1.Issue in Brief

Jatropha (Jatropha curcas L.) is a shrub or small tree which is planted in tropical and subtropical countries as a living fence to protect gardens and fields from animals. Jatropha Curcas can be grown almost in every kind of soil and its strength as a crop comes from its ability to grow on very poor and dry sites. It can be found in tropical and subtropical places but in lower temperatures as well.

It is a non-toxic, 100% natural, biodegradable supplement for diesel. Jatropha has the possibility of being utilised in a wide-scale in transport, electrical equipment, and other machines that run on petroleum or diesel. The Jatropha plant can reach a height up to 5 m and its seed yield ranges from 7.5 to 12 tonnes per hectare per year, after five years of growth. The oil content of whole Jatropha seed is 30-35 % by weight basis.

Seed use results in oil, press-cake and the sediment of oil purification. The oil can be used as fuel in pre-combustion chamber diesel engines and as lubrificant, the oil and the sediment can be used for soap production and the press cake is a good organic fertilizer. The oil contains also an insecticide.

Oil extraction can be done with hand- or engine driven expellers. These are simple machines, which can be operated on village level and built within the country.

Jatropha's Advantages

  • It can be grown almost anywhere - even in sandy, saline, or otherwise infertile soil
  • It costs almost nothing to grow
  • It is drought resistant
  • It is easy to propagate (a cutting simply pushed into the ground will take root)
  • It is capable of stabilizing sand dunes, acting as a windbreak, and combating desertification
  • It naturally repels both animals and insects
  • It lives for over 50 years producing seeds all the time
  • It is frost hardy (does not like hard freezes)
  • It does not exhaust the nutrients in the land
  • It does not require expensive crop rotation
  • It does not require fertilizers
  • It grows quickly and establishes itself easily
  • It has a high yield (Jatropha can yield about 7.5 to 12 tonnes per hectare per year of oil per year per square mile - oil content of the seed is 30-35%)
  • No displacement of food crops is necessary
  • It is great for developing countries in terms of energy and jobs
  • The waste plant mass after oil extraction can be used as a fertilizer

3. Current Best Practice

The latest years developing countries have done a lot of reaserches on using jatropha for biodiesel production. Jatropha is a valuable multi-purpose crop which not only can help tackling some of the most significant environmental impacts like deforestation, desertification etc, but also to be used as a crop which can provide energy.

The promotion of jatropha for utilizing it for liquid biofuel production has been supported by various programmes in the developing world. For example, government of India has selected the plant for National Program and Cambodia is experimenting on crop's cultivation methods.

Jatropha's promotion can lead to many improvements within these countries as its production and its utilisation for biofuel production can increase rural incomes, self-sustainability and alleviate poverty for women and children as well as for elderly and men. Additionally, it can improve income from plantations and agro-industries.

4. Areas of Research

Currently jatropha plant is using only for producing biodiesel, one of the two well known liquid biofuels. Biodiesel can replace road diesel or can be applied in various blends with conventional diesel. In order to produce biodiesel, jatropha's oil, derived from the extraction of its seeds, is mixed with a mixture consisted of alcohol (usually methanol or ethanol) and catalyst (usually KOH or NaOH) in a reactor where the transesterification process takes place.

This catalytic process results in the formation of non-purified biodiesel and glycerol as by-product (a valuable by-product used in soaps and other products). The methyl/ethyl ester, after being separated from glycerol, is purified with water, because of traces from the catalyst or glycerol. Moreover, biodiesel is drying in order to obtain a 98% purified product that can be further enhanced by distillation processes.

Glycerol can be stored in the plant for possible further treatment or with the appropriate treatment can be used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry, tobacco industry, food industry and other miscellaneous uses throughout industry. Crude glycerine is 70% pure and is usually refined to further points of purity up to 99%.

6. Organisations /People

7. Documents for further reading


User:Grant Ballard-Tremeer 25 October 2004
User:Donna Skordili 2 April 2007


This brief overview comes, with small modifications from the Jatropha website at www.jatropha.de - this site contains comprehensive information and resources about the use of Jatropha in developing countries.

Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Tuesday September 28, 2010 10:50:47 GMT.
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