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Jatropha Curcas


J. curcas is a well-known wild species, which is being planted as a crop. However it is not yet at the domesticated status and a lot of basic work needs to be done before it can be called a crop. It has made headlines over the past few years as a species that can be planted in semi-arid or wastelands for bio-fuel production. This is not the case if reasonable yields are expected; inputs are needed.

It is allogamous. At IFAD’s International Consultation on Pro-poor Jatropha Development in April 2008 I represented FAO as a consultant and my questions on the degree of allogamy, whether only insects are the pollination agents or if wind is involved could not be answered. Also, there is little information on the pollination mechanism involved.

I have worked with GEXSI on suitable areas for J. curcas production (coupled with Good Agricultural Practices – GAP); In May 2008 GEXSI prepared the GEXSI/WWF Global Market Study on Jatropha where 176 experts in 55 countries were interviewed.

I have also worked for FAO in Mauritania regarding the suitability of J. curcas as hedging to protect food crops in the South and in Myanmar to advise on suitable production areas and GAP.

Jatropha Curcas plantation in Myanmar.

A collection of J. curcas provenances at Myanmar’s Seed Research Centre at the Capital (Nay Pyi Taw). The origins are Malaysia, Thailand and India. Picture by P. Griffee 2007.

One of its advantages as a bio-fuel is that seeds can be conserved for months before processing (if appropriate drying and storage conditions are met the fatty acid profile remains very similar to the fresh seed).


The most important factor in propagation (in areas with a significant dry season) is taproot formation; whether the propagation is for direct planting from provenances (mass selection) or for grafting etc. I personally recommend the polybag nursery, whatever the future intent; this produces a good taproot system. Cuttings do not form a suitable taproot.

To be continued

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