T.V. Sivanandan

In Karnataka, the plant is being grown in 770 hectares of land

  • It is preferred as it is drought-resistant
  • Oil has the required physio-chemical traits

    GULBARGA: Jatropha, which has been identified as a plant useful in producing bio-fuel and also as having significant importance in industrial and medicinal use, is gaining in popularity among farmers in the State. As per details available, the plant is being grown in 770 hectares of land in the State.

    Sources told The Hindu here on Thursday that among the 300 species of trees identified for production of vegetable oil, jatropha was the most preferred as it was drought-resistant and grew with limited water. The oil produced from jatropha had the desirable physio-chemical traits and other well performing characteristics comparable to petro-diesel.

    The sources said that while farmers had taken up cultivation of jatropha in 496 hectares of land, the Forest Department was cultivating it in 238 hectares of land. A private company had taken up its cultivation in about 10 hectares of land in Mysore district. Chitradurga district topped the list with 305 hectares of land followed by Mysore 118 hectares, Davangere 75 hectares, Gulbarga 69 hectares and Shimoga 60 hectares of land.

    In Karnataka, which has 71 lakh hectares of wasteland, jatropha can be grown in at least 50 per cent of the wasteland available providing gainful employment to more than 14 lakh people. It would also generate Rs. 875 crore revenue every year. With prices of crude oil going up and the energy crisis world wide, the need for identifying and using bio-fuels as alternative to petroleum-based fuels has gained importance. At present, India imports 70 per cent of its petroleum requirements by spending Rs. 1,27,000 crore. The country stands sixth in the world in terms of energy demand.

    The sources said that farmers had taken up jatropha cultivation in three models monoculture, mixed block plantation and hedge crop. But most of the plantation was raised as sole crop. Although jatropha withstood low fertility and alkaline soils, use of urea, super phosphate and muriate of potash at the time of planting would promote more vegetative growth to bear more seeds. Jatropha was also resistant to pest and diseases. Isolated incidents of bark eater and pod borer insects noticed in the plantations in Mysore were controlled with herbal and chemical pesticides.

    The sources pointed out that an experiment of intercropping of jatropha with pongamia, cashew and eucalyptus was successful at the Village Forest Committee-managed lands in Gola village in Aland taluk in Gulbarga district. Aloe vera and amla plants were taken up as intercrops with jatropha in Mavinahalli in Mysore district. The cost of maintaining one hectare of jatropha plantation for two years was Rs. 14,250, which included nursery cost, planting and maintenance.

    However, one of the reasons for jatropha not gaining acceptance at the desired level among the farmers was the absence of a buy-back facility or minimum support price.