In order to take advantage of the growing carbon credits market through the UN’s CDM program, we have been involved with extensive negotiation in renewable projects such as the growing of Jatropha in marginalised land in the Karoo (South Africa), Bahia (Brazil) and Botswana. However, as Jatropha is in itself a very hostile invasive plant species we shelved some of the projects in favour of more innovative renewable solutions. We have thus been conscious of not letting the planting of Jatropha encroached on cash crops in these areas. Genera has equally been taking its responsibility to the environment seriously.
Jatropha curcus is a drought-resistant perennial, growing well in marginal/poor soil. It is easy to establish, grows relatively quickly and lives, producing seeds for 50 years. Jatropha produces seeds with an oil content of 37%. The oil can be combusted as fuel without being refined. It burns with clear smoke-free flame, tested successfully as fuel for simple diesel engine. The by-products are press cake a good organic fertilizer, oil contains also insecticide. The physical and chemical properties of Jatropha oil can vary based on environmental factors, genetics, and the maturity of the seeds. This may make it more challenging to use as a biodiesel feedstock because process adjustments may be required to compensate for the property changes. Because Jatropha is a wild plant that is often harvested by low-income farmers in poor countries, the characteristics of the oil are expected to be variable. For example, oil from seeds of over-ripe fruit, or seeds that have been stored in high humidity conditions, will be high in free fatty acids.
Origin Jatropha originated in Central America and Mexico. It is now widespread in subtropical and tropical areas. In the 20th century, several African countries exported Jatropha seeds – the oil was used in soap-making. However, this trade ended in the 1970s, when cheaper synthetic detergents entered the market. During World War II, Jatropha oil was used as a diesel fuel substitute in Africa. Jatropha plantings cover an estimated 900,000 hectares globally. More than 85 percent of Jatropha plantings are in Asia, and 12% are in African countries. Latin America grows a small amount of Jatropha, mostly in Brazil.
Ecological Requirement Jatropha curcus grows almost anywhere, even on gravelly, sandy and saline soils. It can thrive on the poorest stony soil. It can grow even in the crevices of rocks. The leaves shed during the winter months form mulch around the base of the plant. The organic matter from shed leaves enhance earthworm activity in the soil around the root-zone of the plants, which improves the fertility of the soil.
Regarding climate, Jatropha curcas is found in the tropics and subtropics and likes heat, although it does well even in lower temperatures and can withstand a light frost. Its water requirement is extremely low and it can stand long periods of drought by shedding most of its leaves to reduce transpiration loss. Jatropha is also suitable for preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand dunes.