Jatropha curcas is preferred mostly as non edible oil seed for the production of biodiesel. The preference is due to the easy multiplication by seeds, cuttings and seedlings and also due to 30 to 35 per cent of non-edible oil content in the seeds.

Yield per hectare

A one hectare jatropha plantation with 4,000 plants in rain fed conditions can yield about 4,000 to 5,000 kg of seeds.

The oil cake generated by oil extraction can be best used as an organic fertilizer, as it is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This will be sufficient to fertilize the land from which the harvest is made.

Research activities are going on at the Madurai Kamaraj University on biodiesel production and application. The studies mainly focus on identifying an effective process with high efficiency.

Similar properties

Biodiesel, as an automobile fuel, has similar properties as that of petrodiesel and as such can be directly used in existing diesel engines with no or minor modifications. It can be used alone or mixed in any ratio with petrodiesel.

However, fuel efficiency and fuel economy of biodiesel tend to be around 3 per cent less than that of petrodiesel.

If we blend the entire petrodiesel in India with biodiesel at 50ml/ litre the country will save Rs. 4 thousand crore (Rs. 4 billion) equivalent of foreign currency every year.

For making 5 per cent blend of the total diesel consumption in India around 5 lakh hectares alone need to be brought under Jatropha cultivation.

Economic survey

According to an economic survey conducted by the Government of India, around 175 million hectares of land is available in India which is suitable for the cultivation of plants like Jatropha curcas.

The cultivation of jatropha for biodiesel is likely to give employment to about 20 lakh rural people directly or indirectly. Besides this, the oil extraction, refinery and sale unit will also promote job opportunities for people.

P. MARUTHAMUTHU

Vice-ChancellorMadurai Kamaraj University, Tamil Nadu