a liar, he is now claiming to cure AIDS in his latest scam... heres the info

    Peter McHendry is a thieving Chode!

    Look at his arrest in Florida, he claims this is lies too - its not it is in the newspaper.

    Peter McHendry is a womanbeater - publish fact in usa - read here....

    The accounts showing "Dr" Peter McHendrys theft and illegal employment are all available through my blog

    The South African Police Service would like to hear from you if Peter McHendry has scammed you

    Call Durban Police Commercial Branch NOW on +27 (0) 31327 8000

    Voulenteer Scams here....

    Says stuff about pervert mchendry and young girls too...

    Full timeline of all Peter Mchendrys failed businesses, lies and scams...

    The main problem with peter mchendry is he lies so much he believes himself...

    Everything on his websites is fake, fake photos, land he does not own cars he has stolen or ripped off insurance companies or friends for.

    Peter Mchendry is a chode!

  3. Hi a great read!

    Peter McHendry has hundreds of splogs over the internet spouting his lies.


    Sort of disproves any of McHendry's lies about him cancelling a business arrangement!

    I see that you have found the link to "Dr" Peter McHendry's arrest in Florida for assault and serious aggrovated battery on a female

    And I also see "Dr" Peter Mc Hendry telling lies and saying it is nonsence (more like NONCE-SENSE from Peter Mchendry:)

    Peter McHendry's arrest in Florida was covered by 2 newspapers

    The Beaches Leader


    Pone Verde Leader

    These articles confirm that Peter McHendry was arrested for violent crimes against women in America!

    Peter McHendry is a very dirty individual, he has no conceptualization of any form of truth external to whatever he has made up.

    This is sociopathic, hitting women is very wrong and an example of sociopathic behavior.

    As is constantly lying to the point of being delusional.

    Peter McHendry does not own property in America, he owes money on things but does not own anything of real value.